Motivation: Push vs. Pull

Motivation is a tricky business. Getting yourself started when there are other priorities or when doing those things isn’t an attractive or easy notion can be the hardest part of getting something done. What has helped me when I wanted to motivate myself are the concepts of “Pull” and “Push”. The concepts transfer well to many situations and define a style of leadership as well as a personal motivational tool. Push is a command. Pull is an incentive. Between the two, I prefer “pull”.  There is nothing you can do that doesn’t include a little bit of both, but the style of pull is a style with positive connotations. The more you use “pull” the less demanding you are.

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A reward for reaching your goal is both a good feeling and incentive to keep going!

In many ways, Push is easier. We are all self contained individuals and since we are all at the center of our own awareness and direct our own actions, it can be very easy to make demands of ourselves and others. That isn’t to say it’s always wrong to push. There are times when it is the only option. The mistake that so many people make is that they leap to it as their FIRST option.  Given any kind of authority, a measure of push is implied, but the drawback of push is that eventually there is resistance to push that can overwhelm you. In short, the more push you use, the more push you need to use.

Pull is a far more interesting concept. Pull is an incentive to act – a reward that feeds back on the person who is “pulled”.  This is a positive experience. It takes more planning, more trust in yourself and others, and more commitment to the goal when you use a “pull” style.  It doesn’t always work, but it does make achieving a goal different by emphasizing the reward. For pull to work, the reward has to be realistic. A goal that moves is not achievable, no matter what the incentives are.

Part of pull is creating good habits. Those include good management of time and a good attention to detail. If you have a good plan and follow it, the goal can pull you along. If you fail to keep to your plan, often the only way to get back on track is to push. Flexibility in planning and reaching a goal is important. The better the plan, the less push is required to reach your goal.

Commitment is important. Pull isn’t possible without it. Keep the goal in focus. Constant pushing can lead to avoidance, which is self defeating. If you’re constantly nagging yourself to do something, that task will take on a very negative connotation, and nobody likes to be pushed constantly or can consistently push themselves. There are times when you have to build a rest or a change into your plans. That is part of pull.

Push and pull are evident in how we interact with other people.  Everyone has a personal style that they’ve learned over their lifetime.  Part of that is the language and tone you choose when you talk to others. Good leaders pull. They share positives. They welcome input and ideas. That’s pull. Bad leaders push. They are not open to new ideas, and they lean on procedures. It’s said that people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses.   I think much of that has to do with the overuse of push!

Sometimes you need to push, but in my opinion, the best way to move yourself forward is to employ incentives and goals and pull yourself along.  Often the good feelings you generate by achieving goals will feed back and make continuing that good behavior easier!

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