What’s your motivation?

And is it really that different to mine?

Achieve more of what matters to you

If you google motivationyou’ll see that there are more than one thousand million results listed.

So, let’s save you from having to read all of those posts and summarise the issues that matter, right here! 😉

Do you need to know this?

Well, if you’re already achieving everything you want in your life, possibly not.

Otherwise, this could help you (or someone you care about) a lot because, while your biggest life goals won’t be easy to achieve, you’ll find more energy to reach for them if they’re aligned to your fundamental motivators.

What are your fundamental motivators?

Well, the good news is that they’re no different to mine or to those of anyone else.

Sure, a detailed motivational profile might tell you about a long list of very specific motivators, and understanding those might help you manage yourself better, and build better relationships with others – if you also know what motivates them.

However, at a fundamental level, it’s worth knowing that we’re all driven by the same three things, as outlined (with the research evidence) in Dan Pink’s, appropriately named, book, ‘Drive, the surprising truth about what motivates us’


In a nutshell, we’re all looking for Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose or as behavioural Psychologist, Scott Geller describes them: Competence, Choice and Community.

Interestingly, Geller added a fourth, ‘Consequences’ to his list of motivators beginning with ‘C’, although you could say that consequences are simply what move you towards (or away from) one of your primary goals (Mastery, autonomy or purpose)

Indeed, we could even simplify this further by saying that consequences are everything.

That was the conclusion of Economics writers Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dubner who, in their book ‘Superfreakonomics’ distilled years of detailed research about human behaviour into this simple statement:

People respond to incentives…

although not necessarily in ways that are predictable.

What a great insight.SuperFreakonomics

However, I think we need to expand their motivational rule of life to add in the dimension of time, and my personal summary of what drives people to ‘do stuff’ would be this:

People respond to incentives, 

though not always in predictable ways…

and hardly at all,

if the incentive is a long way off.

With motivation, ‘time’ is key

There’s no question that the time to our goals affects our motivation, especially on our bigger life goals, and we can help ourselves, or anyone else we want to motivate, if we’re open and honest about this.

It doesn’t matter if we’re working on our wealth or our health, we can’t solve a big problem overnight.

We need time, and lots of it, to achieve those big life goals, and that’s a challenge because most of us don’t like waiting for results, most of the time.

That much is obvious with children as has been proven many times with the famous ‘marshmallow test’.

If you’ve not yet seen this one (and even if you have) watch it now, it’s a brilliantly funny example of childhood impatience.

Let’s just remember that at a different scale, we all – children and adults – prefer quick and easy results.

Indeed, our impatience is such a challenge for us that I devoted a whole chapter to the issue in my first book, ‘Who can you trust about money?’

But I don’t want to test your patience today, so I’ll draw this Insight to a close here. We can build on these motivational foundations next time.

Two bottom lines 

First, At a fundamental level, we’re all looking for the same four ‘big things’ in life:

  1. Relationships that work – with colleagues, friends and family
  2. Autonomy (aka freedom)
  3. Mastery of the activities we undertake, and
  4. Purpose to those activities.

So, if you like mnemonics, we’re all looking to R.A.M.P. things up in our lives, and setting goals related to those things will motivate us more.

Second, we all struggle (to some degree) with the fact that big goals take a lot of time and effort to achieve which is why it makes sense to break big goals down into ‘bite-sized’ chunks… and to focus on the efforts we put into our work (or learning) rather than the end results.

What we do, day in and day out, is really all we can control, but we can be smarter about it.

Further reading:

kids stuck in the snow

Here are some proven ideas for achieving more of your goals

Here are more proven ideas for getting unstuck on your goals by changing three words you use every day

And here is a list of 12 factors to consider, before you make a big change in your work life.

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