Motivation is our desire to achieve a goal. What exactly cultivates our desire to do things is the interesting question. What motivates you to get things done? There are six different theories that cultivates motivation according to a psychology Today post by Susan Krauss Whitbourne PH.D. I will go through each one down below.

1.Instinct Theory-The oldest theory on motivation. This theory states that our motivation is instinctual and biological. Quite like our motivation to survive, eat, or protect our children. We may do things we never thought we can do in those situations. I do think this can apply to some things, mostly life threatening situations, but there is more to it than just instinct.

2.Drive Reduction Theory-This theory states that our motivation is based on homeostasis. We as humans needs equilibrium and balance. Our motivation is to stay as balanced and comfortable as possible. It is a drive to have as little tension and arousal as possible. I agree that humans like safety and balance, but there are times when we want to do things that can be exciting, different, uncomfortable or scary. Needing balance isn’t always a way to motivate humans. We wouldn’t be motivated to strive for more in life if this theory were true.

3. Arousal Theory-This theory is the opposite of the last theory. This theory states that excitement cultivates motivation. The more excited we are, the more motivated we are. Although, there is a limit to how much arousal one should have. This is called the “Yerkes-Dodson Law.” The law states that we all have an “optimal level of arousal”(Psychology Today). If one goes above that level, then it may hinder your chances of achieving your goal.

4.Incentive Theory-This theory is based on external rewards and reinforcement. The motivation to make money, to get good grades, to get a promotion, to get recognition/fame, to buy a new home or car, and there are many more. These are all driving forces behind our motivation according to this theory. Things in this nature are more extrinsic.

5.Self-Determination Theory- In this theory our motivation is more internal or intrinsic. This theory states that motivation comes from our desire to be autonomous. External rewards can only do so much, but desire to express oneself freely and be creative can be a motivational factor for humans. It isn’t always about external rewards, but mental challenges as well, and this theory puts more of a focus on that factor as well.

6.Self-Actualization Theory-This theory states that motivation comes from our desire to know our true inner potential. Self-Actualization is on the top of the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid. The lowest level being Physiological needs, to the highest being self-actualization where one truly knows oneself. Self-Actualization is the optimal level Maslow believed one should achieve in life.

Now there is one motivational theory I have that was not mentioned. I believe this theory applies to myself, and may apply to others. Motivation can also come from a desire to do something if the current situation you are in has more of a negative impact on oneself than doing something or making a change. We all want happiness and stability in life. If that stability and happiness is threatened and we are unhappy and miserable that can be a motivational factor to do something to change the situation. For me if the negatives outweigh the positives in my situation it motivates me to make a change. This theory is closest to the Drive Reduction theory, because both are about stability, but in this theory motivation stems from a desire to have stability, while my theory focuses on changing a dire situation to a more relaxing and stable situation.

I do believe all theories apply to many different people. Some of these apply to me. We are all individuals and we all get motivated differently. No theory fits us all. We may fit some of these, or all of these. I am sure there are other theories that weren’t mentioned. There may be something that motivates you that wasn’t mentioned. If there is, please comment it. It will be interesting to know how others get their motivation, or if any of these theories fits you. Motivation has many different facets.



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