Carrot or Stick?

Which motivates you more?  The carrot or the stick?  I think most people are a combination of the two.  Personally, my will to finish becomes almost unstoppable once I glimpse the finish line.  And yet, there are definitely areas of my life where the stick takes the upper hand.  Can you say taxes and speed limits?

The key, I think, is to use them both strategically; however, you need to go deeper than the base-level reward or punishment to tap into the true power of each.  Enter the Five Why’s.  I learned about the Five Why’s from Precision Nutrition, where I’ve gained multiple certifications.  They adapted it from the Toyota Corporation, and it’s a tremendous tool for going deep and getting to the truth behind a given goal.

Then recently, I heard Dean Graziosi on YouTube sharing the Seven Why’s.  This caught my attention, as it was the same as the Five Why’s, simply taken two levels deeper.  He explained that the first time he learned of the method, he had hired a consultant to help grow his company.  And the first question the consultant asked was, “Why would you hire me for $10,000 for a half day?”

Dean answered, “I want to create a company that stands out.  I want to engage more students and change more lives.”

The consultant replied, “Why is it important to create a unique company, engage more students, and change lives?”

Dean answered, “I want to build a company that raises all the ships in this industry and leaves a legacy for my kids.”

Dean would say that after the first four questions, the source of his answers switched from his head to his heart.  He said after that, he felt his whole physiology and emotions changed.

Dean’s answer to the fifth why was that he never wanted to return to how he grew up.  His parents divorced multiple times, leaving Dean in constant flux.  He never felt safe or secure because his family environment was a constantly revolving door.

When asked why this was so important, given his current level of success, he said he didn’t want his kids to grow up the way he did.  Instead, he wanted them to always feel safe and secure.

And while the answer might seem obvious enough, Dean said this obsession with protecting his kids is the ultimate driver to be able to live his life on his terms.  This allows him to be the parent to his kids that he never had as a child growing up in one broken home after another.

When you consider Dean’s answers, there’s a blend of carrot and stick.  It really doesn’t matter.  The key is to find the best motivation for you and commit to plugging into this source daily.  I published “If Your Why is Big Enough…” in March 2020.  The rest of the sentence is, “The facts don’t matter.”  And it’s true.  Nothing will hinder you from reaching your goals if your why is big enough.

Always remember that for every yes, there is a no.  So when you say yes to the sweets that clearly aren’t a part of your nutrition plan, you’re saying no to fitting into your skinny dreams or sporting the six-pack abs while on your upcoming vacation.  Another significant example is our addiction to social media or streaming media content.  So when you say yes to binge-watching your new favorite show or scrolling through Facebook or Instagram well past your standard bedtime, you’re saying no to a good night’s sleep and proper recovery time for your body.

An exercise I’ve been doing with my clients lately has yielded considerable success.  First, I will have them go through the 7 Why’s process writing out their answers in detail.  Then I have them list all the benefits of reaching their goals.  Think carrot.  This includes the people and circumstances that will be impacted for the positive.

Then I have them list out all the negatives that will come if they fail to reach their goals.  Think stick.  Again, including the people and circumstances that will be impacted.  The sum of this little exercise is to give much more considerable weight to every action taken throughout the day.  There’s no such thing as treading water or neutral.  Every step you take is either moving you towards your goals or pushing you away, and the more clearly you can hold this truth in your mind, the better off you will be.  Every action carries significance, and a failure to acknowledge this will only hold you back.

Closing thoughts for my readers:

In this day and age of rapidly advancing technology, a lack of information is not the problem.  You can access the world’s knowledge in seconds via your phone, tablet, or computer.  The challenge is applying that knowledge to your life long enough to see results.  For many, this can be a struggle.

The ability to delay gratification is one of the master skills for success.  Unfortunately, this can be a difficult skill to develop because of the nature of the reward system.  For example, if you’re over at a friend’s home for dinner, and they’re serving chocolate cake for dessert, you have a choice.  You can stay true to your current goal of eliminating sweets which supports your goal of dropping twenty pounds, or you can give in and enjoy a luscious piece of cake.

And here’s the hard part.  What do you get in return if you politely refuse the cake?  The answer is zip, nada, and nothing.  On the other hand, if you give in, you will be richly rewarded with a unique culinary experience of freshly baked chocolate cake.  For many, it’s not a fair fight, and the cake wins most of the time.

The reality of turning down the cake above is actually not a zero-sum game because you’ve ignited the magic power of the compound effect.  My mentor Darren Hardy’s, The Compound Effect is an excellent read and goes into great detail about the cumulative impact of small choices taken daily leading to massive and positive change in your life.  The problem is that there can be little to no evidence of any significant progress initially.

A great example I often share with my clients is the power of compounding pennies.  Pop Quiz?
Would you rather have $1,000,000 upfront or $.01 doubled daily for 31 days?  It’s not a trick question; most will opt for easy money.  And when you run the numbers for the first few days, the meager results suggest that the upfront $1,000,000 is the right choice.  However, after 30 days of compounding pennies, you will reach $5,368,709; on day 31, you will hit $10,737,418.  The pennies are the best option, with two critical points to remember.  The first is that the math never changes.  It’s simple duplication.  The key is daily consistency.  You won’t hit the numbers I shared if you miss any day.

This is where you have to be clear on your goals and the significance of your actions.  Remember, there’s no treading water, and everything counts.  Further, a good coach or accountability partner can go a long way toward helping you stay the course in the beginning before you’re experiencing any perceived success.

People are driven by the signs of progress, and I will make you a promise.  If you hold on in the early days until you start to see the fruits of your efforts, I guarantee your willpower and resolve will increase.  A train traveling 55 mph on a railroad track can crash through a 5-foot thick steel-reinforced concrete wall without stopping. Starting from a stationary position, that same train won’t be able to go through an inch-thick block in front of the driving wheel.


The trick is to hang in there long enough to get momentum working for you so that you become, like the train above, unstoppable.

Best of luck in your journey.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: