Discover What Motivates You to Get Things Done!

What’s the secret to getting yourself into action, even when you feel resistant? We all have important tasks we dread doing but somehow manage to get done (eventually), like doing the dishes or keeping up with financial paperwork. When you start exploring what comes next in your career, you’ll likely find some of the tasks required along the way difficult to get done.

What if you knew the key to quickly getting yourself out of resistance and into action? Think of the energy and time you could save yourself if you removed dread and resistance, and just went straight to the satisfaction and relief of getting it done!

There are lots of common reasons for feeling resistant now and then to taking action. You may feel the pinch of adding more activity to an already busy life. There may be actions required that you just don’t enjoy (like updating your resume). You may feel a bit nervous or uncertain about exploring something new. As you may have experienced by now, discovering the elements of what you really love doing through the Passion Discovery Worksheet and getting out to Talk it Up can happen very quickly. You can find opportunities worth exploring immediately.

But many of my coaching clients are surprised at the level of resistance that can also pop up when change starts to happen so quickly. We long for something new and different, but letting go of what’s secure and familiar can feel risky.

Regardless of the root cause for resistance, knowing what motivates you to take action helps you achieve your career goals faster and more effectively. Once you know your motivation style, you can overcome resistance and get into action quickly—anytime you need!

I’ve learned there are two basic motivation styles: some of us are motivated towards things we find pleasant and some of us are motivated away from things we find unpleasant. I want to have the carrot. I want to avoid the stick.

Here’s how to discover whether you are more motivated towards or away from things, so you can design a strategy to support working towards your goal even more effectively.

  1. Think about a simple part of life in which you regularly have to motivate yourself, like cleaning your house, doing the dishes, or paying your bills.
  2. What triggers you to actually get it done?

For example, do you clean your house because:

  • it feels really good to have it clean (toward style)
  • you just can’t stand how dirty it is any more (away style)
  • you can’t stand someone nagging at you about it any more (away style)

When you pay your bills, are you doing it:

  • to feel good about being timely and “on it” (toward)
  • to avoid late fees and creditor calls (away)

3.  What seems to be your dominant motivation style, toward or away?

Tip: We’re sometimes a mix of motivation styles, depending on the activity and circumstances, so you might think through two or three activity examples just to see if you tend to have a clear preference.

Knowing your motivation style can help you to craft a plan that truly motivates you to taking the actions you know you need to take. To doing the things you want to do but just don’t get around to. To finding work you love.

About Jane: Jane Cavanaugh is an internationally acclaimed business leadership and career coach who has helped more than 6,000 professionals develop their career and leadership skills. Jane is creator of The Passionate Professional: How to Make Your Ordinary Career Extraordinary, a guided career transition program, and a co-author of Breakthrough! Inspirational Strategies for an Audaciously Authentic Life. Contact or visit Jane at

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Jeanne Loomis, Retired Executive Administrator

Success Story: “Jane’s coaching has changed my life. She helped me recognize that my approach [to my role as Executive Admin to the CEO] wasn’t working. I think she held a mirror up, in a very kind way, that made me look at how others see my actions, whether they were physical actions or my words. Jane helped me become comfortable with who I am, without my title. Across my entire life, this made a difference. For example, instead of sitting away from people, I sit next to them, I sit with them. I’m much happier with my life, with myself.”