Why We Do What We Do: Motivation Matters


Do you ever commit to something like exercising after work, but as the time inches closer, you begin to wish you hadn’t? In those moments, nothing sounds better than lying pants-less on the couch with a pint of The Tonight Dough. You consider bailing but after you give yourself a stern talking to, you decide to just suck it up and go.

We make decisions every day for a myriad of reasons, but behind every choice is a motivation. Are you doing something because you think it will be a positive experience or is it because you want to avoid a negative one? It’s a small question, but the answer makes an unbelievable difference.

If we stop and really think about how we choose to spend our time, it’s surprising how many of those choices are to avoid a negative consequence. Your choice to just “suck it up” and exercise is avoidance motivated. Maybe it’s to avoid feeling guilty for bailing on your fitness goal or maybe it’s to avoid losing the 2-pack you’ve worked so hard for. Yes, you went and did the thing you said you would but it probably wasn’t the most satisfying experience you’ve ever had.


It sounds silly, but life is way better when we focus on doing things we want to do instead of what we have to do. Now, obviously there’s a lot of stuff that we will never want to do (like our roommate’s dishes), but there are also a lot of “obligations” that we can approach in a positive way.

It’s important to ask ourselves why we’re doing what we’re doing because choices are more satisfying when they are approaching a positive result rather than avoiding a negative one. So the next time you dread a workout, remind yourself of the positive outcome you want to achieve and let that drive your choice.