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:
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.
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.
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.
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How to Stay Motivated to Achieve Your Goals
Time is the raw material of our lives. How we choose to spend it, shapes our life accordingly. So having the motivation to spend it on achieving goals is crucial to creating a life we want.
What is Motivation?
The Oxford dictionary defines motivation as the desire or willingness to do something – our drive to take action.
Scientifically, motivation has its roots in the dopamine pathways of our brains. When we do something that feels good, that’s dopamine kicking in. Our actions are driven by the desire for that reward (the good feeling).
Author Steven Pressfield describes motivation more practically. He says we hit a point where the pain of not doing something becomes greater than the pain of doing it. He sees motivation as crossing the threshold where it’s easier to take action than it is to be idle. Like choosing to feel awkward while making sales calls over feeling disappointed about a diminishing bank account.
However you choose to think about it, we all want to harness motivation to achieve our goals.
How to Get Motivated
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that most people misunderstand motivation. They think that motivation is what gets us to take action. In reality, motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it. Once we start a task, it’s easier to continue making progress. Like Isaac Newton’s first law: objects in motion stay in motion.
This means most of the resistance when working on your goals comes right before we start. Since motivation naturally occurs after we start, we need to focus on making starting easier.
4 Ways to Make Starting Easier
1. Schedule it
One reason people can’t get started on things is that they haven’t planned when to do it.
When things aren’t scheduled it’s easier for them to fall by the wayside. You’ll end up hoping motivation falls in your lap or hoping that you’ll muster enough willpower to get it done.
An article in the Guardian said, “If you waste resources trying to decide when or where to work, you’ll impede your capacity to do the work.”
2. Measure something
It’s easy to feel uninspired when you don’t know if you’re making progress or what you’re even working towards. That’s why you need to make your success measurable in some way. Starting is easy when you know exactly how much closer your current actions will bring you to achieving your goal.
3. Extrinsic motivation
This type of motivation is from external factors. It can be either positive or negative. Positive motivation consists of incentives like money, prizes, and grades. Negative motivation consists of deterrents like being fired, having a fight, or being fined. Extrinsic motivation doesn’t work effectively long-term, but it can work well in the short term to get you started on something.
4. Make it public
Keep yourself accountable by telling friends and family your goals, or even sharing them on social media. This makes it easier to start something because you’re pressured to not let others down.
How to Stay Motivated Long Term
When we say we want to feel motivated to do something, we don’t want to be pushed or guilted into doing a task. We want to be so attracted and drawn to the idea that we can’t resist not taking action. That’s why it’s important to build a foundation that will set you up for consistency.
These are 5 techniques that will help you do just that:
1. Stay in your goldilocks zone
The goldilocks zone is when a task is the perfect level of difficulty—not too hard and not too easy. In this zone, we reach peak motivation and focus.
For example, let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against a 4-year-old. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become bored and not want to play. Now let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against Serena Williams. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become demotivated because the match is too challenging.
The Goldilocks zone is in the middle of that spectrum. You want to face someone with equal skill as you. That way you have a chance to win, but you have to focus and try for it. Adjusting your workload and goals over time to stay within your Goldilocks zone keeps you engaged and motivated long-term.
2. Pursue intrinsically motivated goals
Being intrinsically motivated to achieve a goal is when you want to achieve it for what it is. There are no external factors like a reward or the risk of being fired. The drive behind your actions is coming from within.
For most intrinsic goals we pursue them because they will enrich our lives or bring us closer to fulfillment. That makes these goals extremely sustainable long-term because they directly affect our quality of life and the things we care about.
3. Use “chunking”
Chunking is the technique of breaking down a goal into smaller short-term targets. By doing this you achieve multiple successes in your pursuit of the main goal. This triggers the brain’s reward system and drives you to keep going.
Traditionally, you may set a goal that you expect to achieve in one year. That’s a long time to commit without seeing any results along the way. By chunking your goals into monthly or quarterly targets, you get the consistent positive reinforcement you need to stay motivated long-term.
For example, instead of trying to lose 50 pounds in one year, try to lose 4 pounds every month for 12 months.
4. Be flexible
We’re all victims of circumstance. Things happen along our journey that we can either adjust to or quit because of. That’s why it’s important to have leeway and flexibility when you’re pursuing a goal. If you expect everything to go perfectly, the inevitable failure can make you disengaged and desireless. When you plan for things to go wrong, you make sure you can keep up for the long haul.
5. Pursue your goals in a sustainable fashion
Don’t lose hope when you’re not an overnight success. Overnight successes are the 1%—for the most part, they don’t exist. What we see as an “overnight success” is actually countless hours of work behind the scenes finally hitting a tipping point. Pursuing goals is a story of patience, persistence, and unseen effort.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is a recipe for a drop in self-confidence and satisfaction. It also cultivates a mindset where you think you haven’t done enough. As a result, you may raise your expectations and put more pressure on yourself.
This is pointless because things worth achieving take time. So we obviously won’t compare to the things around us when starting.
Mastering motivation is a superpower. With that ability at your fingertips, you can accomplish your goals and shape a life you want to live in.
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