Have you ever wondered why it is so easy to reach some goals, while others seem impossible to even start working towards no matter what you do?
There are 16 core motivational drivers that cause all of us to do things. Once we know what these drivers are, and identify which ones are most important to us individually, we can exploit our own drivers to motivate ourselves towards our goals. In this post, you will learn what these drivers are, why it can sometimes seem impossible to even start working towards some goals, and what to do to fix it.
Most people I’ve spoken with have had moments in their lives where they discovered one tiny piece of information, and it has completely changed their reality. Understanding how motivation works was one of those moments for me.
You see, I never really understood what I wanted for the longest time. I was pushed through school, as are most people. I found an affinity for math and science, as most people don’t. But everyone finds an affinity for something, sooner or later. In my case, this has evolved significantly over time.
And I never really understood why until I came across the research that some very smart people have done around motivation.
How Motivation Works
It turns out that essentially all human beings have common drivers. These are things that strongly motivate us and when we go to a deep enough level, they are consistent across all cultures.
There are various models for this, and all of the ones I have come across have truth value and utility in different circumstances.
If you are in business and want to motivate your staff, Dan Pink’s stuff is awesome. He has this wonderfully simple model with just three components. All you do is figure out how to give your staff as much autonomy as possible, set things up in such a way that they are guided towards mastery, and give them a purpose that resonates with them.
This is a subset of human motivation, and it works extremely well in a business setting.
A lot of people find Tony Robbins’ stuff to be a huge breakthrough. This is possibly because the course where he teaches it is called the Breakthrough System. Now, Tony’s model is a little more complex. It has six moving parts, and works well if you want a simple model that you can apply in your own life.
And the model that I like comes from Steven Reiss, who was a professor of psychology. He wrote a book all the way back in 2000. I don’t necessarily agree with everything that Reiss says, and you may find that some of it is just a tiny bit contentious. Despite this, or possibly because of it, I’ve found the core of his model to be remarkably effective at helping people to motivate themselves to do just about anything.
The way it works is that once we understand why we do the things that we do, we can find other things to do that get us the same benefits.
Once we understand why we do the things that we do, we can find other things to do that get us the same benefits.
Reiss breaks this down into 16 core motivational drivers that everyone has to some degree. In my experience, some people have a negative amount of some of them. For example, one of the drivers is power. Some people just don’t want any.
His book is not particularly short, and it goes into quite a lot of detail. As tends to be the way with a lot of these things, you probably don’t need all of that detail unless you really want to understand it deeply, and use it for things beyond yourself.
How to Identify Your Own Drivers
If it’s you that you’re aiming to motivate, all you really need to get started is the list.
The idea is that you go through the list and find the particular drivers that resonate with you. Everyone I’ve done this with has found between 2 and 4 drivers that are really strong for them. And once you know what those are for you, you can start to change things.
For example, my strongest drivers are curiosity and tranquility, by a very long way. One of the things I do on a regular basis is hiking through the local wilderness here, which satisfies both tranquility because it is so peaceful, and curiosity, because there’s always somewhere new to explore. Because I approach it in this way, it is very easy for me to motivate myself to exercise. If I were to try to exercise at a gym, neither of these drivers would be satisfied, and I probably wouldn’t do it.
So without further ado, here are the 16 drivers.
- Social contact
- Physical activity
As you look through this list, you will probably find that some of these resonate strongly with you. And you will find that some of them cause the opposite response.
This is completely normal.
Notice which drivers are the strongest for you. It doesn’t really matter how many of them it is. What’s important here is that you become consciously aware of it, so that you can start to change things, including how you motivate yourself.
How to Motivate Yourself
When you want to motivate yourself, the more closely you can target your own personal drivers, the better your results will be. This is because our brains are extremely good at latching onto concrete things, while the more abstract things take a little more work. And it’s true even for people who tend to be abstract thinkers. As a rule, we need something concrete before we can abstract it out.
The overall process is very straightforward. First, we figure out what our strongest motivations are from the list. Then, we look at how we’re getting those satisfied by not doing the thing we want to do. Finally, we find a way to rearrange things so that our motivations support what we want to achieve.
To give you an example, suppose that someone wants to keep their motivation up while they are working from home. If we know that family, status and social contact are important to us, we can start to build reasons that motivate us towards that.
We find that when we’re supposed to be working, instead we’re browsing through social media, reading the latest news, or whatever it might be. This is probably our social contact and curiosity drivers at work.
To fix it, we need to find a way to reorient.
Since we know that in this case, family, status and social contact are our strongest drivers, we can use those to help us along.
Let’s start with family, because this one is easiest. When you work from home, you’re going to be there for your family when they need you. This one is pretty much a direct consequence of being at home, so we don’t need to go much further, although you can also think about how it might be important to feed them.
Status is a little trickier, because what you perceive as giving you status might be different to what others think. Which means that I can’t really tell you how to do it in a short article, because I’m not inside your head. It could be that it was really motivational for us when we were trying to get that office with the view at work. Or perhaps we simply enjoy being right all the time and telling people about it. Maybe there’s something else entirely.
The key here is to go inside your own head, and be totally honest with yourself. First, acknowledge that status really is one of our drivers and that that’s ok. When we’re dealing with our own motivations, other people’s opinions don’t matter, and you don’t have to tell anyone about it beyond yourself.
Next, realize that while some of the things that give us status in an office may not happen when we’re at home, there are still countless other things that do. We can even make a game of deliberately figuring out one or two things that we can implement right now that will make us feel like we have that driver fulfilled.
You’ll notice that I didn’t say give us status. That in itself is relatively unimportant when it comes to motivation. What’s important is that you feel it on the inside.
Finally, once we appreciate that social contact is an important driver for us, we can establish ways to achieve this while working from home. It could be that we agree to meet our co-workers in a regular online video call. Maybe we set up a group on something like Slack and use that. The possibilities here really are endless, and the key to making it work is to first realize that it’s important to our motivation, and then take concrete steps to make it happen.
The keys to making motivational drivers work for us are to first appreciate that those drivers are important to our motivation, and to then take concrete steps to make it happen.
Once our needs are met, and we know they’re being met by our new perspective, it becomes effortless to remain motivated in the way we wanted to be.
This is just one example, and you can use these drivers to help you change your life in just about any way you might imagine. But as with all things, if you want to make it work you have to put in a tiny bit of effort. In this case, all that is required is taking the time to understand what drives you personally.
Don’t worry too much about getting it right the first time. Quite often we hide these things even from ourselves. So if, for example, you apply the above process and find that you’re still not doing what you want to be doing, all you have to do is go through the list again, and ask what else could be going on. Be curious, and you will find the answer.
Once you know what drives you at the core, all you have to do to solve any motivation problem is find a way to link what you want to achieve with your personal core drivers.
You can solve any motivation problem by linking what you want to achieve with your personal core drivers.
Figure out which of those drivers is causing you to do the thing you want to change in the first place. Then make a list of other things you could do that will get you the same result in terms of your core needs.
As soon as your subconscious mind realizes that you get more of the thing you want and need from doing the new thing, it will prioritize that new thing.
When this happens, it becomes almost effortless to motivate yourself to do anything. And once you can motivate yourself in the right way, achieving your goals becomes so much easier.