Carrot vs. Stick Motivation

Some people use sticks to motivate other people.   They even use sticks to motivate themselves.

It’s limited.

If you want to flourish for the long run, you need to use carrots to inspire other people and yourself to operate at a higher level.

While a stick is negative reinforcement, a carrot is positive reinforcement.

Rather than whip yourself with a stick, you can find the right carrots to pull you toward your goals and aspirations.  And, the best carrots draw upon your inspirations, from the inside out.

In the book, Cracking the Flourishing Code, Pat Black shares key insight into why we should avoid sticks, and focus on the right carrots instead.

Do the Carrot and the Stick Really Get the Same Result?

The carrot is more of a “pull” approach to motivation, while the stick is more of a “poke, push, or prod” approach.  With the carrot you move towards something, while with the stick, you move away from something.

Via Cracking the Flourishing Code:

“The carrot and the stick refer to that old idiom about how to get a donkey to move.  It was said that you could dangle a carrot in front of him or hit him with a stick from behind, but the result ended the same: the donkey moved forward.  Do the carrot and the stick really get the same result”

People Have a Deep-Seated Need for Growth and Achievement

We’re achievers at heart.

Via Cracking the Flourishing Code:

“This question has mainly been studies in the context of management and how to get others (employees) to do something.  The Center for Advanced Research in Ann Arbor, MI, and HR consultant Towards Watson ran studies recently that showed that a high ratio of positive feedback correlates with high performance and job satisfaction.  Frederick Herzberg, who researched employee motivation during the 1950s and 1960s, found that people are motivated by the most intrinsic factors such as interesting work, challenge, and increasing responsibility.  He concluded that people have a deep-seated need for growth and achievement.”

The Stick Mindset

Sticks don’t work well.  They are short-lived (they last while the stick is there) and they don’t help us realize our full potential.  Also, they don’t drive us from a good place.

Via Cracking the Flourishing Code:

“These studies apply not only to how to get others to do something but how we get ourselves to do something.  People with a ‘stick’ mindset determine their actions out of fear and avoidance of pain.  They set their goals and priorities to get away from something, whether it’s debt or health challenges or loneliness.  This doesn’t work well for a couple of reasons.”

“First of all, the unconscious mind does not deal well with negative statements.  It absorbs information through images.  So if you say, ‘I don’t want to be a loser,’ it gabs the image of loser first and concentrates on that.  It can’t come up with an image of ‘not loser’ (or ‘not fat’ or ‘not lonely’ or ‘not healthy’) by itself.

The other reason is more subtle.  If you motivate yourself by the fear of something bad, you’ll only get part way to a goal.  For example, a dieter who loses a few pounds may feel less pain about her weight.  Since the pain is lessened, she is not motivated to keep on her diet.  Think about a worker who is just motivated by ‘not losing her job.’ How effective and creatively productive can she be?”

The Carrot Mindset

Carrots generate anticipation, excitement, and possibility.

Via Cracking the Flourishing Code:

“People with a ‘carrot’ mindset, on the other hand, move toward what they want.  Because they focus consciously on the desired end, they have given their unconscious a clear image and destination to work toward.  Rather than the fear and anxiety of a stick mindset (which reduces productivity and creativity), a carrot mindset generates feelings of anticipation, excitement, and possibility.”

The Best Carrot:  Do Something Meaningful for Yourself and Your World

The secret of lasting to connect your carrots to directing your life, making a meaningful impact, and leading a life of learning.

Via Cracking the Flourishing Code::

“It’s interesting that the most powerfully motivating carrots are not external things like money or frame.  Author Daniel Pink has reviewed decades of research on motivation.  In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, he concludes that the key to high performance and satisfaction is our deep human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do something meaningful for ourselves and our world.”

If you want to motivate yourself and others more effectively, find more carrots and lift others up from the inside out.