Using fear as a motivator: how does it work? (2023)

Using fear as a motivator: how does it work? (1)

Jump to section

what is fear

The power of fear motivation

Is fear the strongest motivator?

Use fear as an impulse, not a consequence

Short- and long-term fear motivation

Use fear to your advantage

People have always used fear as a motivator.

Many millennia ago, our ancestors developed their sense of fear as a survival tactic. Like other animals, we are rooted in afight-or-flight instinctto protect us from external threats.

(Video) How to use fear as motivation | Jokke Sommer | TEDxArendal

While we no longer face the looming threat of deadly predators, impending layoffs, economic insecurity andmany other stressorstriggers our fear response.

Fear is not an inherently negative emotion. When used correctly, it can also be a valuable tool and a powerful motivator to excel at work or in our personal lives.

Let's break down the importance of fear and how you can take full advantage of it as one of your strongest motivators.

what is fear

We've all felt that sinking feeling in our stomachs when fear, distress, or panic suddenly washes over our bodies.

Fear is our body's alarm system. When we feel threatened, physically or psychologically, our body automatically sends out a red flag to warn us to protect ourselves by activating our fight-or-flight system.

Active threats to our physical safety or the fear we feel when we are in a situation with perceived consequences causes our nervous system to trigger stress responses that tell our body to fight or flee.

Physical symptoms of a fight-or-flight response can include:

  • Increased sweating
  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • A sudden rush of adrenaline.
  • hot flashes
  • butterflies in the stomach
  • body trembles
  • chills
  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • tightness in the chest

Chemical reactions in the brain that warn us about fear are also associated with positive emotions, such as joy or excitement. That's why some love the chills of watching scary movies in the dark or the adrenaline rush of jumping off a plane, while others prefer to stay in their comfort zone.

Whether you enjoy an adrenaline rush or not, it's unhealthy to let our fears outweigh the threats. Being overwhelmed by feelings of stress can affect your mental or physical well-being, leading to problems such as mental burnout, physical exhaustion, or impaired decision-making.

Using fear as a motivator: how does it work? (2)

The power of fear motivation

Motivation explains human behavior and why we do the things we do. There are two different types of motivation:

  • Internal Motivation(or intrinsic motivation) comes from within. When an activity is in line with our interestspersonal values, we feel motivated by a deeper meaning—like volunteering for a charity or extra hours of workto a job we love.

The reward is also internal. Achieving an internally motivated goal fills us with joy or satisfaction. Our volunteer work can make us feel more fulfilled by our contribution to the community, or extra work on a project we feel inspired by makes us feel like we're fulfilling our purpose in life.

(Video) Fear: Go Towards it. Best Motivational Video

  • external motivation(orextrinsische Motivation) comes from outside of us, whether to earn a reward or to avoid punishment.

In our professional lives, both the promise of a promotion and the fear of losing our job could push us to work harder oravoid delays.

Due to the fleeting nature of most goals, external motivators are usually temporary and are best used to help achieve short-term goals. A study by Cornell University showed thatPeople are more motivated by the promise of an immediate reward.

Using fear as a motivator: how does it work? (3)

Is fear the strongest motivator?

Fear is one of our most uncomfortable emotions, which is why, for better or for worse, it is one of our strongest motivators.

Fear is uncomfortable, so naturally we try to move away from fear and closer to our comfort zone. Fear motivates us by forcing us to act. Our behavior maybeanticipate fear in order to avoid the consequences or risks, or we could behave differently while actively feeling fear to limit the uncomfortable feeling.

Life is full of fears. Many of us probably share the same worries: Fear of failure, getting sick, saying goodbye to a loved one, falling behind financially, or losing a job are a big few. Protecting ourselves from these fears becoming reality motivates us to act in a certain way to release our discomfort.

Because fear feels instinctive and all-encompassing, we should use fear as a primary motivator with caution.

Understanding the power that fear has over us will help us act accordingly to avoid becoming paralyzed by fear and making counterproductive decisions in relation to our goals.

Instead of letting fear guide us, we can ease the discomfort by regulating our emotionsmindfulness and relaxation techniques, to practicepositive thinking, or break down the problem bymap the solution process with clear goalsto avoid hasty decisions.

Use fear as an impulse, not a consequence

In the last two years, many employees have voluntarily resigned from their jobsThe great resignation. It started in the wake of COVID-19 in early 2021 and continues to this day.

Early hypotheses about the motivation for massive resignation werethat workers wanted better pay. But an extensive study by MIT found that the reason for quitting is less pragmatic and more emotional in nature:Corporate culture is a stronger motivator than compensation.Atoxic work environmentis 10.4 times stronger than salary in motivating workers to quit.

Workers may endure toxic treatment in the short term and are motivated to work harder by fear of consequences. You may have seen fear used as a negative emotion at work, like a boss threatening youjob securityif you fail to meet a sales target or encourage you to work overtime.

(Video) Use Fear as MOTIVATION | Jim Kwik

But continued fear mongering is likely to result in reduced morale, underachievement, and lower job retention. The use of long-term fear is not appropriateMotivation strategy to achieve our goals.

