What Motivates You? Challenge vs Praise

Are you someone who is motivated more by being challenged or praised?

We all respond to both at different times but most of us will thrive on one more than the other. Identifying and understanding what drives you when it comes to achieving your goals is essential for your success.

Joel and Steph explain further…


Are you more like Steph? Do you feel more motivated when you hear that you are doing a good job? Does it help you stay on track to achieving your goals?

It's no secret that being praised often makes people feel good. Pride, pleasure and increased feelings of self-esteem are all common reactions to being paid a compliment or receiving positive feedback. This is because being praised triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the reward and pleasure centres of the brain. As well as making us feel good, dopamine can also contribute to innovative thinking and creative problem-solving.

Praise can be a powerful motivator - if it’s done in the right way. Being praised sincerely by others can give you positive feelings about what you are doing, motivating you to continue doing it. As Steph explained with her dogs versus dolphins analogy, praise as a reward acts as a form of conditioning. In conditioning, you get more of what you reward, so praising a person for things you want them to do is a way of getting them to behave in that particular way.

But just as it can be motivating, praise can also be demotivating. If you expect to be praised and you don’t receive that praise, then this can feel like punishment and decrease your motivation to continue your actions. If it’s given without feeling sincere or deserved, it can diminish the impact of the genuine praise that is offered at other times, also affecting your motivation. Being reliant on praise can also affect your self-esteem by constantly seeking reassurance that what you are doing is right.


Are you more like Joel instead? Does hearing things like “you can’t do it” or “you’re not good enough” from someone drive you to work harder and prove that person wrong?

Being challenged or criticised can actually be a strong motivator. It can encourage growth and progress. Joel gave a great example of this with his teachers at school telling him that he will never amount to anything. Instead of just accepting their opinion, he used it as fuel to prove them wrong and make something of himself.

For some, this negative motivation can be more powerful than encouragement. Sometimes that little push is needed to make you realise that you can work harder or do better, and double down and push forward towards your goal.

For others, being challenged or criticised can be a demotivator, particularly if it is destructive or targeted at you rather than what you have done. Even well-intentioned constructive criticism of your efforts can have the wrong effect if you’re not willing or able to accept the feedback.


Find out what motivates you and use it to your advantage to achieve your goals! It’s also very important that you are surrounding yourself with the right people who give you more of what you need!