The Dark Side of Motivation

“Do what you love, and the money will follow.”

“Follow your passion.”

“Get into the feeling of the wish fulfilled.”

These are some quotes from the positive thinking, feel good, self-help literature. They might or might not work you.

But there’s another side of motivation that isn’t much talked about. Yet, it can be dangerously powerful. It can demolish everything that crosses its path. And that’s what we need to do at times.

I’m talking about the dark side of motivation. The dark side of motivation is about using your darkest emotions to motivate yourself. Those are high energy emotions that are usually perceived as negative. They can be anger, fear, frustration, and even disgust.

How Does Positive Motivation Work Out for You?

How does “doing what you love” and “following your passion” work out for most people?

How do you feel like when you “get into the feeling of the wish fulfilled?” When I do that, I feel relaxed, happy, and content. I don’t feel the least bit of desire to get the work done to get the wish fulfilled in reality.

I get into the feeling of the wish fulfilled as the last resort when I’m exhausted and about to give up. I use that feeling to stay in the game. It has its use, but most of the time, it’s the dark side of motivation that ignites me to do my best work.

How to Use the Dark Side of Motivation

Is there anything that makes you angry? Are you worried about a future event? Are you frustrated by something? Does a situation disgust you? Great!

Take inventory of those situations, events, and conditions. Make a list of them. Remember them and get into one of those dark emotions. That can be anger, fear, frustration, and even disgust.

How do you feel now? Aren’t you more energized and focused? Now, do you still feel like scrolling your social media feeds? Or do you want to use that energy on something constructive to overcome the infuriating, disgusting situation or to avoid the dreaded event in the future?

Using Fear as Motivation

Let’s say you’re worried that you’ll lose your job to artificial intelligence in the future. The only way you can avoid that dreaded future is to take computer science classes now. But you have to do that in your spare time.

Nevertheless, you like entertainment. You want to hang out with your friends. You can’t say “no” whenever they call you. And that keeps you from taking the computer science classes now.

After all, you work hard during your day job. And your job seems to be stable for now. Who would know what would happen after ten years anyway?

What would make you quit hanging out in the evenings and taking those computer science classes instead? “Getting into the feeling of the wish fulfilled?” Or cultivating and feeling an intense horror of losing your job and your standard of living?


Even though most of the self-help literature recommends that we think good feeling thoughts, positive thoughts and emotions work only in limited cases as motivation.

If you want to eliminate distractions and laziness and focus on work, you need to cultivate some high energy, dark emotions, like anger, fear, frustration, and disgust.