The age old question–carrot or stick?

Source:  Flickr

Source: Flickr

Probably for as long as man can remember, there has been the question of which works better–the carrot or the stick?  A new study concludes that it is the stick, but also found an interesting twist:  it doesn’t have to be harsh.

If you’ve ever listened to or read Anthony Robbins, you’ll know he talks about pain being a better motivator than pleasure.  (And if you haven’t read any Anthony Robbins, go do so RIGHT NOW!)  He acknowledges that this is difficult to do to yourself because, wait for it, people don’t like pain (duh!).  Well, researchers at Washington University have just reached the same conclusion.  Even though that may seem like common sense, I’ve learned many times to not just trust that something is true because it is common sense (like governmental debt, but that is for another post).  What I found particularly interesting, though, was that the *level* of stick, meaning how harsh the punishment was, was not really a factor in how *effective* the stick was.

Not only is this great news for those of us who consistently try to motivate ourselves (we don’t have to beat the crap out of ourselves, we just have to delay watching the latest Game of Thrones), but it points to a societal epidemic I will call “comfort at all costs (CAAC)”.  I have this disease, and see it as endemic in society as well (American society is all I can speak for).  Basically, this is the idea that I *must* be comfortable at all times, or else something is wrong.  Not only does this create problems on a societal level, but also on a personal level.  I’m assuming most of us know this already, but check out the book The Comfort Trap if you want more details on this.

This news out of Washington University, however, paints CAAC in a whole new POSITIVE light.  By this, I mean we can use our addiction to comfort to make big changes with surprisingly minor self-nudging.  We only have to make ourselves mildly uncomfortable, rather than outright miserable, to provide strong motivation.  Tony Robbins talks about *massive* pain, but this research shows even what an outsider might call what you are going through *minor* pain, it is still just as effective.  I have been hesitant to create massive pain for myself, but discomfort, hell I can handle doing that for the greater good, and hopefully you can too.  I’ll be trying this out & will post on any results I get.  Let me know how it works out for yourself.

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