Why do so many of us struggle with motivation? It can be easily accessible to us at times, while incredibly elusive at others. Motivation is your desire or willingness to do something. Can we improve our motivation levels over time?

Understanding how you are motivated can help you to find more energy to act when your motivation is low.

There are two types of motivation: approach and avoidance. Like yin and yang, the two styles are defined by their type of energy. Approach is pushing forward to embrace positiveAvoidance is an attempt to pull back from negative. Studies have shown the type of motivation you most often experience is a dimension of your personality, however, people are not motivated entirely by one or the other. Once you understand the difference between approach and avoidance it is possible to leverage the benefits of both to achieve your goals.

Approach Motivation 
The yang, it is an energized and passionate pursuit of a goal. Approach is active, encouraging forward movement. It invokes feelings of opportunity, productivity and boldness. People who are risk tolerant are more often approach motivated.

“There is an element of risk in pursuing a goal with passion.”

Pursuing a new job with an approach motivation mindset means you might push yourself to target opportunities with better compensation, improved benefits and more responsibility.

Avoidance Motivation
Avoidance is the yin to approach motivation; it is pulling back. With avoidance motivation, one moves toward a goal by mitigating potential failure.

When seeking a new job with an avoidance motivation mindset you might explore opportunities with similar skill sets and similar compensation. The goal would be to ensure you have a job and are able to do it well. People who are risk averse are often more avoidance motivated. There is safety in avoiding failure.
Applying Motivation to Your Life
Motivation affects all aspects of our lives: career, finances and personal wellness. Understanding the difference between approach and avoidance motivation will enable you to tailor your outcomes. Start by setting goals using both types to determine which style will work best for your desired outcome. The idea is to be connected with your motivation every step of the way.

For example, imagine you enjoy mountain climbing. Your approach goals might be: I will reach the summit. I will do so in a set time. I will choose the most challenging route. Avoidance goals might be: I will climb as far as safety allows. I will take all the time I need. I will choose a route I know I can easily navigate.

For most people, successful goals are a mix of approach and avoidance.

Motivation is complex and ever-changing. What motivates you may change from week to week. Be organized and mindful in your approach. Experiment with both avoidance and approach styles. Be specific about your goals and how they connect with your motivation. One way or another, your feelings will motivate you and bring you to the place you want to be.

Originally published on Medium.

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