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18 Examples of Motivation

Motivation is the desire to do things. This is the root of all human behavior such that it is relevant to everything from criminology to marketing to high education. Tapping into motivation or generating motivation is viewed as a means to greatly influence behavior. The following are illustrative examples of common human motivations.


Human needs are things that people need or feel they need in order to make life livable or fulfilling.


Generally speaking, survival needs are by far the strongest motivations. For example, people feel motivated to eat and will strongly seek food if it is lacking.


People have the need to socialize and to belong to social groups. This is an incredibly strong need that drives a broad range of behaviors such as friendship, comradery, family, culture, society and community.


People have a need to change in a positive direction. For example, a business person who is motivated to expand their business long after it is large enough to provide for their material needs.

Competitive Drive

Humans are inherently competitive. For example, they enjoy simulating competition with games and sports. This appears to originate with a motivation that could be described as competitive drive.

Social Status

People strongly desire respect and admiration from others. This is known as social status. In a modern consumer society, products and services attempt to serve this need with offers that represent things like wealth, altruism and coolness that people may respect.

Fear of Missing Out

The process of comparing yourself to others and fear that they may be getting more out of life than yourself. For example, the motivation to get a promotion before a peer.

Existential Angst

Existential angst is the fear that life won't be meaningful. This is a desire to pursue things that you may find fulfilling or life affirming.


Things that you feel drawn to such that they create intense motivations. For example, a snowboarder who is strongly drawn to snow, mountains and calculated risk taking.


Things that you are pushed to do or that you push yourself to do. This tends to be a weaker force than pull. For example, someone who pushes themself to exercise even if they don't particularly enjoy it.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is the desire to do something that is its own reward. For example, playing for the sake of joy or creating art for the sake of art.

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is the desire to do something for some secondary or future reward. For example, studying to work towards a degree. This tends to be a weaker force than intrinsic motivation.


Emotions are mental states that color all thoughts. This gives human behavior great depth and makes us highly variable. Emotions often shape motivation or resemble motivations in themselves. For example, courage is an emotional state that can be viewed as a drive to take risk.

Motivated Reasoning

Motivated reasoning is the process of looking for evidence to support what you want to believe. This is a bias that produces irrational thought. For example, a student who emotionally wants to quit school who thinks of logical reasons to support this action without looking at logical reasons to stay in school.


Reactance is the motivation to preserve your freedom. Or rather it is a strong reaction to attempts to remove a freedom that was previously enjoyed. For example, if an employer tells an employee who frequently works from home that they must now come to the office each day -- this may trigger a strong emotional response from the employee.


Fear is a motivation to avoid or escape something that is perceived negatively.

Dread Risk

A dread risk is a risk that people deeply fear such that they will try to minimize the risk at any cost. This is essentially irrational as this may neglect larger risks that are less emotion or create large secondary risks.


Discipline is the ability to do things when you feel little motivation. This can beat motivation as discipline is aligned to what you think you should do or what you are expected to do whereas motivation is aligned to emotional desires. For example, it may be difficult to get motivated to study as compared to using discipline to efficiently do what is required. Generally speaking, individualistic cultures stress motivation whereas collectivist cultures stress discipline.


The motivations of existence, relatedness and growth are collectively known as ERG theory.


This is the complete list of articles we have written about motivation.
Attitude Change
Bucket List
Curiosity Drive
Employee Motivation
ERG Theory
Esprit De Corps
Expectancy Theory
Extrinsic Motivation
Flow Theory
Intrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic Reward
Locus Of Control
Peak Experiences
Silent Goal
Skin In The Game
Status Seeking
Work Motivation
More ...
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An overview of human behavior with examples.


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An overview of growth with examples.

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A list of opposites for middle.

Bucket List

An overview of bucket lists with examples.


An overview of determination with examples.

Positive Emotions

An a-z list of positive emotions.

Extrinsic Motivation

The definition of extrinsic motivation with examples.

Expectancy Theory

The definition of expectancy theory with examples.

Extrinsic Rewards

The definition of extrinsic rewards with examples.


The definition of ambition with examples.

Profit Motive

An overview of the profit motive with examples.
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