When I was a consultant in the UK rail industry, one of the people I used to work with, a very pragmatic ex IBM man, used to say (a lot) that there were only two reasons why anyone did anything or why anyone bought into anything.
Fear, and Greed
His terminology may be a little harsh, (but he’s like that, very much ‘no nonsense’ and to the point) but he’s probably right.
You and I most often do things for one of two reasons – and we sometimes do things for no reason at all!
Those two reasons are either that we want to ‘move towards’ something or to ‘move away’ from something.
Or in other words we act (most of the time) on ‘towards’ or ‘away’ motivation.
Even if you and I want to ‘stay in the same place’ or preserve the status quo, that is usually motivated by ‘fear of the unknown’ – what might happen if we change our position.
Or we’re motivated by some desire to preserve or protect what we have now – a form of ‘towards’ motivation. (My friend would have put this in the ‘greed’ category – hanging on to what we have.)
Now ‘fear’ and ‘greed’ are very basic instincts.
Fear is straightforward and includes the fear of many things on the ‘dark side’ such as fear of death, injury, loss, change, ‘the unknown’ and all the emotions that you and I would rather not dwell upon.
‘Greed’ also means desire, need, wanting something we don’t have and so on but can include the ‘good’ stuff – despite my friend’s cynicism! It’s what you and I want to move towards – which could be things we want to achieve or do for others as well as for ourselves.
It’s what you and I want to be, do or have, whereas ‘fear’ is what we don’t want to be do and have.
But there’s a problem.
‘Fear’ overrides ‘greed’ – well, usually.
Whatever you and I may gain from making a particular decision based on ‘towards motivation’, ‘fear’ – if we let it – will usually cancel it out.
That’s why most people make decisions based first of all on ‘away motivation’. They want to move away from a situation they find themselves in or (most often) they are afraid what will happen if they move towards something different – or in other words ‘change’ something.
Advertisers and politicians play on this all the time.
They persuade people that they are ‘missing out’ on something and need to move away from their current situation before they can get a ‘better deal’ or avoid ‘losing’.
They create scare stories about what might happen if they make a certain decision in order to move them away from making that decision and towards the ‘safe’ decision that they want them to make.
‘If you vote for that it’ll be a disaster – vote for this’.
‘If you carry on buying from that supplier you’ll miss out – buy from us’
It’s all a delicate balance between what they think people want and what they think people don’t want.
Which is why it doesn’t always ‘work’!
Because you and I and most other people aren’t stupid and sometimes the attempts at manipulation of peoples’ motivation are really obvious and we all see through it.
But you and I still have to be on our guard.
Many people just follow the ‘trend’ – where are most people going? Or where are the people they identify with going? In which direction, forward or away?
Then they just follow.
You and I know where we want to go, and where we don’t want to go; where and what ‘away from’ is and where and what ‘towards’ is – for us as individuals.
Because we know that you and I can make our own decisions without others attempting to ‘motivate’ us to do what they want.