Top Five Most Powerful Types of Motivation


Before discussing the types of motivation it’s important to acknowledge a few things. First of all, if our main goal in life is to be as happy as possible…what’s it going to take for each of us to achieve that? Secondly, as we have seen in other pages on this site… we all have our own map of reality. We see the world according to what’s important to us. We see things through our unique mental filters…

  • Our Spirituality
  • Our Identity
  • Our Values and Beliefs
  • Our Memories and Experiences
  • Our Programs
  • Our Survival Needs

Out of seven billion people in the world – no two of us has exactly the same filters. For example, we may share a value such as spirituality…but your cognitive map of what spirituality means is not likely to match mine completely. In fact, there may be major differences even though we both value the concept and practice of spirituality. So there are seven billion unique maps of reality out there. This is important to understand whether we are trying to motivate ourselves or someone else. Take a look at the video below on how our subconscious mind filters and processes all that data…

Subconscious Processing and Motivation


Our Motivation to Filter Information

Third, we cannot keep the knowledge of what’s important to us in our conscious awareness because there’s too much information. As the above presentation demonstrates, the brain is getting bombarded by 2 MILLION bits of sensory data (see, hear, touch, taste and smell data) every moment or two. But it can only process about 40,000 bits at a time.

That’s why when you ask someone to identify the eight most important values in their life most of us can’t do it – not unless we’ve previously taken some time to sit down and do some digging. Think about it… Many of us would put “family” in our list of values. When we start asking ourselves what’s important about family we find a whole list of secondary values about that one value…and a whole list of beliefs about each of those secondary values.

Way too much information to keep in our conscious awareness… so these most important things in our lives are stored in a database in our subconscious mind – in our Explicit Memory banks to be more specific. We can retrieve most of the information consciously but not without some real contemplation.

These filters are the primary motivators in our lives. Without knowing what they are we are flying blind. If you want to motivate yourself, start by making that list and exploring what’s important about each of the items on the list. If you want to find out how to motivate someone else, then help them discover their own filters.

Before Moving On: You may be interested to find that some of us have mental filters that sabotage our success and steal our motivation. It may save time and heartache to learn about, and plan for these 7 common blocks to success.

Types of Motivation – Extrinsic

types of motivation brain gearThere are two primary types of motivation… Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation. Extrinsic Motivation is geared toward external rewards and reinforcers. Some examples of external rewards are money, praise, awards, etc. Some examples of external reinforcers are policy and procedures, disciplinary action, speeding tickets, boundary-setting, etc.

Extrinsic Motivation is said to be less effective because it comes from outside the person. External reinforcer’s, for instance, are usually in the form of control. Laws are there for social control…Policies and procedures are there for internal controls and regulations… household rules are in place to provide limits and consequence for stepping over the line.

People don’t usually like to feel controlled. It’s an invitation to rebel, or dig in our heels, or become defiant. Most of use prefer to use our own map of the world…not have to conform to someone else’s ideas about how it should be. We need to explore our blocks to success and how we may be sabotaging ourselves.

According to Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory, many external rewards (e.g, salary, job security, benefits) don’t really motivate but if they’re not there the person can become de-motivated. Herzberg calls these “hygiene factors”.

Types of Motivation – Intrinsic

types of motivation Blue brain imageIntrinsic Motivation is geared toward internal rewards and reinforcers. We can celebrate our success when we do well and we can beat ourselves up when we don’t. Some examples of internal rewards are enjoyment, achievement, a sense of competence. Some examples of internal reinforcers are “Shoulds”, “Musts”, and “Oughts”, a guilty conscience, and Toxic Shame.

Internal rewards are associated with high academic and occupational achievement. It seems motivation is strongest when we do it for the fun of it…or for the feeling of accomplishment. Maybe it’s a hobby, or a career path, or our purpose in life.

Types of Motivation – Addiction

When it’s something we really like we can even feel driven to do it. Or get addicted to it, whatever “it” is… In other words, motivation does not always lead in a positive direction. Remember that an addiction is an unhealthy “love-and-trust” relationship with an object or an activity. Love and trust are very strong intrinsic rewards that are tied to our neural networks for survival.

Survival needs, such as the need to eat, is an internal reinforcer because it causes pain in the form of hunger when we don’t eat. We get an internal reward when we enjoy what we are eating.

The same is true when we resist something we are addicted to. The pain is in the form of cravings or withdrawal symptoms and the reward is in the feeling we get when we engage. However, in the late stages of addiction, we no longer get the reward but the reinforcer gets stronger.

Types of Motivation – Subconscious Motivations

Addiction is an example of subconscious motivation…we may not know “why we do it” or “how that could happen” when we find ourselves in trouble again. This is because it would be too uncomfortable for us to know that we are dependent on an object or activity so our faithful servant – the subconscious mind – “protects us” from that reality with a system of defense mechanisms we refer to as denial.

Other subconscious types of motivations might include various neural networks created early in life which is now part of Implicit Memory – such as…

  • An accident-prone person may have a subconscious desire to hurt or punish himself for guilt over some long-past misdeed or mistake.
  • A person who uses food for comfort may have a subconscious “part” of themselves…a neural network…that learned early in life to substitute food for the nurturing that wasn’t available.
  • Someone who pushes others away may have a part of themselves that sabotages opportunities for intimacy in order to protect from abandonment.

It has long been known that the subconscious mind uses defense mechanisms to ward off pain and anxiety. These defensive strategies are learned programs that run automatically from neural networks that we intuitively refer to as “parts”.

All of us can remember explaining that “one part of me wants to do X… but another part of me holds me back”. These “parts” are programs installed on conflicting neural networks. There are various forms of therapy for “integrating” these parts to resolve subconscious conflicts.

types of motivation carrot and stickMost of us have heard of the “Carrot-or-Stick” types of motivation. Conventional wisdom suggests that some people are motivated more by the stick and others by the carrot. “Stick People” respond better to external and internal reinforcer’s while “Carrot People” respond better to external and internal rewards.

Another way to look at this is the “Toward or Away From” orientation. Stick people are oriented to move away from pain. Carrot people move toward pleasure. There are times when each orientation is necessary. For example, if your goal is to manage your weight it’s more effective to adopt a “toward pleasure” orientation because the closer you get to your goal (e.g., a healthy lifestyle), the stronger your motivation becomes. If you take the “away from” orientation…the further you get away from a weight you don’t like, The weaker your motivation becomes.

In the case of Risk Management in a hospital, it’s better to have “Away From” pain people running the show because they are better at identifying potential hazards. Carrot People tend to be idealists who can set the course, but Stick People are good at seeing the bumps in the road.

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