Can Motivation be Negative?

It is widely accepted that motivation is a good thing. It is often seen as the key to success, whether in school, work, or athletics. However, it is possible for motivation to have negative effects. In some cases, it can be detrimental to one’s performance or even lead to avoidance behavior.

Negative motivation can often be just as harmful as no motivation at all. In fact, it can sometimes be worse. This is because negative motivation often leads to feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem. These feelings can then lead to poorer performance and even avoidance behavior.

So, what should you do if you find yourself in a situation where negative motivation is present? The first step is to try to identify the source of the negativity. Once you know what is causing the negative feelings, you can then begin to address them.

What is negative motivation?

Negative motivation
Motivated by Negativity

There are three prevailing definitions of the concept of negative motivation. These are in no particular order.

The first definition of negative motivation is self-punishment. When someone is motivated by something bad or harmful. It can be detrimental to their health and well-being and should be avoided (think: smoking).

The second definition is negative reinforcement. Which is a powerful way to motivate people by removing something unpleasant to increase the likelihood of the behavior (think: annoying bell in the car until you put on your seatbelt).

The last definition is negative outcome avoidance. This is when someone is more motivated by trying to avoid something rather than trying to accomplish something (think: doing the report over the weekend, so you do not lose your job).

Can negative motivation be positive?

It’s no secret that in order to achieve great things, we often have to draw on motivation from within. Whether it’s a personal goal or a work target, getting ourselves psyched up and ready to take action is key to success. But what happens when that motivation is negative? Can it still be useful?

Interestingly, research shows that it can. In fact, in some cases, feeling angry or threatened can actually help us perform better. One study found that students who were given mild electric shocks before taking a test did better than those who weren’t given any shocks at all.

Why does fear motivate us?

What does it mean to be motivated by fear? It seems that when we’re faced with a negative situation, our brain goes into “survival mode” and we become more focused and alert. This allows us to tap into hidden reserves of strength and energy that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to.


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Aaron Jarrels

I am focused on helping anyone who wants to expand their reach. I help people overcome their limiting beliefs and show them how to gain the confidence to eliminate imposter syndrome that hinders success. I specialize in assisting people with shifting their mindsets and help them master the skills necessary to achieve professional and personal success.