What is motivation? Principles, theories and how it works (2023)

company,personal growth

05. May 2020 Evan Tarver

What is motivation? Principles, theories and how it works (1)

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Motivation comes from the root "motive" and defines the driving reasons behind our actions and behaviors. It is a physiological craving driven by specific internal or external rewards or incentives. There are many types of motivation that work best for different situations, but all types of motivation have three similar components that you can use to increase overall motivation.

By understanding the science and theories behind motivation, its types and components, you can increase your motivation and motivate others to pursue higher-level goals. Read this article to learn the ins and outs of motivation and how you can use it to achieve your dreams.

(Video) Motivation Theories Explained in 10 Minutes

how motivation works

Motivation identifies the Specificwhybehind a person's thoughts and actions and is usually explained by internal or external rewards or incentives. Motivation driven by internal factors is called intrinsic motivation while external motivation is called extrinsic motivation. Within these two types of motivation, there are many variations aimed at a specific motivating reward or incentive.

For example, those motivated by internal factors may be driven to get a promotion because of learning and personal growth, while those motivated by external factors may be driven to get a promotion because of a raise. Neither is bad, but both types are accounted for by a separate, single motivating incentive or reward.

This means if you can identify your underlying motivating factor, you can use it to increase your motivation. To help, there are many motivational theories that use a combination of biology and sociology to pinpoint and explain why people are motivated by specific rewards or incentives. None are perfect, but most provide insight into the inner workings of the human mind and how we can motivate ourselves.

The same goes for motivating others. Some people around you are more likely to be motivated by an internal factor, while others are more motivated by an external factor. The key is to identify the motivating factor of the individual (or group of individuals) and focus on cultivating it to increase desire, action and performance.

Finally, whether you're trying to motivate yourself or others, remember the following:

  • Motivation is based on a specific internal or external reward or incentive.
  • All types of motivation typically consist of three interdependent parts.
  • Most people are motivated by biological needs, emotional desires, or social desires.
  • Identifying the "underlying motive behind the need, desire, or desire can increase motivation

3 main components of motivation

Motivation may seem like an abstract concept, but it actually consists of three interdependent parts. The three key components of motivation are activation, intensity and endurance. These three components work together to force people to behave in a certain way. Understanding these components will help you cultivate motivation better and better understand the following types and theories.

1. Activation

Activation represents the decision to initiate behavior in order to achieve a reward or incentive. Activation, also known as direction, means committing to action in pursuit of a larger goal, such as: B. Taking a coding class for a career change or saving money for early retirement.

Think of this first component as an action. Regardless of the type of motivation and the specific incentive or reward, at the end of the day, all motivation begins with action. Because of this, the level of activation largely depends on the importance of the reward or incentive you are trying to achieve.

2. Intensity

Intensity is the dedication and effort put into finding a reward and is determined by your experience and level of desire. For example, those who demonstrate high intensity desire something strong and will effectively prioritize their time, energy, or resources to achieve that. However, not all individuals work at the same intensity. For some it may require less effort, while others may require a higher intensity to achieve the same thing.

For example, a student who grasps material easily and does not have to spend a lot of time studying shows low intensity. Conversely, a student who has to study hard to get the same grades will show greater intensity. This means that high or low intensity is not necessarily good or bad, but that intensity isGradwhat you need to do to get your desired reward.

3. Perseverance

Perseverance represents the ability to stay the course through challenges or setbacks and, over time, to maintain the action and intensity necessary to achieve the reward. As I'm sure you know, it's often not just action and intensity that provide the motivation to make your dreams come true. You also need a healthy amount of perseverance, because anything worth achieving takes time and requires consistent effort.

types of motivation

Every motivation includes the above components, regardless of the type or theory behind the motivating driver. That being said, there are typically two general types of motivation:Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation represents any internal rewards or incentives while extrinsic motivation represents any external rewards or incentives. Together they represent any internal or external "motives".

(Video) Theories of motivation - Maslow, Herzberg, McGregor

These types of motivation should not be confused with motivational theories. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation define the general incentives or rewards that drive our desires, while theories of motivation propose specific ways to increase motivation based on specific drivers. Let's first look at intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and then move on to the theories that use them.

intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation refers to a person's inner drives. Behaviors driven by intrinsic motivation are implicitly rewarding or fulfilling to an individual and typically do not depend on anyone else to achieve them. An example of this is someone learning an instrument for fun, challenging themselves with games or puzzles, or taking a class to satisfy their curiosity.

There is no external reward such as money or praise that drives this behavior. Instead, it's an inner reward like the joy of learning that drives these actions. This does not necessarily mean that intrinsic motivation is better or worse than extrinsic motivation. Still, it's often a good idea to identify a motivating factor that's within your control, rather than basing it on something you've been given, such as: B. an award or praise.

extrinsische Motivation

Extrinsic motivation represents behavior that is driven by external rewards. Extrinsic motivation is typically used in situations where the action or the reward for performing the action may not be personally satisfying. These rewards can be tangible, such as money or an award, or intangible, such as praise or public recognition, but are typically not under your direct control.

For example, if you are motivated to do a good job by the incentive of a raise, you are motivated from the outside. Another example: writing a screenplay in hopes of winning an Oscar is an extrinsic motivating factor. Neither is bad, but perhaps the best solution is to find something that is intrinsically rewarding but also has an external incentive when achieved.

Rat:Within each of these broad types are granular variations that signal specific external or internal motivating factors. For more information on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and their subtypes, see my article abovetypes of motivationand which one is better for you.

The main motivation theories

There are many theories about what motivation is, why it exists, what specific internal or external drivers are behind it, and how it is cultivated in oneself and others. To help you, I've compiled a short list of the best theories below. However, if you want to learn more about it, be sure to read my in-depth article above.Motivationstheorien.

