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Published on July 21, 2021

What Is Fear-Based Motivation And Does It Work?

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What Is Fear-Based Motivation And Does It Work?

If you’ve ever thought or said something like this, then you are using fear-based motivation:

  • “If I don’t get that promotion, I’m going to be seen as a failure so I better stay up all night to work on this proposal.”
  • “If I speak up for school reform, the internet trolls are going to get me, so I better be quiet even though I care a lot about this issue.”
  • “If I don’t exercise enough, I’m going to look like crap, so I better go to the gym six days a week, even if my body is killing me.”

Fear-based motivation is exactly what it sounds like—getting yourself and others to do things out of fear of what will happen if you don’t do it and do it well.

What you might not know is that while fear-based motivation might work in the short term, it can have long-term detrimental effects on your performance, relationships, and well-being.

Is Fear-Based Motivation Helpful?

If using fear as motivation comes naturally for you, you aren’t alone. Our brains use fear to keep us out of trouble. It is normal that you want to move away from what feels harmful towards what feels safe.

This brain function is important when there is a genuine threat to your well-being, like if there is a rattlesnake on the hiking trail. Your brain will use fear to motivate you to move away from the snake as quickly as possible. But when you use fear-based motivation to accomplish your life and career goals, the constant state of fear puts unnecessary stress on your mind and body and can end up working against you.

The Darkside of Fear-Based Motivation

Take, for example, when your trainer at your gym motivates you during your workout by yelling things like, “Bikini season is coming! You don’t want your cellulite to be the star of the show!” or “Burn off that piece of birthday cake you ate last night!”

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Sure, you might be motivated to do ten more burpees, but what is really going on in the back of your mind? You probably have an image of a group of people standing around you at the beach laughing at you in your bikini, or you feel guilty about eating that piece of cake and criticize yourself for not being able to control yourself.

Reliance on Negative Thinking

For most of us, this type of thinking causes stress and can bring down our energy levels and mood. The reliance on negative thinking is the problem with fear-based motivation. It forces us to put our attention on what is wrong or what could go wrong instead of anticipating and celebrating what is right. This, in turn, narrows our focus and prevents us from seeing the bigger picture.

When your brain senses a threat, whether it’s a rattlesnake hiding in the grass or the possibility of being laughed at in your bikini, your brain will move you into a protective stance. Your vision narrows and you prepare to fight, flee or freeze.

You can probably imagine what this looks like in the case of a rattlesnake, but how does this impact your bikini experience?

The High Cost of Fear-Based Motivation

Imagine that you plan a beach vacation with your friends three months from now. The first thing you picture is sitting on the beach with your tummy rolls and cellulite. You immediately sign up for three months of boot camp classes at the gym and banish all sugar and booze from your diet. You are determined not to make a fool of yourself on the beach!

Will the fear of not looking like a supermodel under the beach umbrella motivate you to get in shape and eat better? Possibly. But at what cost?

For three months, every time you picture yourself looking “less than perfect” in your bikini, you feel fear of being ashamed. Shame makes you want to hide, and that makes it harder to find the motivation to go to the gym instead of sitting on the couch eating ice cream.

You become so focused on how you are going to look on the beach that you lose out on all the fun and joy of life. You pass up on going shopping with your friends for new outfits because you aren’t at your goal weight yet. You stop doing the things you love to do in order to spend more time at the gym. You avoid family gatherings where you will be confronted with tempting food. You over-train to the point of hurting yourself.

The Healthier Alternative to Fear-Based Motivation

Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel good in your bikini! If that’s important to you, keep your goal in mind but change the way you motivate yourself. Instead of using the fear of feeling ashamed to motivate you, try using love-based motivation.

Love-based motivation uses love instead of fear to lead and inspire you. It comes from a different part of your brain than fear-based motivation. Love-based motivation comes from the part of your brain that is responsible for joy, creativity, and passion.

5 Questions of Love-Based Motivation

There are many ways to deploy love-based motivation. The trick is to use one or all of the following to motivate you towards your goal: empathy, curiosity, innovation, vision, and heart-centered action.

Here are five questions you can use to motivate yourself using love-based motivation.

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1. What Would You Say to a Friend?

Chances are that you talk to your friends in a much kinder way and with more empathy than you talk to yourself. You wouldn’t tell a friend, “you better starve yourself and hit the gym three times a day to look good in that bikini!” Instead, you would probably say something like, “I’m so excited to go on this vacation with you! I can’t wait to spend time catching up while sipping margaritas on the beach.”

Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your friend.

2. What Are You Curious About Learning That Might Help You Get to Your Goal?

More often than not, achieving our goals is more about the journey it took us to get there than the goal itself. Curiosity makes journeys more fun. Perhaps you are curious about doing a triathlon but you don’t know how to run. If you spend three months learning to run, you would get into better shape and learn something new.

