What Is Motivation and Why It Is Important

Motivation is something that we all have in common. We’ve all felt motivated at one time or another in our lives. However, motivation remains a bit of a mysterious thing. Sometimes we feel like we have a handle on our motivation, and other times we feel like motivation is completely out of our reach.

Without motivation, we can feel a bit like a riverbed that has long since run dry. Inspiration, hard work, and creativity grew along the riverbank at one point, but without a steady flow of motivation, everything feels derelict and uninspired. That’s why it’s so crucial to learn how to harness motivation for ourselves and make it work for us.

Making motivation to work for us isn’t always possible. Despite our best efforts, there are sometimes things that we just can’t get motivated about. However, learning as much as we can about what motivation is, what motivates us, and why it’s important can help us get the most out of a bad situation.

What Is Motivation?

Motivation is what helps us both start and continue doing things that help us reach our goals. When we’re thirsty, for example, we’re motivated to get a drink. When we’re hungry, we’re motivated to get food and eat. In the same way, when we want more money, we’re motivated to increase our job performance and get promoted. When we experience feelings of wanderlust, we’re motivated to explore the world.

While motivation seems relatively self-explanatory, it can be challenging to put your finger on. This is because motivation is a little bit different for everyone. Different things motivate different people, and everyone feels different levels of motivation. As such, understanding yourself and those around you is the key to unlocking the secrets of motivation.

There are three distinct parts that make up motivation and these parts help determine how strong our motivation is, what it’s directed towards, and how unique it is to us. These three parts are:

  • Motives
  • Goals
  • Behavior

Those three parts make up the motivation process for every human being. We’ll dive into this process more below.


Every voluntary human behavior comes from a motive. Essentially, our motives come from our wants and needs. We have a food motive and a thirst motive, as well as biological motives like the urges to procreate and form bonds with others. In the same way, what we want becomes a motive, too. Many of us have money motives, motives for free time, and motives for love, just to name a few.

The point of a motive is to prompt a person to take action. For example, if you find a new product that you want, such as a new videogame, purse, or car, that can motivate you to earn more money. If the lawn outside your house is looking bedraggled, the shame that that can cause might motivate you to mow your lawn.

Now, keep in mind that not everything we do starts with a motive. For example, we all grow hair, but this doesn’t come from a motive – we do it naturally. If we don’t have control over behavior, it’s not linked to a motive.  We don’t need a motive for our hearts to beat or our brains to think, for example.


Goals are what motives help you move towards. For example, if you’re hungry, your goal is to eat. If you’re thirsty, your goal is to drink. If you’re cold at night, your goal is to grab a blanket. However, not all goals need to be simple. Goals can come from a simple motive, like hunger, or goals can be the compound product of many motives. For example:

  • If you live with your family and your goal is to move out, your motives might be to get a job, purchase a car, and buy a house
  • The goal of selling your house might be influenced by the motivation to move to a new town and find your dream home
  • Your goal might be to rescue and adopt a dog, but your motivations might be because you like dogs and because you believe rescuing animals is a worthy cause

In the same way, one motive can relate to multiple goals. The following examples illustrate this phenomenon at work.

  • The hunger motive might spur goals of making dinner or going to the supermarket
  • The motive to advance at work could inspire goals of being promoted or finding a higher position at a different company
  • The need for transportation could lead you to finding a carpool or to buying your own vehicle

When we have a motive, it means that something inside us or in our lives is off balance. Our goals exist to help us restore that balance and get our lives back to a comfortable state.


Motives and goals work together to help shape our behaviors. Behavior is what we do to achieve the goals we set. Behaviors are not only motivated by our goals, but also by our feelings, and our feelings are determined by our motives and the imbalances in our bodies at the time. Essentially, with the help of behaviors, the motivation process works as follows: motives > goals > behaviors. This can also be written as need > motivation > action.

The motivation process is cyclical because behaviors can sometimes cause further imbalances in our body, creating more motives. For example, if we drink a lot of water because we’re thirsty, we may end up having to go to the bathroom. The motivation to go to the bathroom is then created, and we eventually behave by using the bathroom, smoothing out that imbalance.

Motivation Levels

It’s important to note that, as we said at the beginning of this article, different people experience different levels of motivation to do different tasks. For example, someone who is very much into exercising might feel highly motivated to get out and jog on a daily basis, regardless of how high the temperature is outside.

Someone who doesn’t exercise much, though, would likely have very little interest in exercising early in the morning, especially on a hot, unpleasant day. This situation illustrates the difference between the motivation levels in these two people. Whereas both humans are equally capable of exercising if they desire to, one feels far more motivated to do so. The former person might even have goals and dreams built around exercising, such as participating in marathons and other activities, while the latter person most likely does not.

Having different motivation levels than someone else is not something to be ashamed of. In fact, this is perfectly okay. Our different levels in motivation and drive result in setting different goals, which differentiates us as unique and separate people. If we all had the same levels of motivation about the same things, we would all be essentially the same person.