Using fear as a motivator: how does it work? (4)

To successfully use fear as a motivator, it must be paired with a solution. It's better to get team members excited about a new path than to instill fear with consequences.

Let's look at the difference between consequence-based fear motivation and solution-based fear motivation: Imagine sales are down and monthly quota is close at hand. Rather than threatening overtime or employee job security, offer a solution to reach the sales goal more efficiently, such as:

If employers don't show how to break new ground, they willfear of failurecould have adverse consequences, such as poor performance or paralysis. Offering solutions means workers feel less pressure and more initiative to be creative.

Short- and long-term fear motivation

Examples include fear of missing an upcoming deadline, failing to impress at an important presentation, or being late for an appointment you're looking forward toshort-term fear motivation, thecan help us perform better—but only in the short term. Here are some benefits of using fear as a short-term motivator:

Sharpened senses

Fear is a biological survival response. When we are in danger, our body responds with a fight-or-flight response.Your body might feel a sudden rush of adrenaline, your blood pressure could rise and your learning and memory could even improve. The downside is that your body may also temporarily shut down important biological functions like digestion and growth in order to survive.

The fight-or-flight response is valuable when dealing with real-world physical threats, but when it chronically latches on to less urgent triggers, it's important to be aware of the threat and your response to it. If your body is suddenly hyper conscious, slow down, assess the real threat andpractice mindfulnessto regain control of your physical and emotional state.

Better Endurance

By using fear as a motivation, you face your fears. Analyzing and confronting your fears will help you get to know yourself better, grow and understand that you canovercome self-doubtandbuild up trust.

construction of ourresilience mentalityis an important skill in our professional and personal lives.Fear of sudden changesis a natural reaction, howeverlearned endurancecan turn frightening changes into growth and the development of new skills. When you learn that you can face fear and achieve a goal,You are better prepared for other challenges.

withlong-term fear motivation,Fears have no deadlines or clear solutions. These fears can include the constant fear of losing your job, not paying rent, or getting sick.

Using fear as a motivator: how does it work? (5)

(Video) USE FEAR TO YOUR ADVANTAGE - Powerful Motivational Video | Jordan Peterson

Long-term fear motivation can have negative effects and even lead to serious conditions like the following:

1.development of negative thinking

The constant use of fear as a motivator can create a permanent state of alertness orself-criticismthat is eroding oursSelf-esteem. Consequently, you can find yourself withchronic stressor fear from overwhelming or invasive thoughts that something bad is about to happen.

2.High cortisol levels

Fear has different reactions in the body. Part of our fight-or-flight response is the release of cortisol, known as the stress hormone. Cortisol is responsible for increasing our heart rate and breathing. This is an important biological response to a short-term physical threat, but when applied chronically to psychological threats — like missing a deadline or missing a presentation — you're likely to experience long-term mental and physical well-being.

3.Low productivity

Fear enters biological behaviors designed to help us survive life-threatening dangers. While underperforming at work may feel like the end of the world, it's not life-threatening.

But our bodies struggle to tell the difference, responding to fear and stress with the same stimuli we experience in life-threatening situations. When intrapersonal fears become our primary motivator, we willNaturally move away from situations that cause discomfort. They may be reluctant to share an idea that's too unconventional, holding back valuable productivity, creativity, and collaboration.

Using fear as a motivator: how does it work? (6)

Use fear to your advantage

Fear is a natural part of life. None of us can escape it. We can all learn to deal with it - and even use it to our advantage.

Instead of letting fear overwhelm and paralyze us, we should learn to tell the difference between good, short-term fear that keeps us creative and bad fear that wears us down and leads to bad decisions.

Once you arm yourself with a better understanding of your own fears, you can embrace them and use their motivating power to move forward.

Using fear as a motivator: how does it work? (7)

wellbeing productivity

(Video) OVERCOMING FEAR - Motivational Video

Released December 30, 2022


1. FEAR - Best Motivational Video Speeches Compilation for Success, Students & Entrepreneurs
2. How to 'overcome' fear | Trevor Ragan | TEDxCedarRapids
(TEDx Talks)
3. OVERCOMING FEAR - One of the Most Powerful Motivational Videos Ever (very powerful!)
4. Why you should define your fears instead of your goals | Tim Ferriss
5. FIGHT THROUGH THE FEAR - Powerful Motivational Speech Video (Featuring Eric Thomas)
6. How To Beat Fear And Anxiety | Jordan Peterson | Powerful Life Advice


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Barbera Armstrong

Last Updated: 06/24/2023

Views: 5766

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (79 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Barbera Armstrong

Birthday: 1992-09-12

Address: Suite 993 99852 Daugherty Causeway, Ritchiehaven, VT 49630

Phone: +5026838435397

Job: National Engineer

Hobby: Listening to music, Board games, Photography, Ice skating, LARPing, Kite flying, Rugby

Introduction: My name is Barbera Armstrong, I am a lovely, delightful, cooperative, funny, enchanting, vivacious, tender person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.