Self-care September: Less Stick, More Carrot!

A well-known analogy about motivation involves a donkey, a carrot and a stick. Although it is so simple, it can have a surprisingly helpful influence on how well we choose to treat ourselves.


If we want a donkey to move from A to B, the use of a stick is likely to be effective, at least to some extent (if you are an animal lover, please leave aside any animal cruelty concerns for the moment – it’s just an analogy!). However, the stick has to be used sparingly – if it is used too much the donkey will become demoralised, demotivated and probably refuse to move. This outcome is the exact opposite of what we were going for!


Similarly, if we push ourselves to achieve a certain goal – it may work some of the time but only if we do it every so often. If we do it too much, we will become like the demotivated, depressed donkey above. What’s the alternative?


Donkeys love carrots (so the analogy suggests anyway) so they make an ideal reward for a hard-working donkey. The prospect of a reward is very motivating and also doesn’t involve being hit with a stick at any point.


Likewise, we tend to be far more motivated by the prospect of a reward (carrot) than we are by the fear of punishment (stick). It’s also important that the donkey gets a bite of the carrot at some point. Without ever enjoying the reward, apathy can set in (“What’s the point?”).


If you tend to be someone who pushes yourself too hard in pursuit of your goals, you may like to try a different strategy. Motivate yourself with the prospect and subsequent enjoyment of an appropriate and appealing reward (something more appealing than a carrot). You may just find you achieve better results by being kinder to yourself.


I hope you enjoyed this series on self-care. I would love to hear any feedback you have or any ideas you have for future blog posts, so please get in touch.

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