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The 7 Driving Forces Behind Human Motivation

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Motivation is the ultimate force that causes you to take action. Not only does it initiate and drive goal-oriented behaviour, but it also sustains it. The actions can be as simple as eating healthy, or as complex as winning a Nobel Prize; every action has a certain motivation behind it. The driving forces behind human motivation can be biological, emotional, social, or personal in nature.

A lot of research has been carried out to explain motivation, and many researchers have come up with a number of theories to explain it. While every theory tries to explain the driving forces behind motivation within a limited scope, all of them have certain common elements.

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is perhaps the most famous theory which explains motivational needs at different levels. Other theories speculate that motivation is caused due to internal instincts, to quell internal tension, to satisfy biological urges, or to get incentivized.

Here are the 7 driving forces behind human motivation:

1Self-actualization

Everyone will try to accomplish what they can, as long as they feel that they have the capacity to do it. Some individuals may have the desire to be a wealthy businessman, while others may want be a successful musician or an athlete.

Self-actualizing needs are a great motivational tool for people to do what they desire.However, for you to realize your full potential, it helps to have mastered all the other needs detailed below.

2. Self-protection

Once the physiological needs have been met, an individual craves for safety and security; this is borne out of a desire for self-protection. While early humans had a completely different idea of staying protected; today, security needs can include safe neighbourhood, access to healthcare, steady employment, and protection from environmental forces. Fulfilling these needs can be a great motivation factor.

3. Love and Belonging

Once an individual has satisfied both their physical and self-protection needs, they crave for social needs; this can be love, affection, and belonging. Humans are social animals, and they are motivated to form meaningful relationships such as friendships, family relations, romantic attachments, and other interpersonal needs that give you a sense of belonging. This is one of the main reasons why humans form social communities, whether it is a family, a friend group, religion, or any other interest group. The need to be accepted and belong to a social group is a strong driving factor behind motivation.

4. Status/Esteem

Every human has a need to command respect and status in society; this also includes self-esteem. It is an important driving factor behind what people do, as they want to feel valued and respected by others. Social recognition, personal worth, and other accomplishments are some of the factors behind driving you to fulfil your self-esteem needs.

A low self-esteem or an inferiority complex can also drive one to stay away from the things they want to do; it is a form of negative motivation. However, just being accepted by others isn’t enough; one has to accept his or her worth internally to have a high self-esteem.

5. Mate Acquisition

One of the main driving factors behind human behaviour, or any other animal behaviour for that matter, is the need to satisfy one’s sexual urges. While sex can be classified under physiological needs, a mate is someone who you want to have an offspring with; one who will help you take your genes forward to the next generation.

A male will try everything in his power to attract a female, while a female would do the same to attract a suitable male. This is one of the main driving factors behind the cosmetics industry, driving the consumer’s motivation to purchase through the need of a higher status and self esteem.

6. Mate Retention

While it is very easy to attract a mate, it is very hard to retain him or her. We present ourselves as an ideal person for our partner to realize that they are worth staying with. In earlier times, a male was expected to provide for his family, while a female used to take care of the family at home. However, this doesn’t apply for all partners in this current age, nowadays you can even expect to see a role-reversal. Nevertheless, mate retention is still one of the driving factors behind human motivation.

7. Physiological Needs

Physiological needs are the most basic needs that are extremely vital for human survival. These include food, water, air, shelter and sleep. As long as a human hasn’t satisfied their most needs, they won’t be motivated enough to seek the others. Hence, these basic needs are the most crucial driving forces behind human motivation.

Human motivation is a very complex thing, and the driving forces behind it can be quite hard to discern. However, if you learn about the link between the different needs and the urge to satisfy them, then you can understand the main driving factors behind human motivation.

Havard is a certified coach, teacher and speaker with the John Maxwell Team. He coaches company directors helping them maximize their strengths. He helps leaders discover how to reach new dimensions in their lives and brings enthusiasm and a renewed vision to every team he teaches.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Nicolas Buis

    Nov 21, 2016 at 6:49 am

    Slice it and dice it however you want, it all comes down to acceptance of our core being and that is why love conquers all. Love is acceptance with appreciation and then some.

  2. ken

    Dec 13, 2013 at 4:43 am

    Great just would’ve wrote the list from 7-1 since psychological is the most basic and bottom of Maslows pyramid

  3. isaac

    Dec 2, 2013 at 6:20 am

    interesting points i love to read them over and over .

  4. Harry @ GoalsOnTrack

    Nov 7, 2013 at 5:06 am

    One of the best ways to motivate oneself is to go out and make some progress on your goals.

  5. Sebastian

    Oct 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Most of it boils down to attracting a mate. Do you know why men invented the wheel? Built the pyramid? Flew to the moon? They were trying to get laid. They were trying to be better in order to impress the ladies.

  6. Ragnar

    Oct 22, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Interesting points, and I definitely agree with putting self actualization first. But I would argue that status/esteem is part of seeking love/belonging/better “access” to and retention of mates.

    Hopefully empathy is something that can motivate some of us, although whether or not the motive behind good actions matters is another discussion.

    Peace!

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