Laughing Sal

Laughing Sal (Photo credit: Scott Beale)

I have a new baby at home and I’m barely getting sleep, let along getting time to work. I don’t think anyone would blame me if I used the few minutes of calm I get a day to just collapse and do something mindless like watch TV or play a video game. Emails could wait until tomorrow, packages go out a little later, right? And yet, instead, I’m using every spare second to work my ass off.


Well, there’s a bunch of reasons but I think shame is a huge motivator. If I don’t finish things I’ve publicly promised (such as the revised version of my eBooks, some of which were definitely supposed to be out by now) it won’t just make me look bad… it will be just plain embarrassing. If I abandon things I’ve set in motion or committed to doing in the past (like, say, if I were to stop posting here or flake out on my commitments to NaNoWriMo), I’ll suffer the shame of looking like a quitter. I’m worried about the damage I’ll do to my reputation online and off by showing myself as human.

It sounds petty, doesn’t it? Being embarrassed should have no place in the professional world of business and yet, deep down, you know you worry about what others think more than you’d care to admit. So many of us are ruled by the reactions we anticipate from an imaginary audience when, in reality, no one cares as much as we fear (if at all). In fact, most people are so wrapped up in their own stuff, they don’t really noticed things outside their own sphere which is good news for us since, chances are, no one noticed that screw-up we worried so much about.

But don’t squash that paranoia that they’re all going to laugh at you just yet. Because you can harness it to get some serious work done. Sometimes the fear of looking bad can be just the thing to make you work a little harder or push yourself to get something done when you don’t feel like it.

How many times have you cleaned the whole house because you didn’t want to look bad in front of that important guest… who ended up not stopping by anyway? But, hey, look! The house is all clean and you never would have done that otherwise.

I’ve actually given my NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy writing groups tips for this very thing. In this post, for instance, I recommend that they tell every single person they know that they are taking on the writing challenge because they’ll feel so embarrassed every time one of those people asks how that went after the fact that they’ll be extra motivated to finish.

You can adapt this philosophy to just about anything. Is there something you need to get done? Blog about it. Share your plans on Facebook. Tell your Mom. Post that goal in public somewhere and you’ll be amazed at the extra kick in the pants it gives you to get it done rather than look like a fool.

What other unlikely motivators do you use?