8 Types of Motivation To Help You Achieve Your Goals

Updated October 13, 2023

Motivation can be intrinsic (from within) or extrinsic (from outside yourself). Several factors can contribute to your motivation levels, and they can affect your productivity, dedication and commitment to work and success. Understanding the different motivations can help you apply valuable lessons to your personal and professional life. In this article, we will discuss the different types of motivation and give examples of how to use them in your career.

What is motivation?

Motivation is the internal and external factors that contribute to a person’s desire to stay committed or interested in a position, goal or subject. To excel in your profession, you will need the motivation to continually pursue your career objectives.

For example, you may want to be promoted to a higher position of responsibility in your organization. Having a specific goal will motivate you to deliver top-level performance. This also applies when you are studying to acquire a specialized skill that will enhance your earning power.

Motivation thrives on conscious and unconscious factors, which could include the need to gain something or the potential to earn recognition and praise from others. Your source of motivation could also be the need to earn more money to support your family or to retire by a certain age. 

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

Using motivation to achieve goals and complete tasks will be most impactful when you can identify the type that works best for you. Most types of motivation fall into one of these categories: 

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is internal. For example, you might use intrinsic motivation when you feel inspired to complete a task because it aligns with your personal core values. If you volunteer for a community food bank because you derive motivation from helping others, you are likely well-motivated by intrinsic factors. 

Extrinsic motivation

When you are motivated to act by external factors, such as compensation or praise, you are experiencing extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation drives you to achieve things for rewards such as a promotion, raise, bonus, awards, and the need to maintain your livelihood, among others.

Related: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Types of motivation

Here are eight types of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation along with ways you can apply them in your work life:

Incentive motivation

Incentive motivation is when you are motivated to perform a task because of the potential reward. People who are incentive-motivated typically do not focus on the process of achieving a goal so long as they get the reward. You can use incentive motivation to boost your career progression and earning ability. If you want a raise, thinking of the higher standard of living you can acquire with the extra pay can energize you to meet your production or sales quotas. 

Example: You strive to get a promotion because of the higher authority and larger paycheck that come with the new role, rather than the increased responsibility and job satisfaction attached to the position.

Achievement motivation

This motivation entails performing tasks to achieve specific objectives. With achievement motivation, you likely care more about committing yourself to a vision and accomplishing an objective than attaining awards.

Example: You could be a scientist whose organization works to create a vaccine that could cure a deadly virus. For you, the fulfillment is in creating a life-saving product rather than the potential commercial value of the discovery. An achievement-motivated individual can also be a person who spends a lot of time to develop a new production process because they want to improve productivity and reduce waste rather than selling the patent for the invention.

Power motivation

When you spend hundreds of hours to build your own business or become an expert in your field, you are trying to gain control over your livelihood. If you strive to control your life and that of others, your motivation is likely power. You enjoy actions that will make you the sole determinant of what happens to your money, food, health, relationships and more.

Power motivation can be a positive way of developing your career, but it can also lead to challenges. Making a conscious effort to secure your source of income and adopt healthy eating habits is a noble cause. However, it is important to respect people’s opinions about their own lives, food choices, religion, knowledge and other personal choices.

Example: You would like to advance to a more senior, managerial position in your company so you can be in charge of a team. To make yourself more eligible for a promotion, you complete a management training course and apply for an open position in your company.

Related: A Guide to Power Motivation

Fear motivation

The fear of negative consequences can drive you to avoid an unpleasant experience such as termination of employment, demotion, lawsuits, stagnation in a role and more. While fear motivation is not necessarily healthy or sustainable, it can be a somewhat effective motivator in the short-term.

Example: The potential loss of livelihood from missing sales quotas can urge you to learn new methods of winning clients and polish your cold calling skills.

Related: 7 Tips for Overcoming a Fear of Changing Jobs

Affiliation motivation

Also known as "social motivation," this motivation encourages social interaction among people. A person who is driven by affiliation gets motivated by the spirit of cooperation and by others accepting their desirable attitudes. This need can motive you to be an active member of social groups.

The sense of belonging and contribution to the common good can drive you to become a better person, leading to more fulfillment and happiness. If financial rewards are not available, this is great for increasing your dedication to career goals.

Example: If you are a professional, you can derive motivation from the recognition colleagues and superiors give you for your contributions to the success of the organization.

Related: A Guide to Affiliation Theory of Motivation

Competence motivation

Competence motivation pushes people to become highly proficient at what they do, allowing them to become subject matter specialists in critical aspects of their jobs. Such professionals include neurosurgeons, aeronautics engineers and other specialists who use their problem-solving skills to respond to unique problems. For this set of people, their motivation comes from being able to use their competence where it will make the biggest difference.

Example: A heart surgeon decides to undergo specialized training to perform an advanced operating procedure.

Attitude motivation

This is the motivation that drives an individual to change other people’s perceptions or thoughts. Attitude motivated people seek to enhance their interactions with other people by improving social engagements. It focuses on making people around you feel better about you and themselves.

Example: You volunteer to lead a campaign in the office that aims to change employee perception towards a proposed change that may affect roles and job content. It can also manifest in the form of helping your team members achieve their highest potential or success.

Expectancy motivation

This psychological theory posits that individuals are motivated by the expectation of a desired result of certain efforts. It measures the degree to which the reward of a particular action motivates you to pursue the achievement of that goal based on your belief you can receive the reward. The focus of this motivation is that you should select activities in which you are certain of achieving the desired results.

Example: A star tennis player tries out for the Olympics because their skill level leads them to expect they will win a gold medal.

Related: A Guide to Expectancy Theory of Motivation

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How to use motivation

Since there are many types of motivation, you may find that more than one applies to you. The best way to keep your motivation levels high is to combine motivational types and use them to propel yourself towards goals and objectives in your career and life.

Use the following tips to keep your motivation levels high:

1. Create goals

Goal setting is a powerful way to keep your motivation levels up. It helps direct your energy to things that make the most difference in your work and life. Consider using the SMART technique to set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

2. Tell people your goals

An excellent way to motivate yourself is to tell someone close to you about your plans. It can be your colleague or relative, but making your goals known can make you more determined because you feel accountable. 

3. Measure your progress

Have a plan to measure your goals and know what you need to do to accomplish them. If you plan to raise your sales by 50% by the end of the year, for example, you can check your totals every month to ensure you’re making incremental progress. Seeing that you’ve made positive efforts toward your goals can result in even more determination. 

4. Reward yourself

Positive reinforcements are one of the most effective motivating factors. You can give yourself rewards for achieving your ultimate goal or for completing milestones along the way. For example, you could go for a ten-minute walk after completing an hour of work, or make a major purchase for earning your company an important contract.

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