Do you make goals…but then you procrastinate?

Do you write a 'To-Do' list…but then you don’t follow through?

Understanding motivation can:

  • Boost your efficiency as you work toward goals.
  • Support you to feel more in control of your life.
  • Drive you to take clear action.
  • Encourage you to engage in uplifting & healthy behaviors.
  • Help you to avoid unhealthy, destructive behaviors.
  • Enhance overall well-being and happiness.

While no single theory can adequately explain all human motivation, looking at individual theories can offer a greater understanding of the forces that cause us to take action.

Here are the 8 Top Theories of Motivation:

1. Instinct Theory explains how one's motivation to survive leads to performing actions known as instincts. Here are 3 perspectives on which ones drive us:

  • Psychologist William McDougall was one of the first to write on the topic. He suggested that instinctive behavior was composed of three essential elements: perception, behavior, and emotion. He also outlined 18 different instincts that included curiosity, maternal instinct, laughter, comfort, sex, food-seeking, and more.
  • Psychiatrist Sigmund Freud's view of motivation suggested that human behavior was driven by two key forces: the life and death instincts.
  • Psychologist William James identified a number of instincts that he believed were essential for survival. These included such things as fear, anger, love, shame, cleanliness, attachment, play, shyness, and modesty.  

2. Drive-Reduction Theory (also known as Learning Theory) developed by Clark Hull, explains how humans are motivated to satisfy physiological needs in order to maintain homeostasis.  People are innately driven to correct or reduce disturbances to their stability. 

3. Incentive Theory (alternatively called the Reward Motivation) is an expansion upon Clark Hull’s Drive-Reduction Theories.  It suggests that behavior is motivated by a desire for reinforcement or incentives. People are pulled toward behaviors that lead to rewards and pushed away from actions that might lead to negative consequences. 

  • Intrinsically motivated behaviors are performed because of the sense of personal satisfaction that they bring. 
  • Extrinsically motivated behaviors, on the other hand, are performed in order to receive something from others or avoid certain negative outcomes.  

    4. Arousal Theory considers levels of arousal as potential motivators. The influence of the neurotransmitter dopamine as a motivator in the body are examined. It proposes that motivation is strongly linked to biological factors that control reward sensitivity and goal-driven behavior.  

    • In 1908, psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodson, further investigated the relationship between people’s arousal levels and their performance. Based on the results, they developed the Yerkes-Dodson Law that states our performance increases as our mental and physiological arousal levels increases. But, there is a point at which further increases in arousal level won’t have any positive impact on our performance.

    5. Humanistic Theory: Abraham Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ is based on the premise that humans are motivated by needs that are hierarchically ranked. People are first motivated to meet their basic biological needs, before self-actualization or purpose will become a primary desire of fulfillment.    

    • In 1959, Carl Rogers' version added that for a person to "grow", they need an environment that provides them with genuineness (openness and self-disclosure), acceptance (being seen with unconditional positive regard), and empathy (being listened to and understood).    

    6. Expectancy Theory: Victor Vroom stated that people will be highly productive and motivated if two conditions are met:  1) People believe it is likely that their efforts will lead to successful results and 2) Those people also believe they will be rewarded for their success.  People will be motivated to exert a high level of effort when they believe there are relationships between the efforts they put forth, the performance they achieve, and the outcomes/ rewards they receive. 

    7. Evolutionary Theory: Originally proposed by Charles Darwin, states that individuals are motivated to engage in behaviors that maximize their genetic fitness; human behavior driven by survival instincts. From a biological perspective, an instinct is a species-specific pattern of behavior that is not learned.  

    8. Optimization Theory states that individuals would be motivated to adopt strategies that allow them to consume the most energy (e.g., to maximize their food intake) while expending the least amount of energy (e.g., to minimize their exercise output). 


    What motivational theory resonates the most with you? 

    If you are interested in learning more, the Warrior Medicine program and workshops will help you gain a deeper understanding of your values and motivations.  Click here to book your free 30-minute consultation now.


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