None of us do much of anything without motivation of some sort. We may not always think about it, but even the most basic actions are driven by motivation.
There are many different types of motivation. They fall into two main categories: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. From here, they break down even further, and they provide the fuel for what drives us in life.
Why Are We Motivated?
Humans are motivated to do things so that we can accomplish tasks and goals. The things that determine what types of motivation we use to complete those tasks and goals depend on many different factors.
It isn’t uncommon to be asked in a job interview, a college interview, on a date, or by family: What is your main motivator in life?
When we know what gets a person up and moving and striving towards reaching their goals, we learn a lot about them. We can know them on a more personal and professional level.
When we know what motivates the people around us, we can grow more successful businesses, have more harmonic relationships, and accept the people into our lives whose motivations best align with ours.
Where we grew up, what our family placed value in, what our culture places value in, what our religion or faith teaches, what our friends believe. These are just some of the factors that determine the things that motivate us.
Motivation psychology is a field of study dedicated to understanding why groups of people and individuals are motivated in the ways that they are.
Over two dozen accepted theories in psychology explain why we are motivated, what motivates us, and how motivation plays a role in our lives. Research is done constantly to expand upon these theories, in an ever-growing quest to figure out just how human minds work.
This article will cover a few of the expert psychologists who have submitted theories on motivation and what those theories are.
The Two Main Types of Motivation
There are two major categories of motivation, and every other type of motivation falls somewhere under one of those two types. We will now discuss the two main types of motivation before diving into a more in-depth look at the more specific motivations within the two main types of motivation.
Intrinsic motivation is anything that motivates us to do something because of how it makes us feel internally. The internal rewards of the act or deed motivate us to perform the deed.
Internal motivation and what drives it are based mostly on a person’s values and how they see the world around them.
You may be motivated to donate food to a local food bank because the internal reward of helping someone feels good to you. Or you may be the type who is more selfishly motivated. You may talk over people and grab the spotlight because you are intrinsically motivated. You like how being the main speaker and having attention makes you feel.
Internal rewards aren’t things that we can see, and they’re hard to guess unless we know the person well. But we can often get to know ourselves well enough to determine which specific rewards get our motivation going.
When we are intrinsically motivated, we reap the benefits, although in doing something for our own benefit, we can benefit others as well.
Intrinsic motivation takes place when we study extra hard for a test because we feel proud of ourselves when we do well. Or when we stay after sports practice to continue training because improving our performance makes us feel good about ourselves, even if no one else knows that we’re putting in extra work.
It is also intrinsic when we volunteer our time for a cause that we are passionate about. We feel good about ourselves when we help others less fortunate than we are.
We donate time and money to those who have less. We foster and adopt animals. It makes us feel bad or sad that there are other people and animals who are suffering, and so when we do things to benefit them, we feel accomplished and good about ourselves because we feel as though we are making some sort of difference.
Extrinsic motivation is anything that produces external rewards. This can be in the form of actual rewards or in the avoidance of something bad happening. It is a physiological motivation.
There is an external reward or an external punishment involved when we are motivated extrinsically. Extrinsic motivation results in rewards which include things like pay raises, new material goods, and better material goods.
Examples of Extrinsic Motivation
There is a big sale coming up in a month at your favorite store. You want several items, but you don’t have the money to buy all of the things you want at your current rate of pay.
So you focus your motivation on obtaining the items that will be on sale, and you give yourself the task of working overtime for the next month so that you can save the money needed for the things you want to buy.
The accomplishment you are seeking is extra money in the form of overtime at your job, but it is not being done to make you feel better about yourself or to give you a sense of pride in your work. You aren’t changing your job or learning new skills.
You simply desire to make more money for a short period of time so that you can have all the things you want when that sale occurs. It is an externally driven act, and your success will be motivated by how badly you want the things at your favorite store.
Once the sale is over and you have purchased the items you wanted, you stop working overtime at your job and go right back to living your life the way you did before you were motivated by external rewards.
The issue with extrinsic motivation is that the rewards are usually short-lived. We stop doing the things we were formally motivated by before they become a habit, we get used to the rewards, or we get bored with what we were working towards. We don’t continue to work overtime once we have the items we desire from the sale.
In other words, you work harder to get what you want, and once you get what you want, you quit working harder.
Various forms of Intrinsic Motivation
We will now discuss some of the types of intrinsic motivation that are more specific and give some examples. These types of motivation all benefit a person on an internal level.
When we are driven by achievement motivation, we are looking for the feeling we get when we are the best at something. When we are given a certain title or accolade, there aren’t material rewards that come with achievement motivation. In the rare cases that there are external rewards, it’s not what drove us to success.
The feeling that we have achieved something that we thought we deserved is what we are striving towards. An example of this would be when we set a goal to improve job performance to get the Employee of the Month title. It comes with no perks aside from recognition. You don’t get higher pay, and you don’t get a job promotion.
You just get the title and the sense that you have achieved something that others did not. You were the best at something. You now feel worthy of the title, and your self-confidence goes up. Your self-esteem is raised.
Competence motivation is driven by a want to learn. It is learning motivation. We are competence-driven when we do research just to know something we are curious about. Learning satisfies that curiosity. We didn’t gain anything external or material by being motivated, but we became more knowledgeable, which satisfies us internally.
An example of competence motivation would be if an artist who paints professionally also learned how to do sculpture. Knowing how to do sculpture may benefit the artist monetarily, but the main motivation was to broaden the artist’s knowledge in the art world by learning a new technique and craft.
