Career Development

A Guide To Achievement Motivation

June 30, 2021

Motivation is the underlying drive for your actions and behaviors in life. Different drives or rewards motivate different people, so identifying your motivation factors can help you use them for success. In this article, we explain what achievement motivation is and how to use it to meet your professional goals.

What is achievement motivation?

Motion is the driving force behind everyone’s actions based on emotions and achievement-related goals. Achievement motivation is a social psychology term that describes when individuals are driven, inspired or stimulated by successes or accomplishments.

In the workplace, achievement motivation leads some people to be high performers who desire success—and fear failure. They seek out tasks that they can successfully complete while avoiding responsibilities or tasks where they might fail. Achievement motive also drives them to persist, putting in long hours and hard work, at goals they know they can accomplish. They are driven to seek out roles where they can be successful, receive feedback and feel a sense of accomplishment. In other words, people motivated by achievement prefer moderately difficult tasks where they can succeed and feel competent. They avoid very difficult tasks where they might fail and easy tasks that don’t give them a sense of satisfaction when completed.

Example of achievement motivation

Consider you’re a reporter for a large daily newspaper. You have specific story assignments with deadlines that must be met. Each time you turn in an article, you feel energized. When your editor gives constructive criticism, you know it will help you do better with your next assignment. Your byline in the next day’s newspaper is your reward. However, when offered a different subject matter to cover, say a sports story, you reject the opportunity because you don’t feel you can do your best or might miss a deadline. If you can’t do the task, you would rather not do it at all.

Related: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivations

Identifying your core values for motivation

Everyone is motivated by different kinds of core values—the ideals, fundamental beliefs and personal values that guide your decisions. Recognizing those values can help you identify what motivates you and whether achievement motivation works for you. That, in turn, will help you reach your professional development goals.

To identify your core values, reflect on what is important to you. Pay attention throughout the day to what kinds of tasks and activities inspire you. Do you feel satisfied when you complete a task? Or are you doing just the minimum? Do you look for opportunities to show off your skills or talents? Once you recognize your core values, you can better understand whether you are driven by achievements, intrinsic feelings or extrinsic rewards.

Read more: Core Values: Overview and Examples

How to use achievement motivation in the workplace

Understanding achievement motivation can help you succeed in your career. Follow these steps to use achievement motivation for success in the workplace:

1. Set goals

Consider choosing specific, measurable goals that you can control over goals affected by factors beyond your control. For example, aiming to get a raise requires the approval of your supervisor as well as room in your company’s budget. However, making at least 10 sales calls each day or going to the gym four days a week are all goals you control. These goals also have specific metrics of success.

Setting daily as well as larger goals will help you feel like you are accomplishing things at work, which in turn will improve your motivation. Choose goals that are related to both your short- and long-term ambitions.

Read more: Setting Goals To Improve Your Career

2. Get feedback and improve

Employees with a need for high achievement tend to thrive when they receive comprehensive feedback from their managers. Feedback can help provide you with the level of challenge and learning you need to do well at work and feel accomplished.

Work with your manager to set up a system to receive regular feedback. This could be an annual performance review, a weekly or bi-weekly meeting or all of the above. At these meetings, ask your manager to assign you new or exciting work that challenges you.

You could even share with your supervisor that you are motivated by achievement and would like to take on new challenges. This might impress your manager and contribute to an improved work environment for you at the same time.

Read more: Using Performance Management in the Workplace

3. Seek out new projects

If your day-to-day responsibilities at work are not sufficiently challenging or your supervisor is unable to assign you fulfilling work, seek out new projects that push you more. Talk to your colleagues about what kinds of assignments might be available to you that are outside of your normal realm of experience.

Before you begin a new project, make a list of all the skills you are excited about learning or the new experiences you will have working on the project. You can control how much you learn and feel accomplished by achieving more.

4. Start each day, week and month with a plan

Giving yourself a plan for the day, week and month can help motivate you to achieve your interim goals. Start each day at work by asking yourself what you need to accomplish that day to be successful. Create a journal or planner to write down your goals or use organizing software to keep track of them. This exercise gives you immediate, measurable goals and will help you prioritize tasks throughout the day.

Begin each Monday morning and the first day of each month with a similar goal-setting exercise. At the end of the day, week and month, cross off the items you have accomplished on your list and add something new. With this planning system, you are more likely to leave the office each day feeling accomplished and arrive motivated to work the next day as well.

Related: Q&A: How Can I Stay Organized?

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