Thursday, February 18, 2010

Carrot or the Stick

We all need a little motivation to get us through the day. To get us to that step class at the gym. To get us to write today. To do the laundry or clean the bathroom.

Guilt has worked well in my life as a motivator - if I don't clean the bathroom the next time I have people over it will be gross and I'll feel like crap. But it isn't always available.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about whether I'm motivated by the carrot or the stick - the goal of being a size 8 again or the fear that I'm gonna gain another five pounds to get my rear to the gym. After some serious soul searching, I've come to the very disappointing realization that I'm definitely motivated by the stick.

The fact that there are rewards when I finish this book (namely payment for my work) doesn't motivate me nearly as much as the possibility that I'm going to be late turning the book in and gain a reputation with my publisher. Until that possibility is eminent...I can procrastinate with the best of them. Some people like to morph this into, "I just work better under pressure." It's a lie. The pressure isn't the motivator, the fear of failure, the potential repercussions, these are what motivate us stick people. We just have to wait until the stick is whistling at our rears before we really fear.

I had myriad carrots dangling before my nose to get this book done early. I had plenty of time to make that a reality. Did I do it? Well...yes, I probably will do it because I'm almost finished with the book. Could it have been done long before now? Yep. I couldn't feel the heat of that stick swinging behind me yet.

The thing is, I don't just do this with my writing. I do it with everything. Why do laundry on Saturday morning when I could wait and do it Sunday night? What's the stick? If I don't do it then I don't have clean clothes to wear. I did it in school. Why write the paper today that's due next week when I could read a book instead? To us stick people, there is an endless supply of time and tomorrows.

It's taken me a very long time to come to grips with this aspect of my personality. I'm absolutely certain that it bugs the hell out of the people in my life. The question becomes, is it something I want to change? I'm really not sure. So far, it hasn't caused me great pain or suffering...I might just have to take the stance that if it ain't broke don't fix it. Until then...

So, are you a carrot or a stick person? Do you wish you could change to the other? Is there anything you routinely procrastinate on?



Christine said...

I got plopped into the perfect family for stick motivation. Lord knows rewards weren't in the offing. And if I earned one outside of the home via school work or winning awards, I was told I didn't really deserve it or that my brother was much smarter than me. I gave up seeking or asking for recognition from my familial relations years ago. Oddly, as an adult, I am very motivated by the carrot. I give myself rewards all the time for even the most minor of accomplishments. I learned that if I don't reward take care of myself, I might not get anything. So I take very good care of myself and reward myself often :-)

Playground Monitor said...

I think right now I'm a stick person. I tend to put things off til the last minute. OTOH, sometimes I get them done right away. It's difficult to say right now exactly how I operate at present. I just try to take it day at the time.

Great blog! And good food for thought.

Angel said...

Yep, stick person. That's me. That's why I had to get accountability partners in the face of not having an editor. I fear gaining a reputation of being one of those people who "talk" about writing all the time but never actually "write". And I know my peeps would call me on it, if I did. :)

With other things in life besides writing, I tend to be a stick person too. But I'm not sure if it is because I actually am, or whether there is just so much that needs to be done, that running up against a deadline is what pushes that item up on the priority list. :(


Problem Child said...

I'm a stick person who is trying to convert to a carrot. I've set some goals, and I've set rewards for myself when I meet those. It's an experiment, so we'll see.

catslady said...

Definitely a stick person. I always had things put to me in such a way that it seemed more like blackmail than a reward because there always was a stipulation. Instead of saying - if you clean out your closet I'll buy you some new clothes. I would hear - you're not getting another piece of clothing until you clean out your closet. It's how it's said I guess lol.

Smarty Pants said...

Would it be cheating if I say I'm neither? I don't really respond to rewards or threats. I'm driven by achievement. Finish something to move on to the next step. That's how I cranked through school so quickly. Once I got out, though, I found I had no goal to push towards and I got lost. So I started writing so I'd have something new to work to. Unfortunately, I can't achieve publication as easy as I can achieve a degree, so I'm stuck, and losing momentum.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Oh geez, I see myself in this. And I love this statement: "To us stick people, there is an endless supply of time and tomorrows."

Yeah, that's me. I am definitely a stick person. Rarely, the carrot works, but usually it's the stick.

My current stick is a mid-March deadline for a book that I still need to write 40K for. Best get busy....

Maven Linda said...

Carrots are gone too fast; you get them, chomp them, then there's nothing left. Sticks, however, last a very long time.

I'm a stick person. Definitely.

Instigator said...

SP, I beg to differ. I think achievement is a kind of carrot. It's the reward at the end of all the hard work.

It's settled. If sticks for for Maven Linda then I'm gonna keep my sticks :-)