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Award Badge Learning Professional of the Year - Black and White version

Award Badge Topo Leadership Develoment Training Coaching- Black and White version



Award Badge Learning Professional of the Year - Black and White version


3 Motivation Hacks You Wish You Knew Sooner

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Everybody has two basic feelings: pleasure and pain. Unsuccessful people will do much more to avoid short term pain than they will to gain short term pleasure. Studies have demonstrated this time and time again. So, if you want to be one of those successful leaders who are driven by long-term benefits rather than short-term pleasure, then knowledge is power.

When it comes down to people’s motivation and why we do the things we do, everything is based on the simple science of pain versus pleasure, a principle that was introduced by the German neurologist Sigmund Freud. All decisions a human being makes are either to gain pleasure or to avoid pain: why we brush our teeth every day; why we go to the gym; why we buy a new car; why we go on a holiday. Every decision, whether you are consciously aware of it or not, can be grouped into the following 4 consequences:

  • Short-term pain
  • Short-term pleasure
  • Long-term pain
  • Long-term pleasure


It is the perception of pain and pleasure, not actual pain and pleasure that drives people. Because we don’t ever know for sure what tomorrow holds, our brain is constantly making assumptions and judgements about the future. And it is that perception of future pain and pleasure that we rely on for our decisions and actions. Unfortunately, our perceptions are often very flawed.

Moving away motivation includes avoiding the feeling of failure, self-doubt, lack of confidence, looking stupid, or the risk of being rejected. Whereas moving towards motivation includes curiosity to find out what you are made of, to learn and evolve, and living a life of happiness and fulfillment. Most people struggle to embrace the unfamiliar, and the following Behaviour Diagram illustrates why:

Behaviour Diagram - Professional Development - Leadership Skills - Self control - Motivation

“Above the line” behaviours, levels 1 and 2, are both beneficial for you and others. However, level 2 doesn’t feel very good to begin with, in other words creates short-term pain, which turns into pleasure when you get to level 1.

“Below the line” behaviours, levels 3 and 4, are both harmful to you and others. While level 3 displays short-term pleasure, level 4 is neither good for you, nor does it even feel good.

Now let’s look at the four quadrants a little closer:

Level 1 Behaviours, your comfort zone, …

… are activities or skills you’ve already mastered. It would be easy to just stay in this comfort zone, but no matter what type of personality you are, it is crucial to regularly embrace uncertainty, or level 2 short-term pain, to maintain and expand your comfort zone, so that it won’t actually shrink over time. If you want long-term success in your life, you must evolve and grow, which means embracing level 2 behaviours.

Level 2 Behaviours, short-term pain for long-term gain, …

… initially require extra effort and investment because you are facing something unfamiliar. No pain, no gain. If you like to explore, being challenged and spend most of your time learning new skills, you see challenges as opportunities (stepping-stones) rather than threats (stumbling blocks). The secret of evolution and success is to spend most of your time in level 2 until the unfamiliar becomes familiar and you turn level 2 into level 1. This is called expanding the comfort zone and will give you the opportunity to then tackle the next unfamiliar task or skill, and so

Level 3 Behaviours, short-term gain for long-term pain, … 

… create addiction issues such as alcohol, smoking, overeating, gossiping, or being busy for the sake of being busy. This is where you tell yourself why you can’t give up alcohol, quit smoking, lose weight etc. These thoughts make you feel good because they keep you safe and stop you from moving to level 2 and doing anything that may not feel good at that moment, even though it would be good for you in the long run. You might live in hope that things will change, but until you consciously move to level 2 behaviours, level 3 is where you will be stuck and sooner or later will be falling down into the worst level.

Level 4 Behaviours…

… are paralysing you through stress, or in other words your incorrect perception of too much choice, or procrastination, which is nothing else than your perception of fear. This level is where the level 3 behaviours of ‘short-term gain for long-term pain’ take their toll. The things that used to feel good but weren’t good for you now suddenly don’t feel good either. Needless to say, this is NOT the place you want to be!


Fortunately, self-motivation is a choice you make every single day of your life. Work through the following 3 Motivation Hacks to move yourself from a place of AWAY FROM motivation to ultimately a place of TOWARD motivation:

Motivation Hack #1

Have a clear goal. The classical ‘carrot on the stick’ that serves as a constant motivator, and shows the way forward.


Motivation Hack #2

Remove stumbling blocks. What is preventing you from achieving this goal? Are there any internal patterns of self-sabotage that are currently holding you back? What unhelpful thoughts, questions, emotions and beliefs are tied to these, and how are they holding you back? How can you change them into more empowering behaviours?


Motivation Hack #3

Level 2 is the winner. Be driven by long-term benefits rather than short-term pleasure. Spend the majority of your time in level 2 and the rest in level 1, both being ‘above the line’ behaviours. Celebrate feeling uncomfortable while developing new successful habits during a good part of your time, as this is the only place growth can occur.


It is critical to be conscious of ‘why you do what you do’ throughout the day. And if you don’t like the direction you are moving towards, then do something about it. You can choose to use the pain versus pleasure principle to consciously and purposefully motivate yourself, or you can allow your subconscious mind to direct your decisions and actions for you. Either way you’ll find some form of motivation, however it might not be the motivation you are after.

“Dare to make a difference!”

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[avatar user="[email protected]" size="thumbnail" align="centre"]AUTHOR | Martin Probst - CEO (Chief Education Officer)[/avatar]


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