However, regardless of what you choose, you need to be motivated about something. Without motivation, we get nowhere in life. Motivation is what prompts us to get from point A to point B, to achieve our goals, and to move our lives forward. A passionless, motivation-less individual has no prospects in life and no future.

If you feel like you’re without motivation, though, don’t give up yet! Motivation can be found in many different places. Many people find that they’re motivated by their family and their children, but this isn’t required. You can also be motivated by yourself, those around you, or even material things. You can even choose a combination of many things to motivate you or many separate and unrelated things.

Why Is Motivation Important?

Like we talked about above, motivation is an essential part of our development as human beings. Without motivation, we have no way of making forward progress. You can have all the goals and dreams you could ever want, but without motivation, they will only ever remain as goals and dreams.

You might feel a lack of motivation if you can relate to the following:

  • Feeing unwilling or unable to get out of bed
  • Feeling like what you’re put through at work isn’t worth the paycheck you receive
  • You feel unhappy with where your life is at the moment, but you don’t know why
  • You want to find a change in your life, but you don’t know where to start

However, if you are lacking motivation, don’t lose hope. We all lack motivation at different points in our lives.

Motivation is the lifeblood of improvement and betterment. Without the motivation required to achieve our goals and dreams, we would never see them through. The effort required would outweigh the benefits in nearly every situation. Motivation makes us pursue these goals and dreams in spite of the things barring us from completion, and that’s why it’s so important.

As far as concrete reasons why motivation is important, there are many, and they vary widely. We go into these reasons in-depth below.

Motivation Identifies Goals

Motivation is instrumental in helping us define what’s most important to us. Sometimes, we may not be aware of what we truly want or need before we feel motivated to reach it. The awareness that something is important to us can sometimes appear seemingly spontaneously, out of nowhere.

These motivators can be both positive and negative. When something negative happens in your life, you might be motivated to make a change and bring your life back into equilibrium. In the same way, when something positive happens, you might feel motivated to make these positive things happen more often. In either scenario, these motivators help bring about positive changes in your life.

Motivation Makes You Prioritize

Motivation forces you to prioritize the things you want to do around the things you need to do. While motivation is excellent, sometimes you feel motivated to do something that falls below other things in importance. Under these circumstances, motivation is a useful tool for learning how to prioritize and distribute time between different activities.

There is only so much that one can do in one day. You have limited energy, limited time, and (in most cases) limited money, so what you spend those resources on needs to be carefully considered. When you’re motivated to complete something or reach some goal, you might find yourself working harder to fit it into your schedule and becoming more creative with your time as a result.

Motivation Makes You Act

Actions speak louder than words. Anyone can say that they will do something, but only some people will follow through on what they say. Motivation, however, forces you to act. Motivation makes you want to work hard for the things you dream of and yearn for. Motivation is the key that turns ideas and dreams into reality.

Motivation makes an especially large difference on days when you really don’t feel like working towards your goals. On those days, the people who are motivated will separate themselves from those who are not. Motivation helps to push you through the hardest times and keep you on the path towards realizing your dreams and goals.

Motivation Helps You Overcome

Motivation is a powerful thing. Even when setbacks happen, when obstacles appear in front of you, and when you end up taking more steps back than you do forward, motivation helps you stand back up again and keep fighting. Without the motivation to achieve something great, we would never keep trying when we fail.

Any goal worth achieving will require facing some sort of adversity; there’s no way around this. Whether you give up here or keep on going is determined by the strength of your motivation and your determination.  Below are some examples of people who overcame adversity to achieve their goals and dreams:

  • Bill Gates’ first business venture was a failure
  • Jim Carrey was homeless
  • Steven King’s first book was rejected by publishers 30 times
  • Thomas Edison’s first 1,000 prototype lightbulbs failed to work
  • Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting before his death

The point here is that everyone fails, and the most successful people fail, fail again, and sometimes even fail thousands of times before they succeed. The only reason we find success through adversity is that we have motivation on our side.

Motivation Keeps You on Track

Your biggest goals will require time and effort to complete. It’s very easy to lose sight of the end when it feels years and years away. It’s imperative to keep these end goals in mind, even when they feel far away, just like the famous people in the above section did.

When you’re motivated to do something, it becomes a priority even if it’s complicated. For example, you really, really might not feel like going to work when the weekend is over, but you’re also motivated to earn money for food, shelter, and other necessities. As such, your motivation to secure these wants and needs keeps you from deviating from your ideal path too much.

Motivation Promotes Growth

Every time you motivate yourself to accomplish a goal, or even when you fail, you grow a bit as a person. With each goal you accomplish, you feel a bit more prepared to fight for your goals the next time. With each time you fail, you’ll be better prepared to handle or avoid failure.

Each success that you reach with the power of motivation will motivate you to go a little further next time. As people, we are always striving to learn more, gain more, and achieve more. This helps us to find personal growth that can sometimes elude us.

Motivation Energizes

The fascinating thing about motivation is that it can be cyclical. When we work hard and accomplish one of our goals through hard work and grit, it motivates us even more. We might need a bit of a break to recharge between big projects, but the feeling of accomplishing something on our own merit is a powerful one. It works to energize us, helping us to accomplish even more things.

