Push or Pull? 

One of the advantages of getting older is that you find out more and more about what motivates you. The downside of this is that it gets increasingly difficult to lie to yourself.

For example, I now know that I need to make a public commitment in order to be able to stick to an exercise program. At the moment, I am taking part in 100 Days of Walking. It’s been relatively easy so far to stay on track, because the weather has been reasonable for the last 3 weeks.

However, I know myself well enough to be aware that I am going to need a little extra motivation to keep going when those miserable, sideways rain days we get in the west of Ireland inevitably dawn soon.

Having given this matter some thought, I discovered that I’ve actually been using a very effective reward system throughout my life. I am motivated to endure discomfort now by the promise of pleasure later. I can move through temporary pain to get to a pleasant experience.

Discomfort or pain can be anything I’m not looking forward to. Exercise, making a phone call, shopping, going to a social event, even writing!

The most important aspect of this system is that the incentive must be in place before I undertake activity needing the reward. For example, I will not set out to walk in the teeming rain untilI have made sure that there will be hot water, a warm bathroom, heated towels and fresh dry clothes waiting for me when I return.

The act of setting up the reward helps to ensure that I will put in the effort to earn it. I believed it is called ‘delayed gratification’. My motivator is not the push away from the difficult thing; it’s the pull towards the physical and emotional comfort at the other side of the difficult thing.

For me, this pull instead of push is essential because I know that if I feel I am being pushed into anything, I will revert to being a stubborn toddler and resist with all my might! I might even throw a tantrum and toss all my toys out of the pram. It’s fair to say that Push is not an effective motivator for me!

Pull is Flow.

Push is Force.

I have noticed that my reward is always the mirror image of the effort.

  • My reward for cold and wet is warm and dry.
  • My reward for dealing with stress is a calm space.
  • My reward for facing sadness is connecting to joy.
  • My reward for physical work is rest.

Another vital aspect of this system is that the reward is something empowering and enriching.

Sometimes I am empowered and enriched by chocolate or wine or binge-watching Come Dine with Me, and that’s okay because it is also essential that the reward for effort is guilt-free.

What motivates you to do the things that ultimately enhance your life when you just don’t feel like them?

Do you prefer a push or a pull?

How do you reward yourself?