The reasons for why you work toward a goal are as important as the goal itself. There are many different types of motivation, and I’ll explain the basics right here. 

Physical or Biological Motives

These are motives for doing things that help our bodies meet their basic needs, such as nutrition, hydration, energy, movement, survival, and even procreation. Biological motives are meant to bring the body back into a calm, even resting state called homeostasis. These goals take place all of the time throughout the day, such as eating, drinking, sleeping, etc.

Stimulus Motives

This type of motivation is based on the drive to satisfy one’s curiosity or interest in something. When you pursue a topic that interests you, or take something apart to see how it works, then this is stimulating. Taking an interest in a sport, a hobby, art, music, or anything else that is fulfilling and satisfying is an example of something done out of a stimulus motive. If you pursue a career that you love, then you are motivated through stimulus motives.

Learned Motives

Learned motives are more socially based, and are often associated with esteem, power, rank, and other external rewards. Have you ever known a person who pursues the goal of becoming manager just because they want to be called “boss” and have power over other people? This person has learned the payoff of being boss, and is using this as a source of motivation. Sometimes people want to win a medal, or get a good grade, just for the status of having this reward. If you are doing something for attention, status, esteem, or other similar reasons, then you may be using learned motives. 

Intrinsic Motivation versus Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from within the self, such as stimulus motives, or the need to be loved and included in a group. Children are naturally curious about the world, and want to please the adults in their lives. They abound with intrinsic motivation, which can quickly become squelched by extrinsic motivators, such as treats and prizes. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside the person, and is often associated with rewards such as money, prizes, stickers, toys, etc. 

Which Type of Motivation is Best?

The best type of motivation is the one that is used for the right job. Each type has its merits. Using the right source of motivation for the right reason is what is most appropriate. 

If you are having trouble feeling happy in life and being unsuccessful reaching your goals, consider the reasons behind your choices and actions. 

Knowing why you make choices can help you identify your values, and keep life in perspective. 

For example, if you are going to a job that you dislike because it pays the bills, then you can use this to reflect on your needs and motives. You are fulfilling your biological needs with the job. If you are left feeling bored and depressed, then it might be time to develop a more satisfying life outside of work that fills your stimulus motives. Being human, we all have the need to satisfy our curiosity and personal interests. 

Finally, you may find life to be more fulfilling if you develop your relationships. Everyone needs to be around people who love and accept them. Learned motives are good because we need to have some amount of self-esteem and also be held in high regard by others.

That lack of motivation that you feel may just be a chance to fill in the void with more satisfying sources of motivation that actually fill your personal needs. Just take time to reflect on what you are really feeling, and listen to what your instincts tell you. The answers will come to you. 

by Diana Zilly, MS, MA, LCPC. Diana is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Hypnotherapist, Life Coach and Educator, and former Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Joliet Junior College.

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