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Motivation Style

Why is it that many people find it difficult to become or to stay motivated? You'd think that someone with an attractive goal would bursts into a wave of activities and become motivated instead of taking it slow and easy. Yet that is not always the case.

Within NLP we distinguish two styles of motivation, both with completely different characteristics and consequences, Towards and Away-From motivation. The direction of motivation is a deeply embedded pattern which affects a huge number of aspects of one's life.

People are usually Towards motivated for things they want or need, such as food, water and shelter. People are Away-From motivated to do something when pain and misery yields as cold, starvation, stress or a scary beast.

Although man has a clear tendency to a certain motivation style, it is important to remember that both styles are part of a continuum and are no absolute categories. We can, even though we have a strong preference for a particular style, all react to both styles.

NLP developer Roger Bailey discovered

  • 60% of the people are highly Away-From motivated,
  • 25% strongly Towards motivated and that with
  • 15% there is a balanced mixture of both.

Motivation is dependent on context, a person can be more approximate motivated in his work and more avoidant in his social life. By observing carefully the language (and the behaviour) of a person you will quickly find out which motivation style is preferred.

The answer that people give to the simple question "What do you want?" reveals much about their motivation style.

Towards Motivation Style

Towards motivated people will easily tell you what they really want and display positive language (do instead of don't, want instead of don’t want etc.) They let you know what they want to do, achieve, create and explore. They are performance motivated, remain usually focused without difficulty on their goals and derive energy on their vision and their plans.

The other side of Towards motivation is that these people often have difficulty recognizing and acknowledging possible problems that hinder the achievement of their objectives. This may seem naive. Approximate motivated people, such as colleagues, will properly respond to a problem when presented to them within the sentence structure "If you want to achieve this goal, you'll have to do this".

Away-From motivation style

People who are more avoidant motivated, describe things in terms of what they do not want. They use phrases like 'avoid', 'out of the way' and 'prevention'. In some cases, they find it difficult to even answer a question like "What do you want?". Avoiding motivated individuals are more problem-oriented. They want to avoid unpleasant things and situations, and derive energy on difficult problems or threats that (really) need to be solved. They are sometimes considered by others as an obdurate "no sayers" and as people who hold everything up.

Another feature of the avoidant motivation is that 'the correct' focus or purpose is lacking with regard to achieving a goal. Many are busy avoiding unpleasant situations and this does not mean only paying attention to what you are striving for. You jump off the starting blocks but then look back at the starting line instead of the circuit. Avoiding motivated people respond better if you offer them a purpose in a sentence structure, "Is this what you need to achieve your goal?

A Towards Motivation usually remains constant, while people with an avoidant motivation often find that they constantly need to be motivated by thinking of what they are trying to avoid or prevent.

If you can motivate yourself by thinking of something you want to achieve in 5 years, you gradually move towards that direction (approximate), you are constantly attracted to what you get afterwards.. For people with an avoidant motivation is the driving force is rarely in the distant future. They are more focused on the short term and focus on attempts to avoid unpleasant situations closeby.

The further someone removes themselves from something unpleasant, the less threatening it seems. This means that people with avoidant motivation often lose their motivation when the threat diminishes. Their motivation has a more cyclical nature, from strong to weak motivation, depending on the extent to which they feel uncomfortable. In our culture, approximate motivation valued higher than avoidant motivation. The advantages of approximate motivation are faster and more visible. A brief look at a job advertisement is sufficient to see that they are looking for ambitious, forward-thinking, goal-oriented employees. They are all perfect descriptions of characteristics that approximate motivated people hear. The downside of this is that some people adapt and force themselves to a process that can turn out to be wrong for them.

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