Last Updated: February 21, 2024

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Learn more about motivation: how people become and stay motivated, the types of inspiration, and ways to develop and improve self-actualization, self-determination and self-efficacy.

What is Motivation?

Motivation is derived from the word 'motive,’ which encompasses the needs, desires or drives that propel an individual to accomplish tasks and goals. Motivation is essentially the presence of stimulation that gets people to act.

Motivation drives an individual’s actions, willingness, and desire to accomplish a goal or reward. It causes people to make decisions and set goals. But above all, motivation is why they follow through with the actions that allow them to accomplish their goals. Motivation is the inner voice that keeps individuals on track to achieve their goals, even when doing so is challenging.

Motivation is a powerful force and significant factor in life’s journey that results from the basic human need to become self-aware, grow and develop. The strength of motivation an individual feels impacts how likely they are to change behaviors and habits to accomplish their goals.

However, many factors contribute to an individual's overall motivation to reach the goal or benchmark set out for them. How much motivation an individual experiences is influenced by how clear one wants the goal, what they will gain once reaching the goal, and what they will lose from not achieving the goal are common examples of contributing factors to motivation.

Why is Motivation Important?

Human motivation, compared to other animals, is interesting because it helps people set specific goals for themselves. It also helps them solve problems, change old habits and cope with challenges and opportunities they come across daily.

It plays an important part in individuals’ lives as it pushes them to pursue passions, seek out relationships and set high expectations for personal endeavors. Motivation is a pathway to change human behavior, feeling and thinking. It reflects something distinctive about each individual and allows them to obtain valuable checkpoints in personal wellness, such as gaining a sense of purpose in life, enhancing mental and physical wellbeing, improving interpersonal relationships and striving for productivity in work settings.

Motivation also gives individuals many valuable insights into human nature, explaining why humans set goals, strive for achievements and power and also about psychological intimacy and experiencing emotions (fear, anger, and compassion).

When motivated, it is easier to make poignant decisions to become closer to achieving said goal. Motivation helps an individual focus on what needs to be done instead of becoming distracted or bored. Motivation can help individuals' self-determination by allowing them to identify the forces acting within them and learn what makes them the most motivated so that they may reach their goals or desire in life.

Types of Motivation 

The different types of motivation are intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, family motivation and achievement motivation.

Intrinsic Motivation (Internal Motivation)

Intrinsic motivations arise within the individual from an internal desire to perform a specific task or achieve a specific benchmark of success or reward. Intrinsic motivation refers to when individuals do something for the sake of it because it aligns with their interests, passions, belief system or personal values and the importance attached to it.

Intrinsically motivated individuals work hard without needing external stimuli to drive them toward a particular behavior. Internal rewards fuel these motivators. The knowledge and satisfaction that someone is following their passions in life is a common and strong intrinsic motivator. Intrinsic motivators can keep an individual focused on a goal for a long time as they are stronger and less susceptible to outside interference.

An individual’s deep-rooted desires have the highest motivational power. These desires usually include the need or want for acceptance, curiosity, order, the achievement of honor, independence, power, social contact and social status.

Extrinsic Motivation (External Motivation)

Extrinsic motivation arises from factors outside of an individual. It involves extrinsic rewards (external rewards) from behavior or success of the goal, such as praise or validation from peers or superiors, academic validation, social recognition and acceptance, and physical rewards in the form of money or trophies of success.

The differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators lie within the driving force behind why an individual wants to achieve their goals. Intrinsically motivated individuals usually engage in activities based on interest, satisfaction or joy. In contrast, in extrinsic motivation, the goal is an outcome different from the activity.

An important thing to make clear is that extrinsic motivators or external rewards are usually temporary. When humans are offered an immediate reward, feelings of success and motivation are felt, but only in the short term. These extrinsic rewards tend to diminish in value over time, meaning that they may not be useful motivators for the same individual in the future. Depending on this type of motivation can cause dissatisfaction in most people once the goal has been met since their reward.   

Family Motivation

Some research suggests that family motivation is a third type of motivation. Motivation can take various forms within the family context, including intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Intrinsic motivation stems from personal values, passions, and a sense of purpose, while extrinsic motivation arises from external rewards or pressures.

Family motivation provides outstanding support and encouragement, fostering a sense of belonging and connection. Family motivations fuel individuals with a deep sense of purpose and drive. Whether through affectionate relationships, shared values, or the desire to provide for and drive.

People tend to feel motivated by Family or by people closely related because of the position family takes as both an intrinsic and extrinsic motivator. The want to help or support a family can come from an intrinsically motivating internal drive to see your loved ones thrive and from external motivating factors that benefit the individual from the success of a family unit.

