Last week, I came across this show on PrimeTime Live about “game theory”. What it is, is pretty much a study of situations where players choose different actions in an attempt to maximize their returns, which also can include the added effect of it being dependent on other people’s choices. They had such an example where teams of two were supposed to find each other in a large city, without any help or hints whatsoever.
On that same show, they also had a segment on how motivation would affect “game theory”, as they had one group getting positive motivation to lose weight, while another group had a negative motivation hanging over their head (the prospect of having an embarrassing picture showed in public) while trying to lose weight as well.
The results were interesting. Both groups fared very well, and the vast majority more than surpassed their goal. However, it was the positive motivation group that was the clear winner. And that should come as no surprise. Negative motivation, is usually temporary, as the action taken due to the motivation is not taken for the right reason. It is taken to avoid the negative consequences (they lost weight to not be embarrassed, not to actually want to lose the weight). On the other hand, positive motivation is more beneficial and helpful, as it lays a strong foundation for the individual to keep going after the fact.
Motivation itself is such a powerful tool to possess. The mere fact that both groups were given NOTHING as far as any help as to how to actually lose the weight (they had to figure it out on their own), and that they still ended up with such amazing results, is a testament to how important motivation really is. It can be highly effective even under negative connotations. However, if you are looking for longer lasting results, positive motivation is the way to go. Think about it the next time you want to improve your employees, your kids, or even a relationship or friendship. A positive motivation approach will always work well, while a negative motivation approach (such as “do this or you’re fired”, “do that or you’re grounded”, “be like this or I’m leaving”) may work one time or so, but in the long run, it is destined to ultimately fail.