Negative Motivation Doesn’t Work (How To Break The Yoyo Cycle)

A young man walked down the street and saw an old man sitting on his porch.

Next to the old man was his dog, whining and whimpering.

The young man asked the old man:

“What’s wrong with your dog?”

The old man said, “He’s laying on a nail”.

The young man asked “Laying on a nail? Why doesn’t he get up?”

The old man then replied, “It’s not hurting bad enough.”

You can't win playing not to lose

During initial calls, I ask people about their goals and why they want it-

Here are some common motivations:

  • "My belly sticks out, I want to ditch it"

  • “I’m too exhausted to be there for my kids after work”

  • “My shoulders are tight and I want to get rid of those neck tensions”

When you take a closer look, you'll see they're all negatively formulated:

Wanting to get rid of some painful state.

The approach is reactive, and a key, but often missed, reason for the yo-yo effect.

Here’s how it happens:

  • You look in the mirror, see your belly hanging over your pants, and don’t like it

  • You want to get rid of it, so you start exercising (which is uncomfortable)

  • A few weeks later, you see that your belly shrunk and you’re happy

  • You feel better, which decreases your motivation

  • Going to the gym is still work (that you’re no longer motivated to do)

  • You get complacent and might think, "I don't look too bad, I can skip a few days”

  • As a result, you regain some pounds (making you unhappy and uncomfortable)

  • The pain drives you to work harder again - so you start looking better

  • Once you do so, your motivation decreases again, and the cycle continues

It's like the story with the dog:

You only get up once the nail gets unbearable.

But since your motivation is tied to your level of pain, it fades as soon as you get rid of pain - and so do your results.

To win the game, you have to tap into the second motivator.

Be vision-driven

Think about great entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs:

Did he build Apple trying to avoid poverty?

No - he had a vision of a computer being in every household, decades before it became the norm.

Your fitness needs the same proactive mindset:

It’s about being a creator - someone who’s not only driven by pain but inspiration.

Instead of aiming to be “not sick” or “not fat”, aim to be healthy, energetic, and strong to crush your ambitions.

That’s how you get rid of the negative-motivation-yoyo-cycle:

Reaching your goals won’t lead to complacency anymore but to momentum.

Let’s get practical about how to do it:

1) Initial momentum

Let’s be real:

Your first urge to work on your body will come through negative motivation.

I started going to the gym because I was shy, had zero confidence, and wanted six-pack abs to impress girls.

Evolution wired our brains to avoid pain, making negative motivation stronger at first.

And that’s okay:

Use it to get started and build momentum, but avoid the mistake most people make:

Staying fixated on the pain, or you'll never get rid of it.

Be aware of the danger of the negative motivation cycle and move on to step #2:

2) Value-driven motivation

Most people think that motivation is a feeling - that’s wrong.

True, intrinsic motivation comes down to answering one vital question:

Why is this important to you?

Think about your work:

Do you always “feel motivated” to get out of bed in the morning and be productive?


Not even the most successful people, like Steve Jobs, feel that way.

But you do the work regardless because it’s important to you.

Take Kathrin as an example:

She wanted her daughter to be active - a huge motivator - so they went to self-defense classes together.

Later, she stumbled upon kettlebell workouts and saw her husband training with barbells.

She used to hate sports, but now she enjoys strength training. It allows her to shape her body and boosts her confidence.

Answer the importance-question authentically, and motivation stops being an issue.

3) Unbreakable standards

“You don’t rise to the levels of your goals; you fall to the level of your systems” – James Clear

This is a famous quote you've probably heard before and it's true:

Goals themselves aren't of much value unless you build the routines that allow you to reach them.

And we can even break this down further:

Your routines are a reflection of your standards - you fall to the standards you hold for yourself.

To move past pain-driven motivation, set higher standards for yourself.

Do this for:

  • How you want to feel

  • How you want to look

  • How you want to perform

And anything else that's important to you.

If you've done the previous steps, it'll solve the yoyo trap for good.

Read this article if you need inspiration.


Relying on negative motivation doesn’t work.

It might work at first, but you’ll kill your momentum after seeing initial results.

This pattern leads you into the yoyo trap.

To solve this problem, adopt the creator mindset:

Create a value-driven goal that gets you to do the work, even if you don’t feel like it.

Stop relying on the nail getting too painful.

Fitness isn’t a chore, it’s something to get excited about, with all the possibilities it creates for you.

At this point, you have a choice:

Wait until the pain gets even worse, or act now and get the body you’ve always wanted.

If that’s you, I can help you.

If you're a driven entrepreneur or creator and looking to:

  • Manage stress in an efficient manner for better health and productivity

  • Drop up to 20lbs in 90 days, without the diet-hamster wheel

  • Reach your dream physique in just 2 hours per week

Click HERE for a free 30-minute strategy call where I'll show you exactly how it works.