Have you ever heard the saying ‘Out of the frying pan and into the fire”? It’s been around since the 1490’s when a book of fables was produced by an Italian called Laurentius Abstemius.
One of the fables concerns some fish thrown live into a frying pan of boiling fat. So one fish urges its fellows to save their lives by jumping out, but when they do so they fall straight into the burning coals under the pan and curse their bad advice. Abstemius concludes:
“This fable warns us that when we are avoiding present dangers, we should not fall into even worse peril.”
It’s my experience that many people are like those fish! They spend much of their lives trying to get out of their current situation but they put very little thought into EXACTLY where they want to go to.
When I say “many people” for a long part of my life I would have included myself in this category (and I still slip into it on occasion).I spent a lot of my early life running away from my past and a childhood where I had been abused. I always used to wonder why no matter what I did I was always just as frustrated and unhappy when I got to my new destination. What I hadn’t realised was it was because my new destination was just “away from” where I had been! It wasn’t somewhere I had planned to get to.
There is a significant amount of research into what motivates us as human beings. Much of the research boils down to us being either, Towards oriented or Away from oriented. We don’t spend our entire lives in one mode, but we do tend favour one over the other as a learned habit.
Here’s a 20 second experiment
A quick way of testing which is your dominant mode is for you to select A, B or C from the answers to the following question (just pick the one that feels most natural to you):
There is a competition at your workplace and everyone is expected to take part in it. There will be a company wide presentation of the results (a leader board). At the end of the competition there will be prizes (which you would want if you won them) for the top 3 performers.
A) You are determined to get your name as near to the top of the board as possible. Those prizes have your name on them.
B) Those prizes would be fantastic, but you don’t need to win. Avoiding the embarrassment of coming in or near the bottom places is enough for you.
C) You flip between the two states, one minute you are going to beat the world, the next you just don’t want to be last.
Got your answer? OK let’s look at what it means:
A towards person (answer A) wants the prizes and the awards and the recognition of coming first. They will participate if they are aligned with what’s on offer at the end of the quest.
An away from person (answer B) often won’t care about the prizes so much, they will be driven by a fear of coming last. Their drivers will be away from what failure means to them. This can often be because of previous experiences and ultimately a pain avoidance tactic.
A flip-flop person (answer C) doesn’t really exist unless there are very unusual circumstances in play (a real ‘wisdom of Solomon’ decision needs to be made). If you went for C it’s often because you either don’t want to admit you’re a B, or, because you haven’t taken the time to monitor your own motivators to know which you are. I’m not saying you can’t be a C, just that it requires a real and personally conflicting situation.
If what this research says is true, I think it’s quite sad because it means an ‘away from’ person won’t ever feel truly happy when they achieve something.
I know… I was dominated by being an away from person!
Following on, it also concerns me that eventually the ‘away from’ oriented people will always be proved right! They will come up against something where they fail and then they will just be confirming their negative belief factors.Research into having a positive mind-set says “you should always focus on what you want and never on what you don’t want”.
The reason given is your mind works hard to create whatever it is you focus on BUT your mind doesn’t understand the meaning of “not” it simply ignores it as a ‘noise word’.
Try this 5 second experiment
Don’t think of a PINK ELEPHANT
I bet you immediately DID think of one! So if you focus on “I don’t want to end up sleeping on a park bench” rather than “I want to have a nice, warm, comfortable home” then your mind hears “I want to end up on a park bench” or more importantly “I will probably end up sleeping on a park bench”.
As a professional motivational speaker, I often give my Keynote address on “Choosing your attitude”. Sometimes I would hear people in the audience say “I’m going to try this just as soon as I leave my…” or “As soon as I get away from…”.
I have now built this formula into my address so I can make sure I emphasise how important it is to have a positive intent in your thoughts and actions. It is much better to set and work towards a goal and to enjoy and celebrate it once you achieve it, than just to focus on getting out of your current situation.
*** Here’s a bit about the formula and a worked example… but don’t worry it isn’t that hard ***
Have you ever seen “away from here” as a destination in an airport departure lounge? Thought not! So why do so many people use it as a compass for their life?
My formula helps me to focus on where I want to go in my life. It reminds me away from (small a) is not (≠) a Destination (Big D).
It’s a simple life lesson to remind me to plan where I want to go and not just focus on getting away from where I am. As ever if something has a capital letter then it’s more important than other elements in the formula.
*** End of formula bit ***
Are you an away from or a towards motivated person?
Have you ever been in a situation you just wanted to get out of? ULTIMATELY what happened when you did?
Have you managed to break the away from habit? If you did, please share how you did it and help others.
If you’ve found the post really engaging or annoying, please use the comment link below to give me feedback on this formula.
If you don’t want to take the time to comment, please let me have your reactions to this post by hitting one of the ‘Reaction Buttons’ below it takes less than 5 seconds to do and helps me understand what my readers like.