Think about how you feel when you are really motivated and inspired to work on a passion project. You feel excited and full of energy. Sometimes, we can feel like we don’t even need sleep for want of working on our project. On the other hand, when we’re forced to work through something dry, as required reading for school or work, we struggle to get through it and feel exhausted easily.

Motivation Builds Confidence

Self-confidence is a self-limiting factor. Those who have little self-confidence are less willing to take risks, and as such, will see less success. In the same way, those who have an abundance of self-confidence are more willing to risk going through difficult endeavors. They also have a higher tolerance for failure, so they’re more willing to risk failure in the pursuit of success.

In order to build self-confidence, it’s vital that motivated people to work on taking some risks and work towards higher confidence levels. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should quit your day job and pursue your dreams, but you may want to consider the idea or even test some fledgling business practices. Taking on so much that you cause yourself undue stress and anxiety are counterproductive, too.

Motivation typically builds the most confidence towards risk-taking and increased responsibility, but it can also contribute to areas such as:

  • Social confidence
  • Capability confidence
  • Leadership confidence
  • Willingness to fail

Motivation Is Contagious

Fortunately for us, motivation can actually be contagious. When we see someone else around us working hard and achieving their goals, some of that motivation can be passed on to us. This is especially true in workplace environments where it might be a coworker working hard and being recognized for that hard work. This efficacy works even more in team environments.

This motivation can spread to others and influence them to work hard in any number of environments. Some examples of these include:

  • Environments when many people work together as a team
  • When people are competing against one another
  • Places where many peers are working together towards a common goal
  • Any situation where large groups of people are working together, whether on similar jobs or different jobs

When we see someone else who seems similar to us working hard and excelling in life, we start to get the idea that we can do the same. This is useful because, well, we can do the same. We always have the choice to work hard, stay motivated, and just generally excel in life, even if we don’t always feel like it.

Motivation Boosts Performance

Working on a task that you’re motivated to complete is an excellent way to create a better product and boost your overall performance. While it’s not always possible to be motivated for everything we do, good business practices at work, smart working strategies at home, and an awareness of your own motivational tics can all help boost your performance.

Setting up small rewards for yourself is an excellent way to keep yourself motivated through tough work. Studies have shown that the best way to maintain your pace and the quality of your work when the going gets tough is to give yourself small breaks throughout.

The same is true for staying motivated! By treating yourself with little rewards along the way, you can look forward to smaller “checkpoints” instead of worrying about sprinting to the goal at the very end.

Motivation Promotes Happiness

When you motivate yourself to achieve a new goal, you inevitably feel happier. This happiness boost is two-fold: you get satisfaction from working towards improving yourself, and you also get the satisfaction of fulfilling your goals. Every time you set a goal and then achieve it through hard work, you get the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished something amazing on your own merit.

Success is the root of motivation. If we don’t believe we have any chance for success, we won’t be motivated to do something. While failure can be beneficial as well, it’s not as integral to motivation as success is. And, by default, success makes us happy. Failure, in most cases, does not make us happy, regardless of whether we learn something from it or not.

An excellent way to utilize the happiness-boosting properties of motivation is to break your large goals into smaller challenges. For example, if your dream is to be promoted at work, make your goal for the week to get one more project done than you usually do.

If this doesn’t work for you, try working an extra hour or two over the course of the week instead. Breaking your large goals into small goals that you can achieve frequently keeps your motivation and happiness high, while still letting you work towards your biggest dreams and goals.

Motivation Teaches Time-Management

When we’re motivated to do something, we are forced to work it into our schedules, even if we’re already very busy. We explored this a little earlier in the article, but being motivated to accomplish something is an excellent way to teach yourself a lesson in time management.

Managing your time well is a skill that is learned with time, and it’s a skill that is constantly evolving based on the tasks we need to manage. As such, by engaging in a large number of tasks over time, you’re teaching yourself how to manage your time more and more effectively.

Motivation Enhances Commitment

When you’re motivated to do something, you put more time and effort into it than you would in something that you have just a passing interest in. As such, when you’re motivated by something, you’re committed to it. Just as Edison was so committed to creating a working lightbulb that he created one thousand prototypes, your motivation to work hard and see something through won’t let you walk away from it easily.

Motivation and commitment can work well together in the reverse, too. When you feel committed to something, such as a worthy cause or a long-held dream, it can restore your motivation even when you’re feeling down and worn-out.

Imagine that you feel committed to getting a promotion at work, for example. Even when work has worn you out, that commitment will help prevent you from being lax in your duties and will keep you doing the best that you can.


Motivation is a very useful thing, and it’s also extremely important. We really can’t live without motivation. We could try, and we could probably survive, but we wouldn’t be very good at it. We certainly wouldn’t have made it to where we are today without the power of motivation backing us up.

However, motivation is also wonderful because it’s very much within our grasp. Even though motivation can feel hard to understand sometimes, it’s something that we can manipulate for our own purposes and turn into an immensely helpful tool. The key to making our motivation work for us is to learn about it, understand it, and work with it.

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