In 2015, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis wanted to determine which is a more effective motivator – the carrot (the promise of reward) or the stick (fear of punishment). A group of students listened to a series of clicks and were asked to determine whether they heard the clicks with their left or right ear. Another group was shown a series of flashes on a screen and they were asked whether the flashes originated from the left or right side. When the students were correct, they were awarded with small cash tokens, and when they got an answer wrong the tokens were taken away. In the end, the students responded better to the fear of punishment than the promise of reward.
The study’s lead author Jan Kubanek believed that the reason students responded better to ‘the stick’ was evolutionary: “From an evolutionary perspective, people tend to avoid punishment or dangerous situations. Rewards, on the other hand, have less of a life-threatening impact.”
A rebel entrepreneur needs motivation in order to get started and jump off that cliff. If the promise of reward is not enough to motivate you into taking that plunge, then try changing your motivation to fear. For example, use the fear of remaining in a dead-end job in the corporate world. Ask yourself “What will happen if I stay? Where will I be in five years? Or ten? What will become of my potential?”
If your fear of moving forward and taking action is strong enough to separate you from your dreams, it’s clearly very powerful. This power can be harnessed and transformed into a source of motivation. The truth is that fear – whether it’s of failure, or embarrassment or uncertainty – can be turned on its head. It can light a fire underneath your belly.
Fear of failure can make it difficult to leave your comfort zone. However, being afraid of the consequences of wasting your potential can be hugely motivating. A rebel entrepreneur will take action and avoid the stick, but also take motivation from the carrot. Whatever the motivation source, use it, and don’t die before you’re dead.