Understanding Motivation and the Unique Sources Driving Individual Behavior

Sources of Motivation

Sources of Motivation

Motivation is the driving force behind behavior. For an individual to act, one must be motivated to perform the desired action. Human behavior is not always impetuous; actions are usually induced by a multitude of factors influencing corresponding actions. The sources of motivation can be internal or external, but motivation has to exist to prompt reacting behaviors to reach satisfaction or the desired outcome. So what motivates us? Motives are internal predispositions created to encourage the individual to move or back away from an anticipated incentive, and the incentives are what people work to achieve (Deckers, 2004). The relationship between motivation and behavior is what determines a person’s behavior, and how the individual chooses to act, relies upon the motivation involved. This hub will discuss the definition of motivation, the sources of motivation, and the relationships between motivation and behavior.


In life, people do not usually act without some sort of desired outcome. Dating back to the ancient sources of philosophy, Greek philosophers based their reasoning off the bases of the greater good; people act for the pursuit of happiness and for the avoidance of pain (Deckers, 2004). To seek happiness and to avoid pain can now be classified as the basics of motivation; the internal motives and the external incentives to create the driving force determining behavior. Accordingly to Deckers (2004), “to be motivated is to be moved into action,” a force determining or encouraging corresponding behaviors (p. 2).

Motivation induces behavior by internal needs, wants and desires to reach a rewarding incentive, but it also requires energy and the knowledge to perform. Cognitive knowledge allows an individual to balance and weigh out the motives, and permits the behavior to happen; without knowledge of how to perform, one would not be able to carry out the behavior adequately. Then, competence is also crucial to physically perform the desired behavior to reach the ending goal. So what causes us to become motivated in the first place? Motivation moves people into action, and the motives and incentives can stem from many different sources.

Sources of Motivation

In order for behavior to be initiated, one must be motivated to do so. Motivation is built upon a motive and an incentive to either pursue pleasure or to avoid pain. The motives behind a person’s motivation is the internal predispositions created, the desires, impulses, instincts, and needs forcing a person towards a desired incentive. The incentive is what the individual is working towards, the reward at the end of the goal. The relationship between the motive and the incentive is the driving force behind the resulting behavior. The goal of an individual’s created motive is to reach the desired incentive in the external environment (Deckers, 2004).

Sources of motivation can be internal or external, based solely on the specific situation and individual. According to the work of Leonard, Beauvais, and Scholl (1999), it “points to three sources of motivation: intrinsic process motivation, motivation based on goal internalization, and extrinsic or instrumental motivation” (para. 6). The intrinsic motivations are influenced from the pleasurable enjoyment received from performing a certain behavior, the motivation from goal internalization is stemmed from the adaptation of goals congruent with personal value systems, and the extrinsic motivation can be influenced by external rewards (Leonard, Beauvais, & Scholl, 1999).

The external rewards are the incentives one is trying obtain by the selected behavior. For example, a student goes to school to receive a diploma, and an employee goes to work to obtain the monetary gain. The relationship between motivation and behavior is determined by the motivating influences, and the individual’s beliefs will “determine their level of motivation, as reflected in how much effort they will exert in an endeavor and how long they will persevere in the face of obstacles” (Zulkosky, 2009, p. 101).Motivation can be exhibited in behavior as a sequence of events (Deckers, 2004). A person begins with a choice, a personal decision to select a motive or incentive to reach personal satisfaction. Next, a person must be motivated to perform the required behavior to reach the desired motive or incentive. This certain step requires the sources of motivation to be strong enough to influence corresponding behaviors to carry out and fulfill the ending goal. Then, the person will either reach a point of satisfaction or not at the end of the sequence.

Motivation and Behavior

In the sequence of events, if motivation is exhibited in behavior, one will perform and carry out the necessary behaviors to reach the ending incentive. For example, if a person is motivated by money, he or she will go to work every day and perform adequately, and if a person is motivated by hunger, her or she will go to the fridge and prepare the food to eat. The behavior shows motivation, as the motivation is the driving force to act, to behave accordingly to the corresponding motive chosen. If no motivation was present, one may not work as hard at a job, or further yet, not even make it to work every day. People are motivated everyday by some source, some motive, and some desired incentive; humans do not usually act without some sort of reason behind, and the motivation can be exhibited in the corresponding behavior.

Concluding Summary

People are motivated everyday to behave. Behavior is congruent to the influences and internal desires motivating a person to reach a desired goal. Motivation can be created by a multitude of factors, including internal motives and external incentives. Internal motives are in correspondence to an individual’s interests, desires, needs, and wants and the external incentives can include a variety of pleasurable rewards. Sometimes the rewards can be instant, but on occasion, one will have to choose to sacrifice immediate gratification to obtain a greater satisfaction later on. Motivation is a sequence of events; choice is the first step in weighing out the options between internal motives, next the motivation activates the adequate behavior to fulfill the motive, and lastly one will either reach personal satisfaction at the end, or become disappointed. Motivation becomes unique to each individual, as each specific situation can include a variety of motives and incentives, different personal value systems, and the varying levels of competency and knowledge to initiate corresponding behaviors.


Deckers, L. (2004). Motivation: Biological, psychological, and environmental (2nd ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Leonard, N H, Beauvais, L L, & Scholl, R W (August 1999). Work motivation: the incorporation of self-concept-based processes. Human Relations, 52, 8. p.969(3). Retrieved June 27, 2009, from General OneFile via Gale.

Zulkosky, K. (2009, April). Self-Efficacy: A Concept Analysis. Nursing Forum, 44(2), 93-102. Retrieved June 27, 2009, from Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost.

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