11 Types of Motivation

It’s all well and good to say you want to have more motivation in your life. However, how do you know what kind of motivation you need? There are hundreds of different types of motivation out there, and not all of them may be suitable for your needs or situation. In this guide, we’ll explore the different kinds of motivation so that you come away knowing exactly the type you need.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation refers to the two broadest types of motivation that we currently define. Intrinsic motivation refers to things inside of you that might motivate you to work for something, such as fulfillment, love, or happiness. Some more examples include things like:

  • Volunteering for a cause because it makes you feel good, even though you aren’t getting anything physical out of it
  • Spending time with a friend because it makes you happy
  • Going to bed on time because you know you’ll feel better in the morning than if you didn’t

Extrinsic motivation, however, refers to outside things that we’re motivated to work for, like money, a house, or even negative things, such as avoiding getting a ticket while driving.  It can also mean things like:

  • Going to bed on time because you know your job performance will fall if you’re late
  • Spending time with a friend because it makes them happy
  • Volunteering for a cause because you can write the expense off your taxes

Despite being polar opposites, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation work well together. For example, your motivation might be to fall in love and feel more fulfilled inside, but the external motivation of having someone to spend time with and share your passions can go along with that.

In the same way, you might be interested in a raise or promotion mainly because of the money, but if the work you’re doing is more rewarding to you anyway, you might be able to get both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation out of it.

Extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation, in fact, work best when they both exist together. When you have too much of one or the other, things tend to get a bit out of balance. The way they interact together for everyone tends to differ, however.

When you have the two of them together, they create a very potent combination. Logically, when you’re both internally and externally motivated to do something, you’ll be doubly motivated than you would be if you just had one or the other.

Attitude Motivation

Attitude motivation is a special type of motivation that means you want to change the way people around you think or feel about something. For example, if you’re a lover of pit bulls, a rather controversial breed of dog, you might be motivated to change others’ attitudes by showing that they’re a wonderful pet.

However, attitude motivation can be a bit difficult, as some people don’t want to change or will refuse to change no matter how much work you put into shifting their attitudes. Perhaps your aim was to change people’s opinions about a controversial topic, such as the benefit of a certain political regime or conflicts with other countries. The more ambitious the attitude motivation is, the more controversial and difficult it becomes.

However, attitude motivation doesn’t have to be driven by large or complicated issues. You might be motivated by something as simple as brightening a person’s day when they clearly woke up on the wrong side of the bed. This qualifies as attitude motivation, too.

One particularly strong area for attitude motivation lies in the workplace. As an employee, you might find that you hold attitude motivation for any of several different aspects of a company. For one, you might feel motivated to improve the lives or the workloads of the employees around you by working harder yourself; this, in turn, would lower the burden on your fellow employees and help lift their moods.

In the same way, as someone in a position of power in a company, you might feel inspired to come up with ideas or solutions for your employees that could help improve a situation or lift spirits.

For example, if you have a bad quarterly report to give one day, but you also have an actionable solution that you plan to propose at the time of the report, you might be able to mitigate the disappointment that would normally come with the bad report and instead help the employees focus on a solution.

Achievement Motivation

Achievement motivation comes from the state of being self-motivated and process-oriented. When you have achievement motivation, it means that you want to achieve something for yourself, and you’re not afraid to work hard to get it! When someone’s achievement motivated, they’re willing to put the time and effort into doing what they need to do to get what they want, no matter how difficult or intensive it might be.

Achievement motivation is differentiated from the other types because it’s driven by achievement itself, not whatever reward might come along with the achievement. In this way, you could argue that achievement motivation is “achievement for the purpose of achievement.” The reward for achievement motivation is internal, and it’s the feeling of having reached a difficult or worthy goal rather than money or fame.

Essentially, achievement motivation is the motivation for excellence, by excellence. Sometimes, achievement motivation can be inspired by not-so-pleasant things, like the desire to feel superior to others. However, regardless of where it stems from, achievement motivation is an important part of working hard at different things as we grow. It’s common to see achievement motivation in places like:

  • Schools
  • Sports
  • Businesses where rising through the ranks is possible
  • Anything that requires some degree of ability or excellence
  • Games or contests

Achievement motivation can be extrinsic, intrinsic, or both. For example, your motivation to study for an exam might be to improve your grades, to build an attractive transcript, or to get college credit; these are all extrinsic motivators. However, you might also be in it for the satisfaction of a job well done in and of itself or the pride of getting into a better college than your peers. Those are intrinsic motivators.

Achievement motivators are at their most important as we’re growing up, going through school, and competing with our peers. However, achievement motivation follows us all through life, and it plays an essential role in keeping us competitive, up-to-date, and employable.

Incentive Motivation

Incentive motivation is functionally the opposite of achievement motivation. The theory behind incentive motivation is that people are more motivated by reward than by achievement itself. This means that, if you’re looking to gain a promotion at work, it’s more likely that you’re interested in the money rather than more fulfilling work.

Incentive motivation is different from achievement motivation in that it’s almost always extrinsic. Like extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, achievement motivation and incentive motivation also function very well together. When you have the presence of both achievement motivation and inventive motivation, you might be inspired both by the more fulfilling work and the higher salary gained by a promotion.

