Is FEAR The Most Powerful Motivator?

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Fear Is An Emotion

Fear is an emotion induced by a perceived threat; it arises from the ability to recognize a risk of significant loss of wealth, health, power, status, security or anything of value leading to an urge to either flee from it or confront it. Fear has always been a very powerful emotion since the evolution of mankind and has been very crucial in the survival of the human race. It has saved us from predators, disasters and has kept us alive. It’s a primal instinct that served us as cave dwellers and today.

Fear is an emotion induced by a perceived threat. Click To Tweet

Fear of Failure

There is nothing that makes us more uncomfortable than fear, and there are so many of them from fear of failure, disease, missing an opportunity, being conned and a lot more. Our best experiences are borne out of fear. Think about the happiest, growth-oriented moments of your life—I’d bet there were times when you made difficult choices. We have also learned to utilize fear to make others do our bidding. It’s not uncommon for powerful leaders (people) to use threats to make others obey them. Marketers, managers, and politicians often use fear to their advantage as often as they can. Politicians especially employ campaign strategies that capitalize on the populace’s biggest fears. They present a scenario that will likely invoke people’s sense of fear. Then they create a solution – a path back to our comfort zone, sometimes using coercion and control.

Fear is tricky in that it can move us forward or paralyzes us completely. Click To Tweet

However, it can be counter-productive to use fear as a source of motivation. The problem is that fear can also be paralyzing. As pointed out earlier, fear is usually in response to external threats and as soon as the threat disappears, so does the fear. That’s basic human behaviour.

Whenever an individual is gripped by fear, he feels like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. Fear usually shuts down the brain and paralyzes action just like a deer is visibly startled and frozen in fear when caught in the headlights of a car. Or it can go to the extreme and cause us to take action that leads to overreaction. It causes the individual to revert to the fight or flight reaction.

Fear is tricky in that it can move us forward or paralyzes us completely, it can motivate us to give our very best or lead us to give up completely. The author of When Love Meets Fear David Richo pointed out that ‘When we notice a connection between our present fears and their origins in early life, we are finding out how much of our identity is designed by fear.

Fear generally plays a huge role in the lives of individuals.  It affects almost all facets of people’s lives including choice of careers, relationships, personal values and a lot more. Most of our fears are subtly conditioned by societal norms and family pressures and can affect crucial life-changing decisions.

Fears often grow from a conflict of who you are on the inside – your core values, interests, desires etc. And on the other hand, from pressures and expectations of society. All this combined to consciously shape your values, choices, and definition of who you are.

Power and Fear

There’s a parallel between fear and the number of power people seek. Usually, the main reason why an individual seeks to acquire power is to gain control over his immediate environment. Although having a certain amount of controlling behaviour is healthy because it’s a natural survival instinct, it can easily cross the line and become destructive.

For instance, the more a manager at work becomes controlling, the more he or she stifles creativity, innovation, and the ability of employees to adapt to change. What then is the best way to motivate people when it’s not for human survival?

Fears often grow from a conflict of who you are on the inside - your core values, interests, desires, etc. Click To Tweet

Working with Motivation

Your happiness and success at work are partly determined by whether or not your core ‘Motivations’ are being met. These Motivations are not a conscious decision, but rather emerge from your self-concept, beliefs, expectations and personality. As with our purpose in life, we do not ‘invent’ motivations; instead, we detect them. It is vital to go with the grain of our Motivations.

Unlock the map to your world with Motivational Maps®

The Motivational Map is not a personality test or a psychometric profiling tool, it is a self-perception inventory. The original Motivational Map was created by James Sale through his extensive research into human motivation and study of three primary sources:

  • Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,
  • Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors
  • The Enneagram, a personality profiling tool
Motivational Maps & Maslow

The original Motivational Map was developed with the corporate/business world in mind, and thousands of people worldwide complete the Motivational Map every year. Organizations and businesses use the Motivational Map to help inform processes such as Career Management, Recruitment and Selection, Talent Management and Performance Management.

Three main clusters of motivation

There are basically three main clusters of motivation.

Relationships Cluster

Motivational Map Cluster. Helps you get out of fear by understanding your motivation.

These are individuals whose motivations primarily come from sustaining relationships at work and from the depth and intensity of these relationships. They are highly likely to value teamwork as a preferred way of working, it provides security, belonging and recognition that is essential.

Achievement Cluster

These are individuals whose motivations primarily come from achieving complete satisfaction from work and all it offers by way of challenge. The goals, the problems, the challenges of work – of what they do – preoccupy their thinking and bring out the best in them. They like being in the present – exercising control, creating wealth or developing mastery over their environment.

Growth Cluster

An individual’s motivations primarily come from realizing their full potential and being all they can be. This realization means a new ‘you’ coming into being – and new involves creative change – and they want to create that change in defined areas of their work and life. Moreover, for this to be realized, freedom and purpose are key components.

The Bottom Line

Yes, fear is the most powerful motivator! But it doesn’t have to be the only motivator you focus on. Your happiness and success are hugely dependent on whether or not core ‘motivations’ are being met. Your sources of motivation are not consciously determined, but instead, they arise from your beliefs, expectations, and personality.

Yes, FEAR is the most powerful motivator! Click To Tweet

Of course, there won’t always be a perfect fit between situations you find yourself in and your motivations, however, if you understand what motivates you and when you’re at your best, you will be able to create situations that will match your motivations. Once you consciously know what your motivations are, you can consciously take specific actions to align your professional and personal life against the things that motivate you the most and brings the greatest satisfaction.

Understanding your own motivators or how your employees are motivated will ensure a consistent and sustainable approach to increasing productivity and engagement. As a licensed practitioner, I can help. Are you ready to unlock your map to your world?

Kyle Kalloo is the Chief Executive Officer and Business Coach with Change My Life Coaching, Co-Founder of Change My Business Coaching and creator of the Get Profitable, Get Productive (GP2) Business Success System. Through his management training and experience with McDonalds, Famous Players (Paramount) and WestJet, and with the ongoing learning and development he’s completed, Kyle has refined and perfected business success skills. He is eager to share how to execute them efficiently to help individuals and companies achieve even more of their dreams and create lasting change. 83% of Kyle’s business comes from referrals.

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