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Levels of Motivation - The Motive Center
September 22nd, 2004
04:09 pm

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Levels of Motivation
When people talk about motives, they include a very wide range: love, money, principles, fun. Previously on this blog I have said that there are different kinds of motives: extrinsic and intrinsic, for example. Another way to think about this is in terms of levels of motivation.

When I'm talking about intrinsic motives, I'm usually talking about non-conscious, emotional drivers--what is fun, or for that matter what is frustrating. These are so deep that most people can't even identify their own with accuracy. You may know what is fun, but it is harder to see the pattern of fun. Fortunately, we already know. There are three motives that account for 80-85% of daily thinking time: Achievement, Affiliation, and Power/Influence. I'm getting a summary document posted on my website (www.motivateyourwriting.com), which describes the specific thoughts of each. Everyone has all three, but to different degrees.

Then there are the internal but "self-attributed" motives, which are also known as "values." These are the things you feel are important--what you consciously decide to do. These can be pretty strong, but fundamentally they are not biological in the way the intrinsic motives are--intrinsic motives have been linked to neurochemistry!--and as a result they are considerably more flexible. You can define the values the same as the motives: value Achievement, value Affiliation, value Power/Influence. But they play out differently in terms of behaviors.

The correlation between these is, to most people's surprise, zero. What you think is important need not relate at all to what you enjoy. And this is a good thing! People do have to take out the garbage, do their taxes, walk the dog--things that might not be fun, but must and should be done!

I have observed that values and motives (to use the easy names) can work together, or be at odds with each other, or complement each other. For example:

Work together: something that is both fun and important, e.g., writing your "about the author" note on your first published work.

Be at odds: something that is fun but not important (like playing Solitaire when you should be working) OR something that is important but not fun (like doing your taxes instead of writing or celebrating the rite of Spring).

Complementing: Usually in more complex sets of tasks, you may find that some things need to be done to help clear a path for the fun things. Or one can enable the other. For example, cleaning your desk so you can have room on your desk for the books you will use researching your next work (assuming research is fun for you), or setting a disciplined schedule of goals so you can enjoy the process of writing and know you are producing what you need to.

A sophisticated, mature approach uses both values and motives, of course, where possible. There will always be tasks you "have to do" and tasks you "want to do," and you need to just balance them all out! In later posts, I'll try to pull out some more examples of how to do this, but the basic principle is: use your values to make it easier to use your motives; use your motives to energize yourself even to do the things you value.

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