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Motivation Triggers: Carrot or Stick

By Maria Zannini
Copyright 2008 by Maria Zannini, All Rights Reserved

January is probably the single most maligned month of the year because it's the month that most of our resolutions are born... and broken.

I'll wait while you smack yourself on the forehead with despair.

This year, before your next round of resolutions, identify your motivation triggers. What encourages you more, the carrot or the stick?

I'm a stick woman myself. I work well under the constant threat that if I don't meet my goals, I'm going to get the pointy end of the stick from my boss, my critique partners, my editor, or my publisher.

You know you're a stick person if your idea of fun is seeing how long you can last before collapsing from exhaustion.

Carrot people are different. They work off a different set of triggers. They're inspired to produce more when they can see their efforts appreciated or acknowledged.  For them, it's the reward at the end of a job well done that imbues them with energy.

There are also people who have both carrot and stick triggers, depending on what's at stake. The key is identifying what triggers motivate you.

Take this little test to find out if you need a carrot, a stick, or both. 

1.            Your siblings have elected you to host a family reunion. Do you...

a.            Wait to the last minute to get organized, knowing someone will come around and help.

b.            Do some stuff now, while leaving the heavy work for when brother Waldo shows up.

c.            Are you kidding? You've already bought the decorations, ordered the cake, and rented the hall. You were just waiting for your family to ask you to host.

2.            Your boss hands you yet another assignment, in addition to all the other projects on your desk. Do you...

a.            Grumble, then add it to the top of the pile.

b.            Grumble. Look it over to see if it's easier than the project you're on now, then throw it on the pile.

c.            Grumble. Take out a voodoo doll from your desk drawer and stick a pin in it before you neatly put the assignment at the very end of all your other projects.

3.            The kids are sick, the car died twice on the way home, and the dog just threw up on your new rug. Would you...

a.            Move.

b.            Move, but take the dog with you. He looks healthier than the kids.

c.            You stay and fix things, but only because you really like the dog and you've grown used to the kids.

If you had mostly 'a' answers, you're probably a carrot.

If you had mostly 'b' answers, you can swing either way. It all depends on the project.

If you had mostly 'c' answers, you're probably a stick.

There are no right or wrong answers. What's important is that you identify what will keep you productive. Here are some tips for each personality.

Carrot People

Break down your objectives with small, easy to reach steps.

Celebrate each benchmark with a reward.

If the rewards stop working and you find yourself dragging your feet on your current project, switch to a parallel project.

On a list of daily goals, do the easy stuff first.

Stick People

Create a timeline for your projects.

Make yourself accountable to a like-minded pal.

If you think you're falling behind, contact your support group and brainstorm.

Celebrate success with a well deserved break.

On a list of daily goals, do the hard stuff first.

All Types

Stay positive. If you fall into a funk, call your support group.

Interact. Staying active on writing boards, loops and critique groups is good for your mental health. Even when you're not working on your story, the interaction is still feeding your brain.

Expand your horizons. Get out of your chair every once in a while and explore beyond the four walls of your writing area.

Are you a morning or night person? Identify when you are the most productive. Tackle the harder goals when you're freshest; the easier goals when you're not functioning on all thrusters.

Recognizing the mechanism that inspires you and using it to your advantage will serve as a springboard for a whole year of achievable goals.

May you all have a successful and productive 2008. I'll be rooting for you!



Maria Zannini is the author of Touch of Fire, a romantic fantasy that debuts at Samhain Publishing this Summer 2008. For more tips, news and writing markets visit her blog at  Stop by and say hi!