I’ve been reading a lot about motivation lately. One of the articles I recently read dealt with something called regulatory focus theory (RFT). Formulated by Columbia University Professor E. Tory Higgins, RFT is about people’s perceptions and the way they approach making decisions and achieving goals.
I am very interested in motivation and perception because I think it impacts emotional control. As my readers know, I am all about emotional control this year – it is a personal pursuit for me. I am getting too old to be rattled and waste a lot of time wondering why someone would behave or act a certain way.
It’s not about you (or me)
What I have found is that, more often than not, other people’s actions and decisions are usually not about me (surprise!). Instead, they are driven by the way they deal with the world. Higgins’ theory suggests people’s perceptions (and therefore actions) are driven by how they approach pleasure and avoid pain.
He suggests most people approach life in one of two ways:
- Promotion – a focus or orientation toward growth advancement and progression
- Prevention – a focus or orientation toward security, protection and a prevention of negative outcomes
He is not saying one is better than the other; he is shaping awareness. His point is that your values and beliefs shape your focus and that will impact how you make decisions in pursuit of goals. I found this fascinating and it has helped me understand and manage conflict at work. I realize the differences between myself and others may be a matter of perception, and not necessarily that we desire a different outcome.
I approach most things in life with an orientation towards growth and advancement. Does this theory resonate with you – and if so, which orientation best describes you? I would love to have you join the conversation by commenting below. I would imagine our community is a mix of both orientations and I would love to hear your thoughts.