What You Need to Know About Negative Motivation

Understanding Negative Motivation

Negative motivation — also known as “displacement behavior” — was coined by renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.

Freud believed that negative stimulation occurs when an individual unconsciously redirects the feelings one has toward the desired object toward an unrelated entity. As humans, we all occasionally experience negative motivation in some form or fashion. It is not inherently “bad” but serves as an essential part of our complex nature.

A current study shows that negative motivation can produce equally remarkable results! Don’t think it helps? Read on to find out more!

The Negative Motivation Patterns That Hold You Back

In psychology, a negative motivation pattern is a repetitive behaviour in humans intended to avoid or relieve pain.

By avoiding, you miss the chance to learn from mistakes. Maybe you’re afraid of failing, so you don’t apply for that promotion. Perhaps you’re embarrassed about your lack of knowledge, so you procrastinate your research project. When things get tough, you avoid facing them because they give you anxiety, stress, and other negative effects. Here’s a typical negative motivation example:

Pattern 1: I need X before I can take action.

This is a terrible pattern, as it stops you from taking action or even trying to take action. Many people never start their online businesses, find their way out of debt or get healthy because they keep waiting for something else. Understand that nothing ever happens until you take action.

The solution: Stop focusing on the future and focus on the present.

Positive or Negative?

“Positive” or “negative” doesn’t mean good or bad literally. It involves a simple process of identifying the root cause.


1# Telling yourself that you’ll be successful if you work hard, is positive motivation.

2# Telling yourself that you’ll fail if you don’t work hard, is negative motivation.

You can achieve the same outcome—succeeding at work—either way.

What is Negative Motivation NOT good for?

Negative motivation is not suitable for:

-The long term. (Relying on it completely can destroy your self-confidence!);

-Those who lack self-discipline to apply it when they need it the most

-People with a negative view of life

-Those who are emotionally sensitive

How Negative Motivation Works Well to Create Change

We all have our bad habits.

Some may be minor, but others can cause significant harm to ourselves and those around us. The negative side of ourselves needs to be addressed. It is unrealistic to think that we can change overnight, but it is possible to make gradual changes.

The principle behind it is simple: by associating a negative behaviour with something that you’d wish to change. Eventually, you will learn to avoid that behaviour at all costs. This technique will only be effective if you are committed to making long-term changes and not being complacent with short-term success.

You must be able to identify the root cause for change to happen.

Wrapping Up

In the end, there’s really no one answer for whether negative motivation is for you.

Negative motivation might help you kick start a behaviour change or it might help you strengthen your daily routine. Whatever the case, negative motivation is a powerful tool and can help you forge new habits, break bad ones and reach the goals you’ve set for yourself. And while negative motivation isn’t appropriate to use every time, the results it can produce can be amazing.

It’s simply up to you whether it’s worth it.

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