Are you an Away From or a Towards Person?

Having spent many years working together with businesses of varying sizes, helping leaders and their teams to better strategise and find a more effective path towards success, I was persuaded that I could turn all this knowledge into a business book. I’ll be posting more updates on progress later in the year (and you can be the judge as to whether the end result is any good!). And the reason for mentioning this now is that I read a recent post on Melanie Greene’s blog which struck a chord.

She is also putting together a book and was reminded that the reason she’d be on target to finish and deliver the draft to her publisher was that she was an ‘Away From’ Person; in this you’re motivated by a fear of failure rather than visions of success.

As I’m very much an Away From person too, it’s worth delving deeper into what Melanie had to say on whether you’re an Away From or a Towards person.

What’s it all about?

Human beings are driven by one of two things: avoiding pain or courting pleasure. Although this is not an absolute and we tend to have a bit of both motivations underpinning our behaviour, like many aspects of human psychology we have a tendency towards one rather than the other.

Away From People tend to:

  • Choose to do things or be motivated by the avoidance of pain (literal or psychological)
  • Be motivated by fear of mistakes, fear of failure, other people’s opinions, letting yourself or others down, being chastised by your inner critic. Or you could be affected by critics in the form of parents, your partner, your boss. It can also be about avoiding poverty, relationship crises or anything else you might want to avoid.

Towards People tend to:

  • Choose to do things motivated by the pleasure that it will bring. How good will success feel like? Or the sensation of triumph when you’ve completed a task?

How does this affect our everyday life?

Our attitude to everything around us can be impacted by whether we are an Away From or Towards person, and the differences can be subtle. Here are some examples:

How we choose to spend our money – Are we saving money towards a great holiday or because of a fear of that ‘rainy day’ that might be around the corner?

How we choose our partners – Single people might long for a relationship because they want the company and fun times and move towards that. While others might say they want the company because they are lonely, which sounds more of an Away From motivation. Sometimes people choose a partner for their sparkling personality and sense of humour, while others are attracted by someone with a steady job and who can provide security.

How we choose where to go on holiday – One person might say, ‘Let’s go to Egypt for the windsurfing, the sunshine and the ancient sites’. While their partner says ‘I want to go somewhere safe, where I won’t get too hot, I’m not going to be bitten by mosquitoes or get an upset tummy’. And that is how the rows start. Those who know their partners well, of course, will find somewhere that can meet both the Away From and Towards needs.

The career or job we choose – A trait sometimes seen in our coaching clients is that they wish to leave their job because they are unhappy, wanting to Move Away from it as fast as possible without considering what they want to Move Towards. We try and ensure that they clear about what they are moving from so that they do not replicate the situation that they are currently in.

Are you more of an Away From or a Towards person? Do the examples given here resonate with your experiences?

In our next post, we’ll look at how tending towards one of these traits can impact your working life and how you can adapt your approach when living or working with your opposite.