Here is the condensed list of the top motivational theories to know and use:

  • Expectation theory of motivation:It states that people are motivated by the expected outcome of their actions, and the more certain someone is of the outcome, the more motivated they are to take action.
  • Motivational Justice Theory:It posits that people are motivated by their perceived level of fairness rather than a reward or expectation. The fairer things are, the more motivated people are.
  • Arousal Motivation Theory:This theory explains that a person's level of motivation is equal to their mental alertness or "arousal". However, when arousal gets too high or too low, it leads to demotivation.
  • Goal Motivation Theory:Self-explanatory theory that challenging goals can be motivating. If you want to know more, check out my articleSMART goal setting.
  • Acquired Needs Motivation Theory:It states that people are motivated by their desire to achieve achievement, power, and social belonging. More of these wishes lead to more motivation.
  • Maslow's hierarchy of needs:Well-known theory that states that people are motivated by five specific needs and cannot move on to the next need until the previous one has been satisfied.
  • Three-dimensional attribution theory -It attempts to explain how people interpret events and how those interpretations affect their motivation. When we view an event positively, we will be more motivated to repeat that event.

While these are all important motivational theories, they only scratch the surface of the breadth and depth of this motivational topic. If you want to see the full list of top motivational theories, be sure to follow the link above and read my full article on motivational theories.

How to motivate yourself and others

Although there are manyMotivationstippsand strategies that can help motivate yourself and others, I found you can break the process down into a few proven steps. These are based on my own experiences of trying to motivate myself and those around me both at work and in other social situations.

How to motivate yourself

Motivating yourself is the first step to achieve anything. Self-motivation is unique to individuals, but when I need to motivate myself, I usually do the following:

  1. Make sure I have positive attitude and growth mentality.
  2. Make sure I understand my ultimate end goal
  3. Identify the "why" behind my desire to achieve this goal
  4. Create a series of smaller goals that will help me get closer to my ultimate goal
  5. Find an accountability partner who can hold you accountable
  6. Celebrate each of these small victories as you move closer to your bigger goals.
  7. Always focus on the process and the learning experiences along the way.
  8. Don't lose sight of the big picture while focusing on the smaller goals

To learn more about repeatable steps you can use to motivate yourself, read my article onhow to motivate yourselfin eight important steps

(Video) Principles & Theories of Learning & Motivation Part 1

How to motivate other people

Although it may seem similar, motivating other people is different than motivating yourself. Often this happens in the workplace and you want to motivate a team member or co-worker. If you need to do this, try this, which has worked for me as a larger team leader:

  1. Understand the person's personality type.
  2. Help them learn the skills they need to be successful.
  3. Develop a set of shared goals and expectations.
  4. Give the person a sense of autonomy in their daily work.
  5. Be sure to give them consistent feedback and coaching.
  6. Praise them when a job is well done and teach them when they need to improve

For more information, see the full article athow to motivate other peoplebe successful.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

u003cemu003eWhat is motivation in business?u003c/emu003e

Company-related motivation can be self-motivation or motivation of individuals or teams. It usually represents motivation fueled by external rewards such as a raise or praise. However, internally driven motivation in a business setting can often be just as powerful and rewarding, if not more so.

u003cemu003eWhat is motivation in management?u003c/emu003e

Like organizational motivation, management motivation is a tool used in a business setting where managers use motivation to inspire their team. For this reason, it usually focuses on team-level motivation, but also includes individual motivation for the direct reports.

u003cemu003eWhat is motivation in psychology?u003c/emu003e

Motivation in psychology generally refers to academic theories of motivation rather than applied science. Despite this, psychological discussions of motivation can still be valuable because they can help analyze the biological and sociological reasons behind a person's motivation.

u003cemu003eWhat is educational motivation?u003c/emu003e

Like motivation in psychology, motivation in education refers to academic theories and research aimed at explaining motivation, rather than applied science. Because of this, many students or people in school look to academic research rather than practical motivational tactics.

(Video) Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation


Motivation is often something that seems intangible and ephemeral, but you can keep yourself and others motivated by following a few simple steps. Remember that all motivation is based on some type of internal or external incentive, and if you can recognize it and create an environment that supports the pursuit of that incentive, you'll be more motivated over time.


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What is principles and theories of motivation? ›

What are human motivation principles? Based on David McClelland's theory of needs, the human motivation principles state that all humans' greatest needs influence their behavior in all aspects of life. McClelland's theory identified the three motivators that all humans have: achievement, affiliation and power.

What are the motivation theories? ›

Content Theories of Motivation. Maslow's theory of the hierarchy of needs, Alderfer's ERG theory, McClelland's achievement motivation theory, and Herzberg's two-factor theory focused on what motivates people and addressed specific factors like individual needs and goals.

What are the 4 theories of motivation explain? ›

In this chapter we will discuss on four foundational theories of motivation which include: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory, McClelland's Three Needs Theory, and McGregor's Theory X, Theory Y.

What are the three theories of motivation explain it? ›

So what are the main theories of work motivation? We've selected three high-profile theories that offer an interesting take on what motivates different individuals: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, McClelland's Three Needs Theory, and Herzberg's Motivation Theory.

What are the principle theories? ›

Principle theories are concerned with nomological realism, establishing which scientific principles are true in our world. The second basis for the distinction is their differing epistemological basis. Flores maintains that, for Einstein, principle theories begin with empirically discovered general principles.

What are the different theories and principles? ›

The key difference between theory and principle is that the theory is a scientifically credible general principle that explains a phenomenon whereas the principle is a basic truth, rule or law. Thus, it becomes clear that theory and principle are two inter-related words.


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