3. How Can You Get to Your Goal in a Way That Feels Good?

Using the “Yes, And” game is a great way to come up with innovative ideas for working towards your goals. If your first instinct is to go to the gym six days a week but you aren’t jazzed about it, find something that you like about that idea and make it better.

For example, if what you like about going to the gym is that you work up a sweat, what if instead of the gym, you join a dance class where you can learn some new moves to show off on your vacation?

4. What Is Important to You About Your Goal?

When you dig into your goal, chances are that you’ll find a deeper meaning. If your goal is to “look good in a bikini,” ask yourself why that’s important to you.

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For example, “I want to look good in my bikini because I want to have fun on vacation.” Then, ask yourself how much having fun on your vacation depends on how you look in your swimsuit.

5. What Heart-Centered Action Can You Take That Will Help You Reach Your Goal?

Whether your goal remains bikini-focused or changes to ways of having a good time on your vacation, choose an action that you can take that feels like it is coming from a place of love instead of fear.

For example, suggest to your friends that you take scuba diving classes as a group before vacation. It will get you moving and bring your friends together.

Long-Term Happiness and Satisfaction

Fear-based motivation may help you achieve your goals in the short term, but it won’t lead to long-term happiness and satisfaction. Fear isn’t designed to be used for long periods of time, and you will eventually tire of the fear and give up on your goals. Love, however, is designed for longevity.

Finding your motivation in a place of love will fuel you to reach your goals, whether your goals are about feeling good in a bikini, getting a promotion at work, or speaking up for what you believe in.

More Tips on Boosting Motivation

Featured photo credit: Jeremy Perkins via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Kirsten Bunch

Kirsten Bunch is an internationally-recognized performance coach who works with leaders who are ready to rebel and chart a new path forward.

What Is Fear-Based Motivation And Does It Work?

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Last Updated on November 22, 2021

20 All-Time Best Motivational Books to Inspire You

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20 All-Time Best Motivational Books to Inspire You

Sometimes going through life can be a little bit of a roller coaster. There are many ups and just as many downs as we journey through the high and low points.

Life becomes a little simpler when you accept that as we pursue our goals, there will inevitably be challenges and barriers along the way. This is why a few extra sources of inspiration, such as motivational books, never hurt anyone.

The following motivational books were selected because they can fulfill this need for you. These books will challenge you to question your current perspectives and grow in unexpected ways.

The following motivational books will provide you with a source of inspiration great enough to light your internal fire!

1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Fankl

    Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s discusses in-depth his experience with living in Nazi death camps and describes the lessons it taught him about spiritual survival. Frankl puts forth a convincing argument that avoiding suffering isn’t realistic. However, through choosing how we cope with that suffering and the meaning we ascribe to it, we retain the ability to move forward with renewed purpose.

    This certainly is a book for the generations that anyone can gain value from. Man’s Search for Meaning has been listed as one of the most influential books in America and has currently sold over 10 million copies in twenty-four languages.

    If you’re looking for motivational books that can help you learn about the value of ascribing meaning to suffering, this is one for you!

    Get the book here!

    2. You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

      Of all the motivational books out there, this is a must-read for those who are into life design.

      Through this book, Jen provides her readers with simple exercises to help people identify their self-limiting beliefs, attitudes, and habits. She provides some great advice and does so in a humorous way to truly captivate her audience and motivate them to begin achieving the success they want from their lives.

      Jen’s goal is to help her readers truly understand why they have developed certain thought and behavior patterns. She helps us to focus on the things that we can change and accept the things which we cannot.

      Overall, the book offers a new comical approach towards inspiring and motivating its audiences, and can be enjoyed by anyone who decides to pick it up.

      Get the book here!

      3. Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World by William H. McRaven

        If you want to change the world, start by making your bed.

        Make Your Bed is a book which outlines the lessons contained in a speech given by Admiral William H. McRaven. In this speech, he shared the 10 principles he learned during Navy Seal training that helped him overcome the various challenges he faced throughout his career.

        This speech went viral, gaining over 10 million views as it clearly explained how anyone can use these lessons to better both themselves and the world around them. This book recounts tales from his service and offers simple and practical wisdom and words of advice and encouragement which will inspire readers to achieve more in their daily lives!

        Get the book here!

        4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

          The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a wonderful story about an inspiring journey towards self-discovery. Mysticism and wisdom combine in this classic novel that has sold millions of copies worldwide.

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          This story outlines the journey of a young shepherd boy who desires to travel the world in search of treasure but ends up discovering a vastly different type of riches than he initially imagined.

