by Steve Prager on January 11, 2011


New goals require new habits and sometimes our new goals mean we have to give up stuff we like. You know,…the bad stuff. At times like that, I look for a mixed motive. I’ve found they work best.

Mixed motives get short shrift in the motivational world, or at least in my conscience.

For example, I should want to lose weight so I’ll live long enough to see my grandchild get married. Doesn’t work for me. My grandchild is plenty smart,..maybe she’ll never get married and I’ll have said NO to all that junk food for nothing.

Here’s another one – I should want to quit drinking for my health or to please my wife.

(FULL DISCLOSURE- I do occasionally do things to please my wife- for example, I took out the trash last month without being asked. My wife is an angel and deserves that level of star treatment whenever I can remember to provide it!)

My health will come up in a minute – But right off, I hate it when I’m told to do things and that ‘thing’ begins with a ‘should’ in front of it.

I should floss my teeth; I should give more to the church; I should exercise; I should meditate; I should lose weight; I should quaff two glasses of water a day; I should quit drinking….

All SHOULDS should be banned; they’re a  BIG motivational turn off.


  • The change is part of fulfilling a goal, dream or project.
  •  My wife says to.
  •  I get scared out of my wits.

Enter Stage Left: How I gave up Demon Rum.

I wasn’t a really serious drinker, but I was getting better each year. It’s important to be good at something.

I never drank at work. Didn’t start fights when I was drunk – if anything, the opposite was true. I wanted to love and nurture the world. Slather it with oodles of great advice from moi. In short, I liked Rum and it liked me. We had a thing going on.

That was, until Mr. Fear came along. Fear- the king of motivators. (Cue scary music).

Copywriters (people who get paid an insane amount of money to write ads to entice you to buy stuff) say there are 7 main Copy Drivers, or devices used to persuade people to take a desired action:








All of the above are great, but when you need a real motivator, lead with FEAR.

Case in point.  Like I mentioned earlier, me and Demon Rum were getting along famously. Sure, the doctor said that with beginning diabetes I should ‘cut back’. My angel wife wasn’t that pleased, but she was still focused on training me to pick up after myself, SO, I got to slide by on the juice issue. Everything was just swell until one day… I noticed something funny after the second drink.

My feet were tingling.

Now I’m no rocket surgeon, but I‘ve heard of diabetic neuropathy. I did some research online, even asked my doctor. Shouldn’t be a problem he said- my sugar levels were good. So I kept swigging.

Next, my hands started tingling. I couldn’t feel the strings on my guitar so good.

A good scare is worth more to a man than good advice -Edgar Watson Howe  Country Town Sayings (1911)

You get the idea. I got scared. Fear slapped me upside the head like a wet mackerel and I got shook.

I dithered around a bit-tried some deal making with God that failed miserably. And then, I quit. No more ‘Rum and Diet please’. Fear made me do it. I’ve had a couple of little slips, but it’s been over 5 weeks now. No more moose juice.

Fear, as we all know, is a ‘bad’ motive for doing anything. I ‘should’ have quit for a thousand good motives,..but Fear worked. It worked great. That’s the way mixed motives are.

So, if your New Year’s resolutions are looking about as solid as the economy of Greece, don’t despair. Try a good ole mixed motive. Fear,…with maybe a dash of Guilt on the side.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin January 11, 2011 at 7:25 am

On to the tomatoes


Steve Prager January 11, 2011 at 8:25 pm

I wish…had to give that up to!!


Rachel January 11, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I quit smoking because it causes wrinkles! I wish I could say my health or to save money, blah blah, plus the guilt from the kids but my main motivator was my looks… sheesh! I don’t want to dwell on what that says about me. La la la la… I’m not listening!


Steve Prager January 11, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Rachel,..it says that you quit. That’s whats important! Good for you.
We all know how much you love those kids :)


Mark Powers January 12, 2011 at 6:26 am

Wow- great post, Steve! You are so right that the ‘good’ motives are really NOT enough to make us make serious changes in our lives. Here’s to banning all “should”s . . .
Mark Powers recently posted..A Year In The Life 2010 Review


Steve Prager January 12, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Mark- Thank you! That means a lot coming from you. Should’s suck, don’t they? Makes me want to do the opposite :)


Roch June 10, 2011 at 10:44 am

Hi Steve,

I liked your article, particularly how motivation plays a key role in any type change. Thanks for inviting me also to contribute some ideas to your forum!

Given the topic it seems appropriate to mention that, motivation notwithstanding, how we perceive things and think about them plays a tremendous role in how we ultimately act out the different areas of our lives.
In terms of health habits generally and and our feelings about diet, and our weight particularly, very little could be more brutally truthful.
I’ll be completing an article on our relationship with food and eating soon on my blog. I’d be pleased to offer the link up in a subsequent post if you’re amenable.

Have a Great Day Steve!



Steve Prager June 10, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Roch,…great! email it to me @ ssprager@comcast.net

Appreciate it!


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