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How are we motivated?

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

What is Motivation

Motivation is our internal drive encouraging actions or feelings.

It activates our behaviour, the intensity of effort of an action and the persistence and direction that we put into an effort over time. It may be as simple as getting a glass of water when you are thirsty or training hard and working those long hours so you can become a world champion.

There are many theories of motivation and you will most likely recognise from the following how you do motivation or how you de-motivate yourself.

Historic Theories behind Motivation

Instinct Theory

People are motivated into certain behaviours because they are programmed to do so. Just like migratory birds or baby turtles hatched in the sand and head out to sea, it is an inborn pattern of behaviour.

Incentive theory

People are motivated to do certain things for rewards.

The greater the perceived reward the stronger the motivation.

In operant conditioning, behaviours are learnt by forming associations with outcomes.

Reinforcement of those outcomes strengthens the behaviour whilst lack of reinforcement discourages it.

Drive Theory

People are motivated to take certain actions in order to reduce the internal tension of unmet needs, for example, eating when you are hungry, however this behaviour is not always driven by psychological needs, people often eat when they are not hungry!

It is great to have your needs met some of the time but where would we seek excitement or mental challenges if our needs were met all of the time?

Arousal Theory

People take certain actions to increase or decrease their arousal level. The Yerkes-Dodson Law (1908) proposes that we each function to an optimum level of arousal, too much or too little can thwart our performance.

In this context arousal can be thought of as stress, which is felt as inner motivating tensions.

Humanistic Theory

Based on the premise that people have strong cognitive reasons to perform various actions. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is based on this theory; a person cannot move to self-actualisation or the desire to reach ones potential until the basic needs of survival have been satisfied.

Expectancy Theory

We formulate different expectations of what will occur in the future.

When this is a positive outcome we are more likely to be motivated to make the possibility a reality.

This is based on the value a person puts on the outcome, the higher the value the more the motivation. If they believe they are instrumental or have a role to play in the outcome, they are motivated.

The converse is true if no perceivable value is apparent or they are not involved in the process to get the expected outcome.

Think about change you've experienced in the workplace and how that affected yourself or others, now you may be able to recognise who was motivated or not and for what reasons. Were their motivation needs being met?

Think about how you are personally handling the global health crisis ( Covid-19 Coronavirus 2020)

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to learn, explore, actualise our potential.

There may be no tangible rewards, however the positive emotions we experience are rewards in themselves. The Feel Good Factor.

Extrinsic Theory

Extrinsic motivation occurs when we have a tendency to pursue activities that provide some reward either tangible or psychological.

A person may stick at a job that is not particularly enjoyable just to get their weekly pay or long-service leave in 3.5 years time (sound like you?).

We may do things to receive praise or public recognition or shop in a particular store to boost our frequent flyer points.

We are performing specific behaviours to receive an external reward.

What is your Why?

Do you continue to fill your day with a job, relationship or "stuff " that doesn't motivate you?

Do you make excuses to yourself that it doesn't matter, this is just the way it is for you?

Ask yourself WHY?

The importance of important

If something is important to you, you will find a way to achieve it.

If it is not you will find all manner of excuses to continue doing things that aren't important to you.

How enriched and motivated will you feel when you fill your day with high value important activities?

The Fastest way to demotivate yourself

  • Think of a task you need to get done

  • See yourself in the process of doing it

  • Say to yourself "I really should do that"

Instant self motivation

  • Now you have a better understanding of how you are motivated

  • Think of a task that you need to get done

  • Make sure you see the task actually completed and you in the picture

  • Say to yourself inside your mind

"It will feel great when I have done that"

Contact me, Diane Kirkham at for a free discovery chat. Online consultations are available.

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