          Overall, this book encourages each of us to listen to our hearts, recognize our unique opportunities in life, and pursue our passions.

          Get the book here!

          5. Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

            Charles Duhigg’s Smarter, Faster, Better outlines 8 productivity concepts that help certain companies and individuals accomplish so much more than others. This book outlines the differences between the perspectives of some of the worlds top performers and those who are less successful.

            These productivity concepts explain how everyday people can improve their everyday lives. Overall, this book can help anyone learn how to succeed and ensure that their average day is productive and not just busy.

            Get the book here!

            6. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

              Don Miguel Ruiz uses his book The Four Agreements to reveal the limiting beliefs that we commonly hold which rob us of joy and cause us to endure needless suffering. This book provides an insightful code of conduct which imparts its wisdom in an accessible manner to its readers.

              The Four Agreements encourages self-reflection and encourages us to do better within our everyday lives. This is why the book has sold over 6 million copies in the U.S. alone and has been a New York Times bestseller for over 8 years.

              Get the book here!

              7. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

                In this book, psychologist Angela Duckworth, takes her readers on a journey to argue that the secret to being a success relies largely on an individual’s grit, a unique blend of passion and persistence.

                The insights offered by Duckworth in this book encourage us to never underestimate the power of consistent, long-term action towards a goal, especially when you’re passionate about it.

                Duckworth addresses the thoughts which commonly intrude into our heads when we fail and gives us methods to combat them.

                If the idea that success is about your perseverance and your ability to persist even when times get tough resonates with you, this is one of the motivational books for you.

                Get the book here!

                8. Mindset: the New Psychology for Success by Carol S. Dweck

                  Psychologist Carol Dweck outlines years of research in her book Mindset. She argues that the mindset we adopt is a huge predictor of our success and achievement. She believes that nearly every area of human endeavor can be influenced by the mindset we adopt and how we select to approach our goals.

                  She discusses the downsides of adopting a fixed mindset as well as the benefits commonly associated with adopting a growth-oriented mindset. Whereas one mindset believes our abilities are fixed, the other believes our skills and abilities can be developed assuming we are willing to put in the effort.

                  This is a highly motivating paradigm shift which can encourage amazing accomplishments.

                  Get the book here!

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                  9. Choose Yourself by James Altucher

                    Choose Yourself by James Altucher is one of the best motivational books around. James argues that the most valuable asset we have and the one which we should be investing the most time, effort, and resources into is — ourselves. This whole book is about how we can achieve success simply by choosing to invest in ourselves and our growth.

                    This book is sure to inspire and motivate you to invest in developing your talents further and would be an excellent resource for anyone with an entrepreneurial mindset.

                    Get the book here!

                    10. High-Hanging Fruit: Build Something Great by Going Where No One Else Will by Mark Rampolla

                      High-hanging Fruit by Mark Rampolla encourages us to reach higher in our life endeavors, especially business if we want to achieve more success and leave our mark on the world.

                      In this novel, the reader is encouraged to find ways to align their passion, purpose, and integrity to achieve success. These lessons can benefit anyone in any field of work and encourage us to stand up for our beliefs and what’s important to us.

                      Overall, Rampolla wants each of us to remain true to our ore values so that we can each reach our personal definitions of success and promote significant changes in areas of life we are passionate about.

                      Get the book here!

                      11. The Power of Positive Thinking: 10 Traits for Maximum Results by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

                        This international bestseller has sold over 5 million copies worldwide and has helped many people live more fulfilling lives through adopting Dr. Peale’s message of faith and inspiration.

                        Not only does this book help people to achieve happiness and higher levels of life-satisfaction, but it also teaches us that each life is worthwhile.

                        This book instills a belief in one’s self and a feeling of determination and motivation to pursue our goals with power, control, and persistence.

                        Overall, it’s a great motivational book for those individuals seeking a boost of motivation in their daily lives.

                        Get the book here!

                        12. Girl Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

                          When it comes to motivational books, Rachel Hollis nails it!

                          Girl, Stop Apologizing was written primarily for a female audience she was trying to inspire. She wrote this book because all too often, she was seeing women failing to live up to their full potential due to the fear of falling short of perfection and not being enough.

                          In this New York Times #1 bestselling author, Rachel seeks to send a wake-up call to the women currently defining themselves through the lens established by other individuals, instead of how they wish to define themselves.

                          She encourages women everywhere to stop talking themselves out of their dreams and to begin fully pursuing them. To help her audience she provides a lot of great information regarding which excuses we should say goodbye to, which habits to adopt, and the skills that will provide you with the confidence to live your best life!

                          Get the book here!

                          13. Now, Discover Your Strengths By Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton

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                            This book takes a unique approach, claiming that not anyone can become anything they want, despite what we were told as children. However, when discussed in-depth, the opinion is quite freeing.

