Ep.38 - Adulting101 - The Power of Paradoxical Motives (3 Minute Read)

Read Time: 3 Minutes

In order for us humans to get up to do things, especially tedious and difficult tasks, we need a reason. I am going to call it a motive in this post. No one just wakes up, and says "I want to clean the bathroom today!" In fact, most of the things we do are straightforward. For example, we grocery shop and cook, because we want to eat. We keep our credit score high, because we need it to buy a car or a house. Recently, I started to realize some powerful paradoxical motives in my life, and they are great at helping me get my life and finances in order. 



Paradoxical motives are motives that seemingly encourage you to do the exact thing you try to avoid. I know it sounds confusing. Let me give you a couple of examples. 

The first paradoxical motive impacts my behavior in doing chores. For example, I hate cleaning, as I think it's a less productive way of using my time. I especially hate cleaning a big mess because I find it overwhelming. As a result, I always tidy up the house before going to bed every night, because I don't ever want to get into too bad a situation that overwhelms me. Simply put, in order to avoid cleaning a big mess, I am motivated to clean a bit every day.

This one motivates me to work hard to reach financial freedom. When it comes to work, I don't particularly enjoy being chained to an office 8 hours a day for the rest of my life. Simply put, I don't want to work in an office all my life as I will always have a boss. In order to not have to work for the rest of my life, I have worked hard in finding ways to hustle so I can retire early. I am setting a goal of 50 years old.



According to the Telegraph, Bill Gates from Microsoft once said he would always hire a lazy person to do a difficult job, because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it. It works the same way as to why I am working hard now to avoid having to work in the future.  If you hire a lazy person, he/she has the motive to make it simple.

source; thequotes.in

source; thequotes.in



Paradoxical motives are great because they give us a reason to do the tedious and difficult tasks that we often just avoid. Here are some common scenarios in practice. 

Scenario 1: You Avoid Paying Student Debt Because You Think "Out of SIGHT, Out Of MIND"   

  • Scenario: If you have a lot of student debt and too little income, your first instinct is probably to ignore paying student debt, as you may think "out of sight, out of mind" could work. It makes sense to a certain extent, as the consequences is delayed for a year (270 days to be exact). Why? If you don't pay for your student debt for 270 days, you will be in default, which will impact your credit score for the next 7 years and your wages will be garnished against your will until the debt is settled. Yes, 7 years! 


  • How Paradoxical Motives Help: If you care about your own future,  do not want to have a bad credit for the next 7 years, or having money taken out of every paycheck by the government, you have all the reasons to get out of hiding, and do whatever is necessary to stay out of default.


Scenario 2: Student Debt In Default, You Avoid Facing Up to It Because of Fear and Stress

  • Scenario: If you have student debt already in default (meaning sent to the collection agency), you are probably extremely discouraged, and even less motivated to deal with it at this point. It makes sense. Why would you? You are already in the bad scenario, and it causes you a headache to even think about it. But you need to take action, and paradoxical motives can help.


  • How Paradoxical Motives Help: If you don't want the bank to take your hard-earned money, or if you ever want to buy a car, you will need to fix this problem. Think about your future in the next 5 years: do you want a life with debt collectors calling you all the time? Do you want a life where you get rejected at a car dealership because of your bad credit? If no is your answer, then you would need to thicken your skin and start googling for solutions. Yes, solutions are out there!  


Scenario 3: Not Happy with Current Job, But You Are Not Looking Elsewhere For Fear of Rejection And Extra Work

  • Scenario: If you are unhappy working at a part-time job or a low-paying full-time job, you are probably thinking about looking for other opportunities. But you are not doing anything about it, or not doing it wholeheartedly. It completely makes sense. Why would you? You are already comfortable at your current job. To make it worse, you are probably less motivated to apply elsewhere, if you are self-sufficient with the money from your current job. It's human nature. But you should look for something else if you are unhappy! It shows ambition and drive. 


  • How Paradoxical Motives Help: Set a goal for yourself for the next 5 years and mentally picture it. Now, will your current path get you there? It's your own future on the line, if you aren't happy with it now, and you don't think you will be happy in 5 years, then you have no reason to be there anymore. Your work quality will eventually reflect your unhappiness, and your career will suffer because of your work quality. Do it before all that starts to surface. There is an ancient Chinese saying from 1004: "Ride Donkey Find Horse."  It is simply saying the best time to look is while you have a job. 


Beside the Adulting101 series, you may also like the SOML series, based on my own life lessons. Oh ! Don't forget to follow me on Instagram: dollars_and_sense_la.