The Five Motivational Drivers


Last week, RealGirls had the amazing opportunity to hold an online Facebook event to get to know other RealGirls around the world.  What a success!  We had a great group of participants and we all learned a lot about each other and also discussed some concepts to help us enhance our self-knowledge and self-improvement.  You can still view the event and discussions here.

One of the major topics of discussion was motivation.  Motivation is such an important part of everyday life and determines what we accomplish and what we don’t.  So one of the first things we can do to bring more meaning and accomplishment to our daily lives is to identify our top motivators, and find ways to incorporate them more frequently in our daily lives.

To bring more clarity to this conversation, I chose two definitions of “motive” from that I found to be most accurate and most positive:

“the goal or object of a person’s actions”


“prompting to action.”

I’m particularly fond of the second one because it gives a layman’s view of what motivation looks like: you know you are motivated by something when it catapults you to action.  Which means there may be things that you find inspiring or enjoyable, but not necessarily motivating.  It’s an important distinction!  So a few years back, one of my bosses gave me and my co-workers a list of 5 motivators to rank.  The 5 motivators purposely didn’t include anything of charitable nature because the belief was that everyone, right down to the guy that owns a business that sells printer cartridges, is motivated by their ability to contribute to the world in some way.  Here they are:



Personal Growth

Financial Gain


The goal is to then rank these motivators in order of their ability to drive you to action.  That can be a pretty difficult distinction, so here are some more detailed descriptions of each one:

Freedom/Autonomy – this is the ability to pave your own path, make your own decisions, and be the master of your domain. It doesn’t *necessarily* mean you have no schedule to live by; rather it means that you are the one who gets to decide your schedule or lack thereof.

Challenge – this is very closely tied to risk. How important is it to you that you are challenged on a daily basis in some way? How willing are you to step into the deep unknown and take a big risk to attempt to overcome or surmount a major obstacle? Challenge usually involves high levels of stress for a large payoff. Your tendency to be motivated by challenge is probably highly related to your propensity to navigate stress and a lot of not-knowing. It’s fueled by a drive for accomplishment.

Personal Growth – this is the ability to feel yourself stretching and changing and enduring through pain and difficulty to come out on the other side better than you were before. I think it’s safe to say that though a lot of people are motivated by extensive personal growth, a lot of people are simply content with who they are and where they are in their life. And that’s okay! In fact, many of us could probably use a little more contentedness.

Financial Gain – well, everyone needs money, right? We all need to support ourselves and our families! This goes a little beyond the survival factor to being motivated by increasing one’s financial state. Being a person who is motivated by financial gain usually has a very negative feel to it, and I suspect this is due to the reputation of major players in the business world to “do whatever it takes” to make a buck. But I think there are lots of ways to look at the reasons for financial motivation. For some its the fun of the reward for hard work; for some it’s having a little extra spending money; for some it’s feeling like they are contributing to the economy; for some it’s simply being able to buy cool stuff. It’s a perfectly legitimate motivator and a very common one!

Recognition – this is typically viewed as a “bad” motivator, but, like these other motivators, it’s not good or bad. Some of us are simply driven by recognition. I would go so far as to say that ALL of us are driven by it to a certain extent, but I think for many there is an extra strong “buzz” associated with seeing our name in the paper, or a degree next to our name, or our face on TV, or to hear we are being discussed in other circles (not in a gossipy way, of course, although that typically accompanies recognition without our permission).

What is the order of your motivators?  Still having a hard time?  Here’s a short online quiz that I found to be accurate and helpful in determining your motivators.  It includes 8 motivators, but many of them can be sub-categorized into these 5.

Once you’ve worked out your motivators, what next?  Well, I believe its always helpful to look at the positive – the ways you are doing things right – before delving into areas of improvement.  So take a look at your life and identify the areas in which your top 3 motivators are already playing a primary role.  Where are these motivators already built-in to your daily life?  Write your thoughts down if that helps.

Now brainstorm ways you could build those motivators more intrinsically into your life.  It’s usually best to start small, but if you have the ability to make big changes, go for it!  Perhaps you could talk to your spouse about giving you more recognition for your efforts and accomplishments.  Maybe it would be helpful to arrange your schedule so you have more free time for yourself.  Why not buy a self-help book or take a seminar to help you grow spiritually or emotionally?

Then make some plans to take those steps.  You might call them goals – this word typically sends me into an anxiety spin, so I don’t particularly like it, but call it whatever words for you – or steps or plans.  Start small, or big, or medium – whatever makes you feel both inspired and confident in your ability to accomplish them.

The basic formula to using motivation to your advantage is this:

1) ENHANCE the motivators that are currently at play on your life and

2) BUILD more of your motivators into your everyday life.

It may surprise you how much more real and satisfied you feel when you’re stimulating the best parts of your core self.

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