A desire for external rewards motivates many of our behaviors. The motivator behind taking drivers’ education when you’re young, for example, is receiving a drivers’ license and being able to drive yourself from place to place. In the same way, we’re motivated to get jobs and work because of the money we’ll receive for living necessities.

Incentive motivation has many implications for psychology, particularly in the study of behaviors. Incentives can be used to convince people to do things, even undesirable things, and they can also be used to get people not to do things. Think about our legal system, for example. The law is based around using punishments to deter people from performing disruptive or undesirable actions.

However, incentive motivation only works in certain situations. Because a physical reward is often the result of incentive motivation, if the reward in question isn’t achievable, incentive motivation is more or less useless. Consider situations like the following:

  • A child who is offered a reward for getting an A for the semester, but whose grade is already too low to reach that level before the semester ends, will not be inspired to work for that A
  • A worker who is not offered enough money for completing a certain job will likely look for employment elsewhere
  • A person or animal is much more motivated by food when hungry rather than when full

Competence Motivation

Competence motivation is fundamentally similar to achievement motivation but is slightly different in that competence motivation, or learning motivation is motivated by the process of learning itself.

People who possess competence motivation have a constant desire to learn, improve, and grow. For example, if we reuse our example of the person who’s looking for a promotion, they might be motivated in this case by the acquisition of new, valuable skills.

Competence motivation is one of the most valuable forms of motivation. This is because a skill is something that can never be taken away from you. Money comes and goes, but something you learn through hard work lasts forever.

Competence theory relates further to achievement theory because it, too, can be motivated by feelings of superiority (or the desire to feel superior). When someone feels inferior at something, they might desire to gain competence in an area, either to prove themselves to others or to surpass others. In the same way, they might wish to improve solely for themselves.

When we feel competent at something, it causes us to feel pride, happiness, and confidence. In our younger developmental years where feeling included is particularly important, competence motivation can be powerful. The same can be true in the opposite direction, too; if a child feels ashamed or meets with failure when trying to learn or gain competence in new things, they might suffer from a lack of competence motivation.

This is why having several different types of motivation working together is so useful. Even if a child missed out on some important motivational milestones during their early development, other types of motivation can help make up for that until they are able to foster what’s missing in themselves.

Fear Motivation

Fear motivation very simple, and it’s something that we all understand. Fear motivates us to do many things, like something as simple as running from a scary situation, or it can motivate us to do more complex things, like pushing ourselves at work so that we aren’t fired. Fear motivation is usually defined by the presence of a negative rather than a positive.

Fear motivation is usually an extrinsic type, and while it might seem like a bad thing, fear motivation can be both powerful and useful. It’s at its most useful in conjunction with other positive motivators.

For example, if you’re looking to start eating right, some powerful fear motivators might be the fear of gaining weight or developing health issues if you don’t succeed. In this scenario, you can be motivated both to eat right in order to get in shape and to avoid getting out of shape.

Fear motivation is an excellent tool to have in your arsenal. After all, as human beings, we fear many things. By manipulating what we fear and using those fears to our own benefit, we can create powerful sources of motivation and progress.

Think of fear motivation as a way to outsmart your future self. If you know yourself well enough to know what you’re most likely to do in the future, you can use fear motivation (and other motivational methods, as well) to mitigate outcomes that you don’t like. Consider situations like the following:

  • If you want to prevent yourself from gaining weight over the winter, you can plan a beach vacation during the summer months to inspire you to keep in shape
  • If you’re looking to gain a promotion, you can schedule an extravagant vacation for the end of the year that will only be possible with the help of a pay raise
  • If you’re trying to do new groundbreaking research, plan to do a presentation on said research later to present your results

However, be careful not to set reckless goals with fear motivation. While using fear to motivate yourself is all well and good, putting yourself into impossible or harmful situations can be risky. Don’t plan anything that might significantly impact your life in a negative way.

Power Motivation

The idea of power motivation comes from the idea that people desire control – or power – over their own lives. As such, people will be motivated to do things in order to keep ahold of this power. This can manifest as the desire to control your own life, or alternatively, the lives of those around you, too.

This desire to affect the lives of others can be used for evil. The horrendous events of Nazi Germany sprouted from one man’s desire to control the lives of others. However, despite its negative implications, power motivation has enormous potential for good, as well.

The desire to change others’ lives can be used to bring about a great change in the world for good. As long as the desire is used to foster positive change and not enforce control, the strong motivation to change others can be world-changing. This desire can even be used for great good on a small-scale level, such as by donating money or time to those in need or adopting an orphaned child.

The motivation to power your own life can also be equally good or bad. Having the desire to feel excessive control over your own life can be damaging to yourself. Since not all aspects of life are controllable, no matter how hard we try, trying to enforce this control to extremes can lead to anxiety, fear, and feelings of failure when this control slips.

However, when kept in perspective, the motivation to control the direction of your own life can be supremely powerful. Most healthy human beings have some sort of desire for where they would like their lives to go, whether that’s two years in the future or ten. This desire to shape your own future can be an indispensable tool when recovering from hardship or working hard towards your dreams.

