The 13 Negative Motivation Patterns that Hold You Back



“Watch out for the joy-stealers: gossip, criticism, complaining, faultfinding, and a negative, judgmental attitude.” — Joyce Meyer

I think motivation is an important part of daily life.

But how do you get your motivation back once you’ve lost it, or how do you develop it if you feel you never had it?

You have to step on your ANTs (automatic negative thoughts).

To do that effectively, you first need to know the negative thought patterns that take away your motivation to begin with.

In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns identifies thirteen negative motivation patterns that take away our drive.

Key Takeaways

Here are my key takeaways:

  • Add a buffer for tolerance in your day to day.  Rather than get frustrated when things go wrong, ask how yourself how you might avoid it next time.  For example, if you’re always late because you get stuck in traffic, leave earlier.  When things go wrong, learn from them, but don’t get frustrated.
  • Test your assumptions.  Don’t talk yourself out of everything.  Prove it with action, and many times you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
  • Start with something simple.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  It’s better to leap over small hurdles, than build a giant wall in front of yourself.
  • Change your self-talk.  You can beat yourself up, or you can lift yourself up.  Turn mistakes into lessons and carry forward lessons learned.

Knowing the set of negative motivation patterns can help you identify counter-productive self-talk that can get in the way of taking action and feeling good.

The 13 Negative Motivation Patterns

According to Burns, there are 13 procrastination and do-nothingism mindsets:

  1. Hopelessness
  2. Helplessness
  3. Overwhelming Yourself
  4. Jumping to Conclusions
  5. Self-labeling
  6. Undervaluing the Rewards
  7. Perfectionism
  8. Fear of Failure
  9. Fear of Success
  10. Fear of Disapproval or Criticism
  11. Coercion and Resentment
  12. Low Frustration Tolerance
  13. Guilt and Self-blame

The 13 Negative Motivation Patterns Explained

Burns explained the following 13 procrastination and do-nothingism mindsets as follows:

Pattern Description
Hopelessness Your lack of motivation seems unending and irreversible.
Helplessness You feel your moods are caused by factors beyond your control, such as fate, hormone cycles, dietary factors, luck, and other people’s evaluations of you.
Overwhelming Yourself You may magnify a task to the degree that it seems impossible to tackle.
Jumping to Conclusions You sense that it’s not within your power to take effective action that will result in satisfaction because you are in the habit of saying, “I can’t,” or “I would but …”
Self-Labeling The more you procrastinate, the more you condemn yourself as inferior.
Undervaluing the Rewards You feel the reward simply wouldn’t be worth the effort.
Perfectionism You defeat yourself with inappropriate goals and standards.
Fear of Failure Because you imagine that putting in the effort and not succeeding would be an overwhelming personal defeat, you refuse to try at all.
Fear of Success Because of your lack of confidence, success may seem even more risky than failure because you are certain is it based on chance.
Fear of Disapproval or Criticism You imagine that if you try something new, any mistake or flub will be met with strong disapproval or criticism because the people you care about won’t accept you if you are human and imperfect.
Coercion and Resentment A deadly enemy of motivation is a sense of coercion. You feel under intense pressure to perform – generated from within and without. This happens when you try to motivate yourself with moralistic “shoulds” and “oughts.” You tell yourself , “I should do this” and “I have to do that.”
Low Frustration Tolerance Your frustration results from your habit of comparing reality with an ideal in your head. When the two don’t match, you condemn reality. It doesn’t occur to you that it may be infinitely easier to change your expectations rather than to bend and twist reality.
Guild and Self-blame If you are frozen in the conviction that you are bad or have let others down, you will naturally feel unmotivated to pursue your daily life.

If you can recognize the 13 negative motivation patterns, then you can defeat them.

Awareness is the first step.

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