                            This book’s main purpose is to encourage us to ignore those routes which are likely to lead us to dead ends, in favor of pursuing those which we are passionate about and that are more likely to bring us greater success and happiness.

                            Why waste so much time trying to fix our weaknesses when we can double-down on our strengths and allow them to flourish and grow?

                            Definitely think about adding this one to your collection of motivational books.

                            Get the book here!

                            14. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

                              This book, originally published in 1937, was written during the Great Depression and addresses the highly effective and important steps to take if we wish to encourage ourselves to become wealthy. Equally important, Hill outlines the steps we should avoid in this process as well.

                              Readers have continually enjoyed some of the timeless information, words of wisdom, and excellent advice that is presented by Hill in this book. This book is about so much more than getting rich; it’s about figuring out how to get what you want from life!

                              Get the book here!

                              15. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

                                In this self-help guide, Mark Manson tells us to cut it out and to stop trying to be positive all the time so that we can figure out what we need to do to truly become better and happier people.

                                This book offers a refreshing take which counters the motivational books currently out there. Mark refuses to sugarcoat his lessons and tells it how it is through his brutally honest approach. Mark encourages us to accept our faults and limitations, the fact that life is not always fair, and that despite our best efforts, not everybody is going to win.

                                Overall, this book presents some great philosophical wisdom for our modern generation and has empowered many individuals to gain control over their actions and their life as a whole.

                                Get the book here!

                                16. Everything Is F*cked by Mark Manson

                                  Mark Manson follows his previous #1 international bestseller with this guide discussing the problems we currently have surrounding hope.

                                  Despite believing that we live in the best time in human history, Mark outlines that everything seems to be pretty messed up. There is global warming, corrupt governments, collapsing economies, and everyone is getting offended far too easily. Mark examines our relationships with money, entertainment, and the internet, and discusses that too much of these good things can destroy us.

                                  In this book, Mark challenges us to be more open and honest with ourselves and to connect more with the world around us.

                                  Get the book here!

                                  17. Hustle: The Power to Charge Your Life with Money, Meaning, and Momentum by Neil Patel

                                    Hustle offers a game-changing guide to finding success by encouraging us to outsmart the system. Too many of us feel like we’re fighting a system that’s stacked against us and forcing us to live unfulfilling lives. This book will encourage you to break free from the rat-race and begin achieving more success on your terms through projects you actually enjoy!

                                    This book will help you redefine what hustling means and will help you realize your best path to success is through taking charge of your dreams, creating your own luck, and staying true to yourself.

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                                    If you’re looking for actionable and practical advice that goes beyond simply motivating you, this is a book you will certainly enjoy reading.

                                    Get the book here!

                                    18. Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop

                                      This book presents a refreshing take on self-empowerment and provides an honest, no-nonsense, tough-love guide which aims to help you challenge and get over your self-limiting beliefs

                                      In this book, Bishop gives you the tools and advice required to overcome your self-imposed limitations and to begin creating your unrestrained best-self. He argues that commonly, it isn’t other people standing in our way nor is it our circumstances. Commonly, it’s our negative mindsets and beliefs which are holding us back.

                                      So if you’re looking for motivational books to help you get over these limiting beliefs, you will not regret investing in this novel.

                                      Get the book here!

                                      19. The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage by Mel Robbins

                                        In The 5 Second Rule, Mel Robbins reminds us of the vast amount of support we have received from individuals throughout our lives; and that this should push and motivate us to overcome the excuses we have created to impede our progress and achievement.

                                        Through discussing a variety of different habits and entertaining stories, Mel Robbins argues that it only takes us about 5 seconds to become confident, stop procrastination, overcome fear, and live overall happier lifestyles. Just like we can all hold ourselves back, we can also push ourselves forward.

                                        This is a motivational book that is great for anyone looking to quickly add a positive push to their daily life.

                                        Get the book here!

                                        20. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

                                          This novel which shared the wisdom Mitch Albom received from his college professor Morrie Schwartz, has sold over 12 million copies around the world.

                                          In this book, Mitch joins Morrie through the final months of his dying professor’s life every Tuesday to discuss the important messages of life in a truly beautiful and heartwarming fashion.

                                          In the end, the two come together to create one final class: lessons on how to live a good life.

                                          This book is going to inevitably touch your heart and inspire you in ways many other motivational books could never even dream of doing.

                                          Get this book here!

                                          Final Thoughts

                                          If you are able to pick up even just 2 or 3 of these motivational books, you will be well on your way to living a more inspired life.

                                          Happy reading and stay motivated!

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                                          Featured photo credit: Florencia Viadana via unsplash.com

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