Understanding Individual Motivation

Understanding Individual Motivation

Part of our work here is to distill these larger, more global concepts into something that we can directly apply to our lives. It makes no difference if we understand the idea of motivation but don’t see how it plays a role in our individual experiences, does it? And so much of the research we have on motivation tells us that our personal motivation and drivers are as unique and individual as we are.


An interesting connection arises between the idea of motivation and emotion; on first pass, they may seem like two different concepts, when in reality, they’re different iterations of the same thing. In fact, both of these words are rooted in the latin root movere, or “to move.” An emotion is something we experience after an event—a big win, connecting with a loved one, a tragedy, etc.—that motivates us towards a behavior in reaction. This connection has all sorts of implications; emotions are linked with the physical reactions we feel in our body (like a quickened pulse), with the next steps we take in a sequence of events, and with our overall sense of wellbeing. You can’t have motivation without emotion, or emotion without motivation. (Even if it is a lack of motivation—motivation remains part of the equation.)


We also know that some people have higher levels of motivation than others, or respond to the extrinsic/intrinsic motivation dichotomy differently than others. There are truly too many various studies on this concept to concisely summarize the findings in digestible data, but what we do understand from these studies is that people on one end of the personality spectrum will have dramatically different motivations than someone on the other end of the personality spectrum. Think extroverts vs. introverts: how do they each react to social situations? Are introverts as motivated to seek out human connection as someone with more extroverted qualities? Obviously not, as evidenced by the deep and abiding relationship I have with my cat and no one else.