2 Motivation Theories To Smoothen the Bumpy Roads

Rough Road AheadLearning to trade or, more specifically, the journey you en route to becoming a professional trader can be a bumpy one. This is similar to many things in life but if you are committed to make trading work for you, then you need to realise that these bumps will keep coming.

Above and beyond that, what you really need to learn is to make those bumps (problems) really small. In other words, you want to become bigger than the problem so that the problem isn’t really a problem any more.

With that, let me introduce you to two great motivation theories – they are called Away From (AF) motivation and Towards (T) motivation.

As simple as it may sound, many people tend to get them mixed up. They fail to understand the differences between the both and they often think they are using towards motivation when they are actually using away motivations and vice verse.

With that, I shall explain the difference between the both and hope to influence you in using them effectively.

Away From (AF) Motivation

The first type of motivation is call Away From (AF) motivation and the source of energy and drive is derived by the fact that you want to be away from something.

fireFor example, when you see an open fire, you want to stay away from it so that you don’t burn yourself. If you’re in the open, you’ll stand further away from the fire. If you’re in a closed area, you might use a cover or a shield to avoid potentially getting hurt from the fire. Sometimes, you’ll do both. In essence, you want to protect yourself from the fire. In the process of standing further away, using a shield or any protection mechanisms that you’ve used is pretty much driven by your AF motivation.

As you can see, AF motivation is a great self defense mechanism and people usually do it consciously or unconsciously (as the unconscious mind tries to protect you from harm). However, the biggest problem of AF motivations is that it doesn’t lead you any where but a way from the problem. Using the example of the open fire again, the AF motivation was really just to stay away from the fire. Once you’re safe from the fire, there is no more motivation to do anything else.

This can sometimes become a problem for traders. For example, some traders have the fear of losing money. So, they have built really strong protection mechanisms in their trading plan to safeguard themselves from losing money. Fantastic!! The only problem is that they aren’t really motivated to make money.

Towards (T) Motivation

The second type of motivation is call Towards (T) motivation. The energy and drive is usually gained because you are drawn towards a certain something – typically towards your goals.

For example, when you see a video clip of a destination holiday on the television, you are drawn and motivated to get to that specific destination. This is usually what marketers or advertisers try to do when they lure to you to buy their products. When you make an effort to find the resources to get you to the holiday destination, you are driven by a T motivation.

T motivation is a great driver for achieving specific goals because it is geared towards the end result. Unlike the AF motivation, you have a direction and that’s irrelevant of where you are starting your journey.

The problem with T motivation is that the motivator needs to be crystal clear. It is easy when you have a specific destination that you want to go (for holiday) and that makes it more achievable (assuming you have the right resources). However the problem starts when you just want to go on a holiday and it doesn’t matter where you go. Now, this can easily become an AF motivation because all you really want to achieve is to go away from your current location and be somewhere else instead.

The Real Problem

You see, many private traders start off with T motivation as they want to achieve wealth. Because “wealth” is such a vague term i.e. not crystal clear, their T motivation starts to weaken. Worse still, one day they’ve got hit by a few losing trades and they start thinking of ways to protect their capital. In the process, T motivation switches to become AF motivation. Since then, these traders are so driven by the AF motivation that they did a really good job protecting their money.

Here’s the interesting bit.

For some traders, the AF motivation is so strong that they feel that not losing money is more important than wealth. Hence, they decide to pack up and stop trading all together. For others, they are constantly flipping between these two types of motivations. Some days, they feel energised and want to achieve their goals (T Motivation), so they face the market and work hard to find more trade (set ups). On other days, they struggle to pull the trigger (AF Motivation).

How to Make the Problems Small?

When you have the right combination of the two motivations, you will be able to make your problems very small. In other words, you become bigger than the problem.

In order to become bigger than your problem, here’s a simple step-by-step guide for you to think about.

  1. If you’ve just started trading, it is crucial that you build a solid risk management using AF motivation as your driver. You want to protect yourself from losing money from low probability trades.
  2. Once that’s done, make sure to clearly identify your trading goals and make sure they are crystal clear and specific. When they are very clear/specific, you are more driven to take action – T motivation.
  3. Break those goals down (if you need to) because having them in smaller chunks keeps you motivated constantly in by T motivation. The last thing you need is to be flipping between AF and T motivators all the time.


In trading, as well as in our ordinary lives, what we really want is to be moving towards our goals and we want to be moving constantly. When we achieve our existing goals, new ones will be created.

However, don’t let your problems stop or hold you back. At the same time, don’t sweep your problems under the carpet. The key is to solve them without losing sight of your goals. Hence, the tools today will be great to help you smoothen the journey.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the article.



  • Kristin Flaen

    August 9, 2013

    Thank you Alwin! Your comment on 9th August is a great reminder! It is easy to get trapped in “wrong thinking” along the way.

    • Alwin Ng

      August 9, 2013

      Thanks Kristin. Glad it was useful 🙂

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