How to Use Your Motivation Type to Stop Procrastination.

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Photo by Photo by Nik / UnsplashMarie-Michèle Bouchard / Unsplash

While doing research on studies about self-control and attention management, I came to probably the most blurred side of our focus - our motivation. This article is my attempt to demystify motivation: how exactly it works, how it impacts our relative happiness, and how to fine-tune it for better life satisfaction AND productivity - based on the references provided at the end of this article.

How motivation works.

A Professor of Psychology and Director of the Motivation Science Center at Columbia University, E. Tory Higgins, developed a theory on the subject in 1997. He named it a "Regulatory Focus Theory"*. The theory stated that all people are roughly motivated by two leading reasons. At its essence, those reasons are: fear (in the Theory it is called a "Prevention Focus"), and desire (a "Promotion Focus"). Professor Higgins suggests that a type of each person's leading reason is both inborn and accumulated via life experiences. It means that as a kid, one already has a tendency to be either fear or desire-driven, but over life, this tendency can be shifted. By external events or by internal willpower.

How can our predominant focus be shifted?
For example, after traumatic situations, we naturally become more fragile, thus Prevention-focused. To put it simply, we don't want bad stuff to happen again, so we start to motivate all of our actions by avoiding whatever can cause harm.
On the other hand, when we give considerable thought and decide to focus on our ambitions, growth, and self-appreciation, we can turn to be more Promotion-focused.

Motivation type affects happiness.

For this topic, I have to address another research**, that explored the relationship between Trait Self-Control (TSC), the aforementioned Regulatory Focus Theory, and their combined influence over our (relative) happiness.

TSC refers to our capacity to regulate predominant responses to inhibit undesirable behaviors and promote desirable ones, to support the pursuit of our long-term goals. In other words, TSC is how well a person can regulate their emotions when impulses arise, and act with the best intention for this person's future.
This study, based on 523 individuals, median age 27,5, shows that people with higher TSC motivate their everyday activities mainly by Promotion Focus. The research materials also state that those individuals experience greater life satisfaction and may overall be happier than the ones with lower TSC, led by Preventive Focus. So for a quick sum up the better we can regulate our emotions and impulses, the higher the probability that we are Promotion-focused, and the happier we are about our lives.

How to fine-tune your motivation?

Making a shift towards Promotion Focus and learning to control your emotions involves a combination of self-awareness, mindset changes, and practical strategies. Here are a few steps to help:

  1. Self-Reflect: think of your current dominant motivational focus. Acknowledge any patterns of fear-based thinking (prevention focus) and desires/aspirations (promotion focus) in different areas of your life.
  2. Learn to pay attention to your thoughts and refocus them when they lead you toward being Prevention-Focused. Example: Original Prevention-oriented "I will shorten calories to avoid putting up weight" may be refocused into Promotion "I will eat more vegetables to get that fit look of myself I enjoy the most."
  3. Surround yourself with positive influences: spend time with supportive individuals who share a promotion-focused mindset. Try to find people who are not being judgmental and allow you to be you while growing together. It will help to reinforce your beliefs and attitudes.
  4. Build confidence: one way to start trusting in yourself more is to start a small rewarding habit. It will bring you a sense of control and make you believe in yourself for taking on bigger tasks and ambitious goals.
  5. Take initiative, go out of your comfort zone, and even if your achievements seem small - don't forget to compare yourself only with your yesterday self and celebrate your steps.

In conclusion...

The way we motivate ourselves for everyday tasks may significantly impact our happiness and productivity. By "default", each of us is either driven by fear (Prevention Focus) or desire (Promotion Focus), but we can shift it toward a preferred kind of Focus.

Promotion Focus, along with strong self-control (TSC), is linked to higher relative happiness and satisfaction with our lives.

By embracing Promotion Focus and self-control, we learn to regulate negative emotions, lack of confidence, and self-doubt which are the biggest*** known contributors to Procrastination.

I hope, this article clears out some things about motivation and maybe even about yourself :) If you're keen to know more, make sure to visit the corresponding references by their location online:

*"Regulatory Focus Theory" , 1997, E. Tory Higgins
**Why are people with high self-control happier?
*** Why you put things off until the last minute.

Take good care 🌸

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