Tuesday, January 13, 2015


An individual's relative motive strength does not exist in a vacuum, but is associated with an elaborate matrix of beliefs that justify the commitment of intense effort toward goal achievement, or the relative lack thereof. The core beliefs that differentiate achievement motivated individuals are:

1. Success is your personal responsibility

Achievement motivated individuals tend to believe that initiative, effort, and persistence are key determinants of success at demanding tasks. Failure-avoiding individuals are more likely to view success as dependent on available resources and situational constraints (e.g. the task is too hard, or the marker was biased).

2. Demanding tasks are opportunities

Achievement motivated individuals tend to see demanding tasks where success is uncertain as ‘challenges' or ‘opportunities'. Failure avoiding individuals are more likely to see them as ‘threats' that may lead to the embarrassment of failure. An achievement motivated individual might tell a failure avoiding individual, "Anything worthwhile is difficult, so stop acting so surprised".

3. Achievement striving is enjoyable

Achievement motivated individual’s associate effort on demanding tasks with dedication, concentration, commitment and involvement. Failure-avoiding individuals categorize such effort as overloading or stressful. They see perseverance in the face of setbacks and obstacles as slightly compulsive.

4. Achievement striving is valuable

Achievement motivated individual’s value hard work in and of itself. Failure-avoiding individuals may mock achievement striving as uncool (e.g. the attitude that the L on learner plates stands for Loser). They may associate achievement striving with lack of a social life or even early death by heart attack.

5. Skills can be improved

Achievement-motivated individuals have a strong belief that they can improve their performance on demanding tasks with practice, training, coaching, and dedication to learning. Failure-avoiding individuals tend to see skills as fixed and/or dependent on innate talents.

6. Persistence works

Achievement motivated individuals are inclined to believe that continued effort and commitment will overcome initial obstacles or failures. Failure-avoiding individuals are inclined to see initial failure as a sign of things to come. So the achievement motivated individual says, "Don't assume that you can't do something until you've tried. And I mean really tried, like tried 3000 times, not that you tried three times, and 'oh I give up.' And the failure-avoiding individual responds, "You really need to learn when to quit."

The beliefs held by achievement-motivated individuals are not necessarily more logical or objectively correct than the beliefs held by failure-avoiding individuals, certainly not in all situations. However, they are empirically associated with high levels of achievement.  Once you understand the modes of achievement motivated versus failure-avoiding thinking, you will recognize them in the way that others talk about their goals, dreams, successes, and setbacks. You will also recognize them in your own thinking, and you can choose to cultivate the beliefs that will support you to achieve your goals. This is more effective than just trying to think positive and relying on the law of attraction to provide you with what you want.  How do you know when you might be overdoing the achievement motivated thinking a bit, to the point of being unrealistic and not acting in your own best interests?

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