Social Motivation

Humans are extremely social creatures. No matter how introverted you might believe you are, you still require social stimulation on a fundamental level. It is unhealthy for human beings to not receive any social stimulation at all, so naturally, all humans possess some sort of innate social motivation. However, that social motivation can manifest in thousands of different ways, due to the many ways that humans interact and form groups.

Many of our human feelings come from our social motivations. Some examples of these are:

  • The desire for connection
  • The desire for acceptance
  • The need to belong
  • The desire to be admired or well-liked

Social motivation, or affiliation motivation, is a bit of a mystery to scientists still. This is because our individual needs for affiliation can differ very widely – just as much as our choices in friends can vary. Some people need high amounts of social stimulation, while others can suffer social fatigue from the same amount.

However, despite how much it can vary between people, psychology tells us that all humans have this innate need to be happy. This social motivation can be something as simple as loving our close friends and family, or it can be something as significant as a desire to help the world.

Arousal Motivation

The arousal theory of motivation states that each person has a certain level of stimulation that motivates them. According to the theory, if this level of arousal – in psychology, this means attentiveness or mental alertness – isn’t met properly, people can become unmotivated, stressed, or disillusioned.

Think about a worker at a company who suffers from an overload of stressful work. This high level of stress can quickly cause burnout and other health conditions, and it is not an ideal working condition. However, in the same way, if a worker is given too little to do or too many menial tasks, they may become bored, unmotivated, or distracted. The key is to find the right level for each person.

Since different people handle different amounts of arousal and stress differently, this works out for the best in business and other ventures. However, finding this level is the key, and it can take a bit of trial and error to find that sweet spot.

Additionally, this spot can change by the day; if you’ve had a particularly stressful or tiring day, you might feel like relaxing for the rest of the day, but if you’ve had a short, easy day, you might feel up to going to the gym or taking a long walk.

This also explains why different types of hobbies appeal to different people. Different people enjoy different genres of TV shows, videogames, and music, just as people enjoy different types of social interaction. People tend to gravitate towards what best hits their arousal “sweet spot” that day. Some examples of this phenomenon at work might include:

  • A thrill-seeker enjoying horror movies or other exciting genres
  • A calm individual preferring happy or romantic movies
  • A social individual liking comedy shows or funny movies
  • An intellectual person liking documentaries and mystery movies

It’s possible to change your arousal threshold over time, too. Just as someone rising through the ranks in a company will develop the ability to handle more stress as they excel, so too can someone in a normal situation if they take the proper measures. It’s never good to overburden yourself with stress or aim too low and bore yourself, but pushing yourself to improve little by little can eventually yield measurable desirable results.

Expectancy Motivation

Expectancy theory follows what’s said in its name: we’re motivated by the outcomes we expect to result from a given situation. For example, if we believe we’re going to get an A on a test, we’ll be motivated to study and secure that A. However, if we feel discouraged and think we’ll fail that test no matter what, the desire to study might be low because it feels like a fruitless venture.

The expectancy theory of motivation is tied inexplicably to the likelihood of receiving the reward that you have in mind. A gambler, for example, might feel very motivated to continue gambling because they firmly believe that they’ll receive their money back once they win big. In the same situation, someone who’s not a gambler might be able to show restraint once they lose a small amount of money.

The expectancy theory of motivation relates particularly well to the workplace. If an employee believes that they have opportunities to advance, receive pay raises, and rise through the ranks of the business, they’ll likely be motivated to work hard and achieve that result. However, if the likelihood that they’ll be able to advance is low, they will suffer from a lack of motivation in the same measure.

Expectancy motivation can sometimes backfire in our everyday lives, despite our best intentions. This is because, despite how social we are, we as humans come from many different backgrounds and walks of life. Something that one person might expect to come out of a given situation might never have entered the mind of another person who was raised differently.

As such, expectancy motivation is an excellent way to keep yourself moving towards your goals and desires, but it’s always important to keep these expectations in check. If you expect things that don’t align with your situation or with reality, as the compulsive gambler does, then you will end up being disappointed or in potentially worse trouble.

Equity Motivation

Equity motivation is the “morality” area of motivation. When people are fueled by equity motivation, they are propelled by a sense of fairness or rightness. This can apply to fairness directed towards you, or fairness directed towards others.

For example, if an employee sees blatant favoritism shown in their workplace, they might feel disheartened and unmotivated because of the unfairness of the situation. They might not be receiving the recognition that they deserve due to the favoritism showed to other workers.

Even if an employee in a workplace is the one who is shown favoritism, that favoritism might still be demotivating. If the employee believes they won’t be at fault no matter what they do, for example, they might begin slacking off in their duties or skipping work because they know they won’t be punished. This is one of the reasons why fairness in places like the workplace is so important.

The fairness of the world at large can become disheartening for us, too, if we allow ourselves to dwell on it too much. Some of us might feel like it’s not fair that we’re well-off when others are less fortunate. However, instead of dwelling on thoughts like this, it’s best that we harness our other sources of motivation to change things for the better instead!

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