What Is Motivation?
Motivation is the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. It is what causes you to act, whether it is getting a glass of water to reduce thirst or reading a book to gain knowledge.
Motivation involves the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive forces that activate behavior. In everyday usage, the term “motivation” is frequently used to describe why a person does something. It is the driving force behind human actions.
Motivation doesn’t just refer to the factors that activate behaviors; it also involves the factors that direct and maintain these goal-directed actions (though such motives are rarely directly observable). As a result, we often have to infer the reasons why people do the things that they do based on observable behaviors.
There are many different uses for motivation. It serves as a guiding force for all human behavior, but understanding how it works and the factors that may impact it can be important in a number of ways.
Understanding motivation can:
- Help improve the efficiency of people as they work toward goals
- Help people take action
- Encourage people to engage in health-oriented behaviors
- Help people avoid unhealthy or maladaptive behaviors such as risk-taking and addiction
- Help people feel more in control of their lives
- Improve overall well-being and happiness
All people experience fluctuations in their motivation and willpower. Sometimes you might feel fired up and highly driven to reach your goals, while at other times you might feel listless or unsure of what you want or how to achieve it.
Even if you’re feeling low on motivation, there are steps you can take that will keep you moving forward. Some things you can do include:
- Adjust your goals to focus on things that really matter to you
- If you’re tackling something that is just too big or too overwhelming, break it up into smaller steps and try setting your sights on achieving that first step toward progress
- Improve your confidence
- Remind yourself about what you achieved in the past and what where your strengths lie
- If there are things you feel insecure about, try working on making improvements in those areas so that you feel more skilled and capable.
There are a few things you should watch for that might hurt your motivation. These include:
- Quick fixes or all-or-nothing thinking. It’s easy to feel unmotivated if you can’t fix something immediately or if you can’t have it all at once. Remind yourself that reaching your goals takes time.
- Thinking that one size fits all. Just because an approach or method worked for someone else does not mean that it will work for you. If something isn’t helping you reach your goals or is making you feel unmotivated, look for things that will work better for you.
History of Motivation
What are the things that actually motivate us to act? Throughout history, psychologists have proposed different theories to explain what motivates human behavior. The following are some of the major theories of motivation.
The instinct theory of motivation suggests that behaviors are motivated by instincts, which are fixed and inborn patterns of behavior. Psychologists including William James, Sigmund Freud, and William McDougal have proposed a number of basic human drives that motivate behavior. Such instincts might include biological instincts that are important for an organism’s survival such as fear, cleanliness, and love.
Drives and Needs
Many of your behaviors such as eating, drinking, and sleeping are motivated by biology. You have a biological need for food, water, and sleep. Therefore, you are motivated to eat, drink, and sleep. Drive theory suggests that people have basic biological drives and that behaviors are motivated by the need to fulfill these drive.