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Self Motivation, Keeping Yourself on the Right Track

Updated on September 9, 2011

Sources of Motivation


Sources of Motivation

            Motivation is the willingness of an individual to take action. All action is motivated in some way whether it is physical need, emotional need, spiritual need, or intellectual need. Internal and external factors affect the motivation of a person. While all people are responsible for their own actions, understanding a person’s motivation can help to inspire someone to achievements. At the heart of motivation stands the issue that each person is motivated in a different manner. There is not a cure all for global lack of motivation. By understanding the types of motivation and how they work, a person can effectively motivate other people.

Motivation and Behavior

            Behavior is the result of motivation no matter, if the behavior is good or bad. Behavior that is reinforced by the fulfilling of a need or desire, will promote a reoccurring behavior. In many ways a person’s motivation begins to develop in infancy when they are taught that certain behaviors get them what they want or need. A baby who cries will learn that crying will get them food, parental interaction, and a diaper change. While it may seem simple that our behaviors rise from infancy to adulthood, parental responses changes as a child develops their own skills.

            As adults, our behavior is a manifestation of our previous experience in getting what we want or need. As our behaviors are reinforced they become habit. An adult may do the dishes just to avoid contention with an unruly roommate; this would be a negative motivation. Another example would be a wife pressing a husband’s shirt because he is affectionate in his appreciation of her efforts; this would be a positive motivation. Motivations and behavior may start as conscious thoughts but, more often than not we are motivated by the subconscious ideas of what behaviors will get us what we desire or require.

Types of Motivation

            The need for food, clothing, and shelter is a physical or regulatory motivation. To stay alive we require food and a certain measure of shelter. In today’s world the physical need for food, shelter, and clothing is a huge point of motivation. Materialism has brought with it the motivation to have better food, better shelter and better clothing than the next person. This need bleeds over into the emotional motivations since the only reason a person would be motivated to have better things than another is to fill an emotional need to prove they are better than someone.

            Emotionally reinforced motivations cause actions and are fueled by love, hate, desire, acceptance, friendship, loneliness, and other emotions. For most people emotional motivations are taught to them as children. While some people are taught that good behavior brings out actions of love in others, yet other children are taught that they will only gain attention from misbehavior. Regardless of the person, each individual needs a certain amount of emotional interaction with others; this interaction motivates behavior in both positive and negative ways.

            Spiritually motivated actions are not as prevalent in our society today but, should not be overlooked as a need. If a person fasts, pays tithing, does charity work, or continuously attends church then they are being motivated by spiritual need. Regardless of religion, people are motivated to seek spirituality and in doing so, behave in a certain way. The actions of the spiritually motivated by the feeling of spiritual growth they experience.

            Intellectual or purposive motivation drives a person to achieve in both intellectual and societal standing. As people get older they may zone in on specific areas of knowledge that are interesting to them but, most people will continue to learn on some level regardless of their interests. The need to expand intellectually is great motivation for many people. Intellectual motivation may also go hand in hand with physical motivations to obtain the things a person desires such as cars, homes, and clothes.

Motivation and Actions

            Motivation is exhibited in the actions of an individual. Both direct and indirect motivations fuel the actions of individuals. Motivations sequencing maps the progression in which as person steps forward through action. A person with a goal has to complete certain actions to obtain the desired goal or fulfill the motivation. The small step to a goal are indirect since the reward is not yet realized.  A person who works hard to achieve a level of success within a company is exhibiting motivation. That motivation helps that person to get up every day, complete tasks for the company, and move toward the goal. According to Don Harper or the London School of Business, understanding a person’s goal is paramount to helping to motivate that person (Sarah Coles, 2001). Direct motivation occurs when a person is doing a specific action for a specific reward.

Motivation Internal and External

            Internal or self motivation is a person’s drive to complete a task regardless of external factors. Internally motivated people set goals for themselves without the interaction or interference of other people. The actions of self motivated people are often encouraged by self worth or a strong desire to achieve. In the article Motivating Yourself and Others (2009), Ron Willis explained that internal motivation permanent and last through out life.  External motivation is when someone is motivated to action by external conditions such as a reward or threat. The condition for external motivations to continue to be effective is that it must escalate in order to keep people motivated. When a person is externally motivated their actions can change directions from one day to the next. This differs from internally motivated people whose actions are more focused and consistent.


            Andrew Carnegie once said “People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents”. While Carnegie was correct, people are faced with unmotivated individuals everyday in life. Regardless of if the person is a child or an adult; every person can be motivated to action. Knowing if a person is internally or externally motivated and by what, will help to create an environment in which that person can thrive. By looking to the physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual needs of each person great achievements can be brought forth out of every person.









Coles, Sarah. (Oct 2001).Satisfying basic needs: professor Don Harper tells Sarah Coles about      the profound impact of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. He contends that if you want to        motivate your staff then finding the right reward, and offering it for the right behaviour,           doesn't have to be complicated. (Motivation: Interview). Employee Benefits (Oct 2001):          S3(4). General OneFile. Gale. Apollo Library. Retrieved on  June 30,  2009


Willis, Ron. (September 2006).Motivating Yourself, and Others. Masonry    Construction 19.8:

            58(1). General OneFile. Gale. Apollo Library. Retrieved on June 29,2009 from             <>..


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