Affiliation motivation is driven by a want to belong. We look for like-minded individuals to join or people who share the same passions we have. This gives a sense of camaraderie and inclusion that we need to feel important and valued.
Almost everyone wants to be a part of something and to have friends. There may be no material benefit involved when we join a group, but the internal rewards are many. Our confidence level goes up, our happiness increases, and we are happy that we have found a place within a group that accepts us.
An example of affiliation motivation would be when someone who quilts joins a quilters guild. Or when a person who loves to read joins a book club. The quilter can just as easily make quilts at home, by herself. It’s joining a group of people she can socialize with and be a part of that motivates her to join.
The bookworm can read to their heart’s content at home in their private time. She can read anything she wants and isn’t obligated to analyze the book, go by an accepted reading list, or finish a book by a set deadline. She joins the book club so that she has someone to talk to about her passion, which is reading. She feels included and valued. That is her motivation.
A need for creative expression drives creative motivation. It is the desire or need to create something so that we can say something that we think needs to be said. We write poems and songs that may never be published or heard on the radio.
We doodle in sketchbooks and paint canvases and do no more than keep them in the book or hang them on the walls of our own homes. They don’t serve a purpose aside from us being able to express ourselves through some creative outlet.
If something that we do create gets recognition, we may be thrilled at that fact, but that’s not why it was created in the first place. We only did it so that we could express ourselves. We got our statement or feeling out and into the world in some form.
Even famous writers use creative motivation. The money and fame of publication and bestseller lists aren’t what got them writing in the first place. A love for writing and a need to tell a story is what got them started and kept them motivated.
Attitude motivation is driven by a want to cause positive change in the world. People who are motivated by attitude are often altruistic by nature and passionate about making the world a better place. There’s no external reward in this for them. They act based upon the good they think they can do.
An example of attitude motivation would be if you volunteered at a children’s hospital after work every week. It doesn’t matter if you’re sleep-deprived, overworked, stressed at your job, or having a bad day. You go, and you make kids smile, lighten the load on the hospital staff, and spread cheer because it makes the world a slightly less ugly place.
You are motivated by your passion to be the change you wish to see in the world.
Physiological motivation is a tricky one. This type of motivation is driven by a basic need to survive. We all have this sort of motivation. While there are external rewards to this, the main drive behind it is to stay alive, which is intrinsic.
For example, we know that we need to eat to survive, so we work a job to make money to buy food to sustain us. We do this because if we don’t eat, we can’t stay healthy. If we can’t stay healthy, we can’t live.
We want and need the certainty that we can provide the basic necessities needed to function. Therefore, we work. Even when we are able to work in the field, we have chosen. We know that we must make an income so that we can provide shelter, food, and water for ourselves.
Various Forms of Extrinsic Motivation
Of the two major types of motivation, this one is the one in which you are able to see the results externally. There are several different types of motivation in this category, and they vary, depending on whether they provide compensation or punishment.
Power motivation is driven by a need or want for leadership and control. We want to assert ourselves over other people and situations. We want to be the boss, the supervisor, the leader of the pack.
We use power motivation when we ask to be the group leader for a project at work or school. We know that if we lead well and the project is a success, we will reap the benefits. People will see us as more powerful. People will begin to follow us. We will be relied upon more heavily, and listen to us when we have something to say.
Power motivation is not always a negative thing. It can go either way. We can be motivated to control people negatively so that they will do things for us, and we can boss them around.
We can also be motivated to control people positively to help them learn to be more constructive and do a better job, ultimately making things easier for everyone. A strong leader is often motivated by power, among other things.
The fear of something drives Fear-based motivation. It causes us to do something because we’re afraid of what will happen if we don’t.
For example, fear motivation is employed in high school sports. If you play football or basketball, you have to keep your grades up to play in the games and stay on the team. So the fear of getting benched motivates you to study hard and make good grades.
If you regularly don’t show up for staff meetings at your job, you may end up fired, regardless of how well you do your job otherwise. The fear motivation here is the loss of your job. You come to the staff meetings on time not because you want to, but because you’re afraid you’ll lose your job if you don’t.
Reward motivation is the one that is most basic. You promise someone something in return for them doing something. It’s a short-term agreement, and the person tasked with the chore completes it to gain the reward they were promised.
For example, suppose you’re a salesperson. Your supervisor may tell you that the reward for selling the most cars at the dealership you work at by the end of the month is a large bonus on your paycheck.
You will most likely work a lot harder so that you can get the bonus. Once next month comes, though, you will most likely go back to the way you were before you were offered a reward for working harder.
A Few Things to Consider
Whether we get our motivation from external factors or from intrinsic factors, we are all motivated. When we focus on a goal, no matter what it is, our desire to succeed is driven by motivation. The motivational type varies from person to person based on their life, what background and culture they come from, and many other factors.
Motivation is such an important part of life that psychology has seen several of its greatest minds work at theories and present them to the world so that we can better understand ourselves and others.
Our employers, teachers, and families use motivation for increasing productivity and therefore must study the people around them to ascertain what motivates them and then offer rewards that will cater to those motivations.
Whether you are more extrinsically motivated or intrinsic, it is never a bad idea to give yourself an idea of how and why we are motivated by certain things so that we can be the best versions of ourselves. You can’t have a satisfying life if you don’t know what drives you.