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Posted: September 26, 2012

Pain or pleasure: What motivates you?

Your focus is your choice -- what do you choose?

TC North

The answer to the question of what motivates you will in part determine your level of success. Most people move away from or run from what they don't want, what is painful or what they fear. High performers are different; they focus on and run toward what they do want.

An Olympic cross-country ski coach told me the following story about Bill Koch, who was the first American to win an Olympic medal in Nordic skiing (he won the silver in the 30 km for the 1976 Olympics). Before the race, the coach said to Koch, "I'll be at an aid station. What would you like me to say to you when you come through?" Koch replied, "It doesn't matter what you say to me. I have my focus."

Koch knew what he wanted and he focused on achieving it; nothing would distract him. This focus is typical of world-class athletes, entrepreneurs and CEOs. In my experience, 80 percent to 99 percent of the high performers' motivation is focused on getting what they want. Conversely, the average person's motivation is about 80 percent avoidance of pain (moving away from what they don't want) and 20 percent pleasure (moving toward what they do want). Where are you on the above continuum? Are you moving away from pain or fear of pain (what you don't want) or moving toward pleasure (what you do want)?

Ironically, when you try to move away from what you don't want, you're actually focused on it and you'll always tend to move toward what you focus on. So if you think about and focus on what you don't want, you'll tend to keep getting it.

Still a non-believer? Then as you read on, please don't think about a pile of poop. Don't focus on poop. Don't create a picture of poop in your mind or think about a bunch of poop about to be dumped on you. What are most of you thinking right now? About a bunch of crap, and that's exactly what you get in life when you focus on what you don't want.

When you're motivated by what you do want, you're focused on it and tend to attract more of what you do want into your life. It's like shooting an arrow at a target. If you want to hit the target, you focus on the target. You don't focus in the opposite direction and expect to hit it.

Here are some interesting examples from some of my readers on the difference between focusing on what you don't want and focusing on what you do want.

What you don't want: "I don't want another year like last year!" (It was a bad revenue year for the entrepreneur's business.)
What you do want: "I want to increase revenues 30 percent over last year with 15 percent net profit."
My comment: The mind loves specific targets. This target is very precise and clear. The entrepreneur and the folks in this company can develop an action plan to reach this goal.

What you don't want: "I can't eat ice cream and chocolate chip cookies."
What you do want: "I want to feel good and be able to ski."
My comment: I love ice cream and cookies. Heck, I salivated just typing the "I can't eat ice cream" sentence. If you're anything like me, you would obsess over ice cream or chocolate chip cookies if you focused on not being able to eat them! Instead, focus on feeling better and what that will allow you to do.

What you don't want: "I want to get rid of credit card debt."
What you do want: "I have created positive cash flow."
My comment: Anyone who has credit card debt wants out, but how do you feel when you think about it? Or worse, what if you ruminate and worry about it? That doesn't feel good. Does it give you more energy to think about making more money (and paying off your debt) by focusing on creating positive cash flow? It does for my clients!

What's important to you? What changes do you want to make? You'll be more successful getting what you want or making the changes you want by focusing on what you want. See a picture of what you want, hear the words in your head and keep imagining attaining it and what it will be like when you attain your goal. Or,

Want a bunch of crap? Then focus on what you don't want.

Your focus is your choice. What do you choose?

Dr. TC North is co-author of the Amazon bestseller Fearless Leaders. For 28 years, he has been a high-performance executive coach and speaker who helps individuals and organizations identify and attain their visions and dreams. He also has coached professional and Olympic athletes in the art of creating thoughts and emotions that maximize success. He’s a professional speaker on “Fearless Leaders” and “Master Fear.” Dr. North’s work has been featured on TV and radio and in business and scientific journals. Learn more at Contact Dr. North at 303-665-8920 or, or connect on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.





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Readers Respond

Good one, TC! You just explained why I quit golfing. I "knew" that my drive was going hard right and I was always right! By Todd Ordal on 2012 09 30
Thanks Jeffrey! I get what you say about the news. I recommend watching the least amount of news possible. Most news is bad news. I haven't watched local news, except for weather and sports for over 20 years. I do scan the local headlines in the paper to make sure I am not missing important information. But that is it. Keep your focus on what you DO want in 2010 and I hope the year exceeds your expectations. TC By TC North on 2009 12 29
Excellent comment on maintaining positive goals. There are days that listening to the news can create a downward spiral in attitude. The real focus is that you can not eat ice cream and cookies every day and loose the weight but you can still salivate thinking about that reward at the end of the week because you did loose those 5 pounds!!!!. Much better way to live. Smiles help you live longer than frowns. By Jeffrey Fischer on 2009 12 28
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