Achievement Motivation

Achievement motivation is dependent on the constant thought of achieving the goal without consideration of an external reward upon completion. Rather, this motivation relies on the actual completion of the goal as the reward itself. Other types of motivation include power motivation, learning motivation, attitude motivation, incentive motivation, social motivation and fear motivation.

Components of Motivation

There are three major components of motivation: activation, persistence and intensity. The three components cover the aspects of behavior that are the driving forces behind an individual’s motivation and determine the motivation levels an individual feels.


Activation is defined as an individual’s decision to start a behavior. An example of activation is enrolling in a specific course to obtain one’s degree. The activation component of motivation is a vital element in understanding the driving force behind human behavior.

Activation refers to initiating and energizing behavior, which propels individuals toward their goals. Activation involves the physiological and psychological processes that stimulate individuals to take action. It encompasses the mental and physical energy arousal necessary to engage in activities and pursue objectives.

The six types of motivation, including achievement, power, and affiliation, can activate individuals based on their unique needs and desires. By understanding the different types of motivation, individuals can tap into specific triggers that activate their drive and propel them toward success.

Increasing self-motivation is crucial in optimizing activation, highlighting techniques such as setting goals, cultivating positive habits, and maintaining a growth mindset. Understanding the multifaceted nature of activation and employing strategies to enhance self-motivation can significantly impact an individual's overall wellbeing and success.


Persistence involves continued hard work and effort toward the initial task despite facing obstacles at certain stages/points. An example of persistence is regularly attending class despite being tired or intimidated by the material. The persistence component of motivation is a crucial aspect that determines the endurance and steadfastness of individuals in pursuing their goals.

Persistence refers to maintaining effort and staying committed despite challenges or setbacks. It involves the sustained application of energy and resources toward a particular objective. It is closely linked to intrinsic motivation, which arises from internal factors such as personal interests and values.

The role of achievement motivation in fostering persistence is strong, as individuals strive for personal growth and the satisfaction of accomplishing their goals. Increasing self-motivation contributes to persistence. Techniques such as visualization, self-reflection, and seeking support from others can help foster the ability to persevere. Cultivating a growth mindset and maintaining a positive outlook can also enhance persistence in facing obstacles.

Understanding and nurturing the persistence component of motivation is essential for individuals to overcome struggles or roadblocks, maintain focus, and ultimately achieve long-term success.


Intensity refers to individuals' vigor and concentration to pursue their goals or tasks. It represents the degree of focus and enthusiasm toward a particular task or objective. Intensity encompasses individuals' drive and determination, which can vary across different situations and tasks.

An example of high-intensity behavior is a student who attends regular classes, participates in discussions with the professor regularly and takes advantage of opportunities outside the classroom to gain the reward of good grades. In contrast with the expected behavior of other students, this continual attention to the material of this particular class makes this student’s intensity high.

The degree of all these components impacts whether an individual can achieve their desired goal. Strong activation means that individuals are more likely to set and pursue goals. At the same time, intensity and persistence determine how much effort individuals dedicate to fulfilling that goal.

Both intrinsic and extrinsic factors can influence intensity. Intrinsic motivation, driven by personal interests and values, can fuel a high level of intensity as individuals find deep satisfaction and enjoyment in their endeavors. Conversely, extrinsic motivation, such as rewards or recognition, can amplify intensity by providing external incentives for high effort.

There are various types of motivation, including growth motivation, where individuals are motivated by the opportunity for personal development and continuous improvement. This intrinsic motivation type can lead to high-intensity efforts as individuals strive to reach their full potential. Enhancing self-motivation is key to intensifying effort. 

This improvement can include setting clear goals, maintaining a positive mindset, and seeking inspiration from role models or mentors. By nurturing intensity, individuals can channel their energy and focus into their pursuits, maximizing their potential for achievement and success.

Theories of Motivation

Various psychological theories have been proposed to explain the motivation behind human behavior. Below are a few theories that explain motivation.

Drives and Needs

The drive reduction theory of motivation states that individuals are the most motivated by the need to fulfill their basic biological desires, including food, water and sleep.

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory is based on an individual's need to fulfill basic physiological needs before expanding to psychological desires. Once physiological needs are met, the focus shifts to others, including security and safety, social needs, self-actualization and self-esteem.


The instinct theory suggests that human instincts motivate individual behaviors as well. Instincts are inborn or fixed behavioral patterns. Psychologists including Sigmund Freud, William McDougal and William James propose that basic human instincts that drive and motivate behavior are critical for an organism's survival, including love, safety, fear and cleanliness.

Arousal Theory

The arousal theory of motivation states that individuals are self-motivated to engage in behaviors that allow them to maintain the optimal arousal level—individuals with lower arousal need to pursue relaxing hobbies, including walking and reading. In contrast, those with high arousal needs are motivated to engage in thrill-seeking and exciting behaviors like car racing.

