The subject of human motivation fascinates me. What makes us tick, why we do what we do, how to get motivated, and stay motivated, are questions which fundamentally come down to understanding how we’re wired as human beings.
Motivation can be defined as the reason for acting or behaving in a particular way. You see, we reveal ourselves in our patterns of behaviour, and our reactions to external and internal influences.
This doesn’t mean we can apply a single brush of paint to categorise groups of people, individuality is still a dominant factor in making us who we are, but it does give us a broad set of common motivational traits.
Whether it is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs or Tony Robbins’ 6 Fundamental Human Needs, there is a shared observation of commonalities in our understanding of how we are wired and the drivers which make us tick.
My research and real-world observations prompted my list of common traits, discovered through a combination of personal and professional life experiences. I call them the five interlocking human drivers.
How to get motivated – the five interlocking human drivers
Motivation Driver #1: Certainty
This is the foundational human driver, which has its origins way back in the Stone Age when human beings had a survival need for certainty around shelter, food, and heat an individual’s three most necessities.
Wind forward to today and our needs haven’t changed: put food on the table, pay the mortgage and bills to keep the roof over our heads and provide for our families and ourselves.
The need for certainty can lead you to make decisions, which are well thought through leading to predictable outcomes. But on the other, it can also lead to procrastination, analysis paralysis or attempts to control things and people too tightly.
Take a moment and think about this…
What areas of your life do you feel you have a foundational need for certainty?
Is it a stable home or relationship?
A secure job?
A particular amount of money in the bank?
Is it a combination of these or perhaps other triggers which are driving your need for certainty?
Do you have a boss who micromanages everything you do? How does that feel? Like they don’t trust you? That you’re not capable of doing the job?
Yes, it could be that they enjoy being controlling…but it is also essential to recognise that they might be acting out their need for certainty, and control is their default mode to fulfilling this need.
Motivation Driver #2: Adventure
Picture this scenario: you know precisely what you were going to be doing every minute, every hour, every day, month and year from this day forth for the rest of your life. How would that make you feel? … Bored? Comfortable?
Do you need an adventure? Do you require mystery, the unknown or to be surprised? I bet you do because that is how we know we are alive.
However, adventure can turn into uncertainty.
Adventure can change from being a positive enabler to something potentially unsettling … because adventure is by its very definition, uncertain.
Adventure may seem fun and exciting, but when we frame it as uncertainty, it becomes the polar opposite of Motivation Driver #1: Certainty.
For many people, the very idea of uncertainty is enough to freak them out, slamming the breaks on their need and desire for adventure. At this point, they’re between a rock and a hard place. They want adventure, but the uncertainty of it becomes too much, and they end up doing nothing. Dreaming of the adventures they would like to take, but also afraid of the unknown to take the next step.
The reality is that change is one of the only real certainties in the world and the quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty, adventure and change you can comfortably live with.
Motivation Driver #3: Significance
We all long for significance. We all want to matter, to be thought of as relevant, useful and valuable.
We can be significant to our colleagues and bosses, to our friends who appreciate our support and care, and to our families who love us unconditionally and rely upon us as a critical part of their lives.
You may feel a high degree of significance when others praise you for your capabilities and achievements. Or you may feel significant when you know you’ve achieved something great regardless of the external validation you may or may not receive.
The same need met – just through different sources.
A feeling of significance can drive us to achieve incredible things, but it can also encourage harmful behaviour. Achieving significance by putting others down or being overly critical, or leading us to become blinded, attaining significance whatever the cost.
Ask yourself, how strong is your need for significance, and what is its source?
Motivation Driver #4: Belonging
They say no person is an island and in today’s world, being aware of this is perhaps more critical than ever.
We’re more connected than we have ever been, yet human connections – real, genuine social connections are becoming harder than ever to make.
This plays right to the heart of a significant phenomenon of social media Groups. Individuals, myself included, joining online clubs, or groups or movements with people worldwide, the majority who we will never meet, but who share our views, habits and fascinations.
In our need to meet the human driver belonging, we don’t seek to lead, but to be part of a pack, to be a welcome member of something much larger than ourselves. It’s the reason we join church congregations, associations and clubs and the reason we feel an attachment to our place of work, that feeling of being part of a team is enormous.
In what areas of your life do you need to feel like you belong?
What are the places, or groups of people with whom you feel you belong?
What is different about the places or the groups of people with whom you are happy to belong, and those where you feel the need to be significant?
Motivation Driver #5: Growth
Few things feel worse than a feeling you’re being left behind. And few things feel better than a feeling that you’re improving, advancing, getting better at something and increasing your value to your family, your work, your community and even to the world.
Growth is a crucial driver for us all.
Nothing on this earth is standing still. It’s either growing, or it’s dying. No matter if it’s a tree or a human being. If you’re not growing, you will be left behind!
The opposite of growth is being in a rut, and there is nothing more soul-destroying than that.
You don’t need a formal education to learn something new. You don’t need a library full of books. You don’t even need access to the internet. You need a mind full of curiosity and a thirst for greater understanding.
What steps are you taking to grow every day?
How to get motivated…
Once you understand the five human drivers, you can start to think about their importance, how they apply to you, and their influence on your thinking, subsequent actions and motivations…
…you may be struggling in your office job (certainty) because you have a much higher taste for adventure (uncertainty).
…you may feel unfulfilled by your current status (certainty) and want to stand out (significance).
…you may feel alone right now (belonging) because you haven’t opened up to new people and allowed them into your life (certainty).
Remember there isn’t a right or a wrong here; only a right and a wrong for YOU.
Understand what’s most important to you for you to commit to change. Remember, the catalyst for change is never a matter of ability; it’s a matter of motivation.
What makes YOU tick?