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What’s The Difference Between Motivated And Driven?

Jean Chatzky  |  September 8, 2020

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This Week In Your Wallet: Motivation, Drive And Pandemic Self-Care

What’s the difference between motivated and driven?

I didn’t come up with that question, but I’ve been thinking about it since Peloton instructor Matt Wilpers asked it in a running class I took a few weeks ago.  It’s an important question for right now.  Traditionally, Labor Day itself provides a nudge that says get back on it – get back to work, go back to school, it’s a new year.  Usually, it’s exciting. This year, it’s meh. Parents who have sent their children off to college are counting the days until campuses close down. K-12 school is starting and in many places, plans for how learning will be accomplished are still unset. Returning to many offices isn’t likely for months.  

And yet, there are things we have to get done. Different things for all of us, but things nonetheless. So, how do we get ourselves to stay on it? First, let me answer the question posed above. Research explains people are motivated by rewards and driven by fears. Motivation is the carrot. Drive is the stick. Both are effective, but since the pandemic itself is such a frightful situation, I think trying to seek out motivation that will keep you engaged and moving in a forward direction is likely to be the best solution.

It’s also likely to be more effective, because although we don’t know how long this in-flux situation is going to last, a short-term fix seems unlikelier every day. Kirk Faulkner, writing on Quora, put it this way: “In long term situations it will be better to focus on the positive things you hope to achieve, but in short term situations when you find yourself up against procrastination and the difficulty of a task at hand, negative motivation can be more effective in helping you get your butt in gear and move on.” 

So, today as you embark on whatever your plans are for the rest of the year, take a moment to think about what will help you engage in them more fully, embrace them more wholeheartedly, and actually keep moving ahead. In this piece in the Wall Street Journal, one woman is counting on a new office set up for her motivation, another is looking forward to weekends at the Chicago Botanical Gardens as nature breaks for her family. 

As for me? I’ve been thinking I’m going to set a running goal. My hips tell me that my marathoning days are gone, but a half may be possible. I’m going to find a virtual race and get on it. Join me?

Deep Freeze

While we celebrate moving forward, the latest issue of Bon Appetit focuses on lessons learned in quarantine. My favorite is #22, is a study in how to get the most value from your food dollars. It’s all about how to make the best use of your freezer so that you, basically, never throw anything away again. Among the tips I’m putting to use: Slicing then freezing whatever bread you won’t eat on the day you buy (or bake) it so that it won’t dry out. Just pop a slice in the toaster whenever you want one. Organizing your freezer so that leftovers don’t get lost. And keeping inventory. In our freezer we label leftover meals with dates that we then loosely try to apply FIFO (first in, first out) rules to. Or, as Bon App suggests: “Stick a list on the freezer door that says WHAT’S IN HERE? Cross out as you go.”

Taking Care Of Yourself As The Pandemic Drags 

As we’re now in our seventh month of lockdown / quarantine / social distancing / unprecedented times — seven months during which we probably haven’t had a vacation, we’ve been working harder than ever, and caring for everyone else but ourselves — it’s time to take a long hard look at what we’re doing to restore our own souls. Truly, what have you done for yourself lately? One of my favorite quotes about self care comes from mental health advocate Katie Reed: “Self care is giving the world the best of you, not what’s left of you.” And these days it’s so easy to be on autopilot, giving yourself only the crumbs at the bottom of the bag at the end of a very long day or week. 

Parents of younger children are in a very tenuous position. According to a new survey from COUNTRY Financial, to accommodate the changes in the 2020 school season, 21% of parents have had to cut back their workload, and 7% have even had to quit their jobs altogether. Of course this has the exact impact that you’d expect — with less money coming into the household coffers, 70% of these parents say they’ve had to delay payment on at least one of their monthly bills

And what’s the end result of all this, for all of us? Stress, stress, and more stress. During times of worry and difficulty, I turn to one of my favorite endorphin-boosting activities — working out. Of course these days that’s easier said than done, given that many gyms are closed, or if they’re open, we might not be comfortable heading back in, or we know our bodies won’t like sweating into a mask, unable to get a deep breath of fresh air. Enter the home gym. In this week’s Wall Street Journal, Anne Marie Chaker writes that setting up a home weightlifting routine doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. “Truth is, you don’t need much,” she writes. “Dumbbells, a barbell and a bench are enough to start.” (Along with just a 30-minute daily commitment.) Sounds doable, and possibly even enjoyable. 

And if you’re looking for a mental pick-me-up rather than a physical one, one of our most popular podcast episodes this year was our sit-down with Comedy Central executive Tara Schuster, author of the book “Buy Yourself The F*cking Lilies.” She walked us through some of her favorite (and easy-to-implement) daily rituals for self-care and healing, which I loved. Give it a listen, and let me know what you think.


My calls to Amazon seem to have gone unheeded. For those of you following the unordered merchandise scam that I seem to have fallen prey to, it continues to arrive. This week a box showed up with a light therapy mirror, a Bluetooth earphone headband for running (or listening to books or music as you fall asleep), and a replacement watch band. Approximate value: $80 in all. I will reach out to Amazon again to try to get it to stop. Meanwhile, if any of you have any suggestions (should I try to return the whole box? There’s no receipt.) Please let me know.

Have a great week,


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