Herzeberg’s Two-Factor Theory

The two-factor theory proposed by Frederick Herzberg states that specific motivators lead to job satisfaction in the workplace. In contrast, other factors, known as hygiene factors, can lead to job dissatisfaction if they are absent. The presence of hygiene factors will not improve job satisfaction. However, their absence can lead to lower motivation and job satisfaction.

Motivating factors or satisfiers include responsibility, growth, advancement, recognition, work and achievement. Dissatisfiers or hygiene factors include working conditions, personal life, salary, job security, status, policy, supervision and interpersonal relations.

Building employee motivation means building new habits, setting up a reward system and finding individual motivators that lead to job satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

Characteristics of Motivation

Motivation is essential to the reasons for people's needs, desires and actions. It has the following unique characteristics and features.

Continuous Process

Motivation is a never-ending and continuous journey. Because human desires, wishes, or wants are endless and cannot be satisfied by completing one need in one moment. The process is dynamic and ever-changing; as individuals live and grow, so do their motivations. 

Need-Satisfying Process

An unsatisfied need creates tension within a person’s motivation center that stimulates drive. These drives generate a search for behavior that will satisfy the need and reduce tension, thus increasing motivation.

Dynamic Process

Motivation is a dynamic and complex activity within a person’s psyche. It is deeply connected to human behavior that is never static, changing continuously as an individual’s physical and emotional needs change through processes of life and development.

Psychological Concept

The concept of motivation is mostly psychological. It relies on forces operating within the individual that compel them to act, or not to act, in certain ways. Whether or not an individual recognizes these actions as beneficial or detrimental to their wellbeing is determined by what motivates their actions and the goals, or lack thereof, in their life.

Energizing Force

It is the process that energizes or encourages individuals to put in the effort to achieve organizational goals and satisfy their needs, driving their motivation to attain the set goals.

Goal-directed behavior

Motivation leads to an action that is goal-oriented as it leads to accomplishing organizational goals and satisfying personal needs.

Positive or negative

Motivation can be positive or negative. Positive motivation (the carrot approach) offers rewards such as appreciation, promotion, and status. Negative motivation (stick approach) emphasizes penalties, fines and punishments.

Ways to Improve Motivation

Everyone experiences fluctuations in their motivation and willpower. At some point, individuals feel highly motivated, driven, and fired up. While at other times, they may lack motivation and are unsure that they have the drive to attain the goals they set out for themselves. Luckily, they can develop strategies to help increase their drive and motivation.

Staying motivated and improving motivation can be achieved by setting realistic and attainable goals to benefit an individual’s livelihood. Breaking these goals into more manageable, smaller steps can make pursuing and achieving them easier while building confidence in the individual’s ability to set and achieve a goal.

Setting unattainable goals makes an individual feel overwhelmed and unmotivated to achieve their goal. Breaking down the goals into small steps can help increase motivation by setting the individual up for long-term success.

Another important way to improve motivation is to acknowledge and celebrate successes. This practice boosts confidence and is critical for motivation. If individuals are confident in their abilities, they believe in themselves to realize goals that may have previously seemed out of reach. They can utilize their skills and abilities to accomplish a task or goal that they have set.

When individuals feel insecure about their abilities, focusing on accomplishments reminds individuals of their past achievements. Reflecting on these achievements can help individuals track their progress, limit self-doubt and help them identify their strengths. Once individuals identify their strengths, they feel energized, charged and motivated. 

Lastly, accepting and facing challenges and identifying improvements and weaknesses that one can work on also allows individuals to feel more capable and skilled, resulting in positive outcomes and greater motivation.


Different motivation theories describe various forces that direct and guide human motivation, and different motivators work for everyone. Understanding motivation is critical in all areas of life as it helps individuals pursue and set the right goals and increase one's motivation.

Several factors that can inhibit or hurt one's motivation include all-or-nothing thinking, believing that everything must be achieved quickly and that the same approach/method of achieving goals works for all.

Therefore, the ultimate goal is for individuals to recognize the reason for their motivations or lack thereof, to work on their goals or improve motivation. A persistent lack of motivation is also connected to mental health conditions like depression. Therefore if individuals feel a low mood, motivation or apathy lasting for more than two weeks, it is important to talk to a healthcare professional.


Motivation: The Driving Force Behind Our Actions 

Types of Motivation - Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 

9 Types of Motivation to Make Your Goals Happen - LifeHack 

7 Powerful Ways to Increase Self-Motivation - Thrive Global 

Motivation - Wikipedia


The contents of this article are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any health-related changes or if you have any questions or concerns about your health. Anahana is not liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences that may occur from the use of the information provided.