T Nation

The Stick and The Carrot

The Stick and the Carrot.

I am sure many of you are familiar with the term the stick and the carrot. The parable about a mule pulling a cart, where the farmer uses a stick to poke the mule, and a carrot to entice the mule, to get him to pull the cart. If the mule does what the farmer wants, he gets a reward, but if not, he gets a little punishment.

This may seem like a simple subject, and something very minor that can be easily dismissed, but it is surprising how important this is.

Pain and Pleasure.

Want to know the secret of how people think, why they do what they do? It all comes down to pain and pleasure. It is actually the driving force of humans. The only reason anyone does anything is to either gain pleasure, or avoid pain. This does not need to be physical in nature, and in fact mental pain and pleasure are all the more powerful.

Many people do not like to exercise, yet they put themselves through the pain of it day after day. Why? Because the pain of being fat, and the pleasure of being lean outweigh the pain of exercise, and the pleasure of sitting on the couch watching Oprah. (Granted, watching Oprah can be painful enough.)

For others it is not enough to get them off the couch, and keep them from eating that donut. They know the benefits, but they are far away in the future. That donut, couch, and television is here and now. These people have not learned delayed gratification.

Research has been done on children to find those who could delay gratification, and those that could were found to be more successful later in life when compared to those who could not. These people learned at a young age that that the pleasure they gained by waiting outweighed the pain of waiting.

This actually is the basis of what is called EQ, or the Emotional IQ, and teaching people to have a higher EQ can benefit them more then having a high IQ can.

Donkey Q

Back to our parable, some well meaning people become worried about the mule, and want to set some guidelines as to how the mule should be treated. They might rightly justified in their worries, that farmer should be treating the mule properly.

But as what often happens, many people overreact. They do not see the farmer motivating the mule to move, they see him poking and teasing the animal. So they make a law against the stick so the farmer can no longer poke the animal, and they make a law that he cannot make the animal work until the mule has had a full meal.

But this has the unfortunate effect of taking away the farmers ability to motivate the beast. The mule no longer has any reason to move. The mule no longer wants the carrot, and is not worried about the stick, so he just sits there.

And the farmer ends up with what a lot of unmotivated people end up with:

A FAT ASS.

Proper Ways to Motivate

A big mistake many people make in attempting to motivate anyone is to not take pain and pleasure into account. If a picture of a real fat person is put next to the donut, that person may feel more pain in eating that donut, and may give it up, at least that time. Or putting a picture of the hot woman he could get if he wasn’t such a fat ass. The idea of a hottie being more powerful then the donut.

If a person wants to motivate himself, he could simply learn to imagine himself blowing up whenever he picks up the donut, and imagine himself with a six pack when putting that donut down. Psychological reward and punishment.

This is more powerful then psyching yourself up, positive thinking, or any of the popular ideas people have come up with. Simply add pain to the things you do not want, and add pleasure to the things you do. Sometimes it takes a little thinking, but once you find your triggers, it will become natural, and you will just move in the right direction, not because you are forcing yourself, but because you will be drawn in the right direction.

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

People always have to be careful that in their efforts to make things better, they are not removing the influences of pain and pleasure in life. When children find that if they whine, or throw a tantrum, they get their way, this behavior is rewarded, and they get pleasure. Parents too often do not know they are training their children to throw tantrums and whine.

It is hard to find people who carry their own stick and carrot, but they do exist. The big mistake is in making rules that have a negative effect on the carrot and stick motivation. Anytime you weaken the effects, you remove motivation, and even possibly reverse that motivation. By inadvertently rewarding people for bad behavior, or punishing them for good, you end up with people being trained to behave badly.

There are a large group of people who want to help others, but make the mistake of rewarding the bad behavior, leading instead of helping people out of their situation, instead creating a codependent situation.

Have you ever seen a 600 pound person? They can’t walk, go shopping, and often cannot even make their own food. Somebody is doing this for them. Mistakenly thinking they are helping, but instead letting those people slowly kill themselves.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for a person is poke them with a stick.

Isn’t the problem with this, which the poor mule would be happy to tell you, is that you don’t even get the goddamn carrot?

The damn thing is dangled in front of you all the time, but no matter how hard you work or how fast you go, it’s always just out of reach?

Is that what motivation is, always striving for the next thing which is just out of reach?

[quote]vroom wrote:
Isn’t the problem with this, which the poor mule would be happy to tell you, is that you don’t even get the goddamn carrot?

The damn thing is dangled in front of you all the time, but no matter how hard you work or how fast you go, it’s always just out of reach?

Is that what motivation is, always striving for the next thing which is just out of reach?[/quote]

Ah yeah, hanging a carrot from a stick in front of the mule. Never once mentioned above.

What you are referring to are from cartoons and comic strips, and goes completely off subject. The mule does get the carrot, that is his reward.

Great piece, I had to learn to delay gratification the hard way and with a lot of self induced pain. But what a valuable lesson once learned! Anything worth it is worth the hard work and time to get it!

People that are easily given things like the children in the study don’t value what they have. You see this in their silly and frivolous behavior and some hardship in life usually comes along to give em some education.

Actually, the farmer’s choice of nutrition blows. Maybe if he were to dangle a delicious, red apple in front of the donkey he would get a more, motivated response.

Than after the donkey eats the apple he could stroke his donkey and tell him what a good boy he’s been. And if the donkey is being pissy, (not drunk miniross), you could punch him about the head and tell him how naughty he’s been. -insert donkey punch here-

I hate carrots…

I have a cousin that breaks colts for a iving. He doesn’t call it breaking colts. He ‘trains’ them.

Anyhow - he has this saying wrt the colts: “Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard, and the piss heads will pick the right way everytime.”

Lots of carrots, and never a stick. Only a hell of a time getting to the carrot if the colt makes the wrong choice.

Don’t know if this really applies, but it’s late, I saw the word ‘donkey’, and immediately thought of my cousin.

"Have you ever seen a 600 pound person? They can’t walk, go shopping, and often cannot even make their own food. Somebody is doing this for them. Mistakenly thinking they are helping, but instead letting those people slowly kill themselves.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for a person is poke them with a stick."

I like poking fat people with sticks - it’s an awesome game.

Seriously though, for these uber-fatties that can’t move, their “carers” are bigger sacks of shit than they are. Its like being a fatty’s gimp, doing everything they say, buying what they want, “caring for them”. It’s even worse that some of these sick bastards enjoy the fact that the fatty is completely dependant on them. They get off on it. Fuckers need help.

I wash myself with a rag on a stick.

When I poke my girlfriend, she kinda likes it…

[quote]vroom wrote:
When I poke my girlfriend, she kinda likes it… [/quote]

Yeah vroom, but then you have to get the air pump out to re-inflate her, dontcha? :slight_smile: