People usually answer this question in a very different way. The factors that strengthen our motivation or undermines it varies from one person to another. Whether it is in business or in professional sports, your success is strongly linked to how you approach this question. But what are the common indicators of that success? And how can one identify what motivate them and give them that drive?

Both athletes and business professionals share the common clues into what motivates them. When I ask my clients what drives them in their sports or their career, often the answer is divided into two distinct type of response: What they don’t want to do or have, or what they want to accomplish and acquire. So either it’s a promotion for example or not to work too many long hours if that makes sense. This is a clear identification of a Towards motivated and an away motivated type of individual. So which one is better? And is there a way to move from one type to another?


1. Away motivated

Well, the away motivated type – the fear of losing – is frequently not focused enough on the outcomes. They usually have a strong visual image of what they don’t want to have or experience anymore. For example, someone who wants to quit smoking will be picturing himself sick, struggling with health issues, or making his loved ones sick as well by smoking next to them. This visual representation is what motivates him to stop smoking, but how sustainable is it to continually be in that emotional state?

The athlete who’s always worrying about losing and disappointing his coaches and audience could be hindering his performance and results if he carries these feelings into his game.

A business person could be focusing too much on not losing his job so he would instead be trying to stay safe, not taking too many risks. He would be worried about what can go wrong if he doesn’t work hard enough or isn’t careful enough.

Indicators of away motivated people:

. Work and train slowly and deliberately.
. Tend to be too accurate.
. Are prepared for the worst.
. Are stressed by short deadlines and the pressure to deliver.
. Stick to their ways of doing things.
. Are uncomfortable with praise or optimism.
. Feel worried or anxious when things go wrong.

2. Towards motivated

On the other hand, people who are driven by winning tend to be more pro-active as they have a positive image of where they want to be and what they want to accomplish. For them, they are more reward oriented. The positive outcomes that they visualize, the feelings they will get from that end goal, are fueling their actions and behaviors towards getting optimal results.

Indicators of Towards motivated people:

. Work and train quickly
. Consider lots of alternatives and are great creatives
. Are open to new opportunities
. Are optimists
. Plan for best-case scenarios.
. Seek positive feedback and lose steam without it.

That said, being only focused on winning might not always be the best thing to do, especially if the reward is linked to praise, trophies and promotions. The chase of success can be draining, bringing in a lot of stress and comparison with other people’s success which is unhealthy for the mind. Winning for recognition and having a materialistic representation of the efforts you put to reach your goals could end up in cumulating medals and always seeking more of them with a pressure to acquire more and more in an endless race.

THE THIRD TYPE: The Experience Oriented Type.

Looking forward to the process could be extremely rewarding both emotionally, financially. I am a big believer in the process-oriented motivation. When I coach my clients, I tend to help them visualize that journey to reaching the top, from instead of being hard and painful – which could definitely be the case – to fun and enjoyable, where the client would be exploring himself, getting to know his full capacity and becoming better than what he was before. In the end, it is that experience that makes him, or she improves in whatever area they want to perform, and that’s what counts at the end. Ultimately, enjoying that journey and staying focused on the process will make them winners, and the reward, in this case, is the efforts they put into that process.


Having a bit of away motivation is ok. Actually, Tim Ferris, a known author and entrepreneur, encourages people to do a fear setting along with their goal setting.

When retired athletes are asked to speak about their accomplishments, no one of them talks about the prices and the medals. 100% of them express how much they enjoyed the journey to the top, including the ups and downs that come with it.

I’d suggest being a 10% away motivated, 20% toward motivation, and 70% process oriented and really looking forward to that hard training to meet your goals.