What Motivates You?

To help you make the most of your life, it is helpful to know several things about yourself. One of the most important is: What motivates you?

Understanding your motivations can help you become more clear and directed when it comes to acting on what is important to you. It can also help you avoid efforts by others to manipulate you into taking action when you otherwise wouldn’t.

For example, let’s think about click-bait. As you surf the web, you may see an ad for something that tries to appeal to your motivation. “Learn this one trick to lose weight” could be a sample advertisement, that targets two different motivations: curiosity (what is the one trick?) and fear (I’m too fat).

There are many different types of motivations possible. In the example above, we saw curiosity and fear, which are prime motivators for many people.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How much of our thoughts are our own?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘How much is enough?’


We are a naturally curious species, which for the most part has allowed us to ascend, for better or worse, to the place we now inhabit in the ecosystem. Being curious about how the world works has spurred a remarkable series of advances in science and technology.

But fear is also motivates us. We are often afraid of what we don’t know, plus we can fear rejection from society. There are many organizations that rely on these fears to manipulate and control you.

On opposite ends of the motivation spectrum, we are also motivated by anger or by love. What other motivations can you think of?

Related questions: What is important? What deserves your attention? How much of our thoughts are our own? How does media manipulate you? What five ideals are most important to you? How can we turn ideas into actions?

2 thoughts on “What Motivates You?”

  1. This is by no means an exhaustive list:
    • Hope: I see hope as an active motivation. It is not wishful thinking. It’s a drive to make things happen, to make things better.
    • Security: Because I grew up poor, financial security is perhaps one of my primary motivations.
    • Pursuit of justice: I chose my line of work because I believe a much more just world is possible, and I want to be a part of making that happen.
    • Praise: I hate to admit this, but it’s true.
    • Stability (at home): Because of a chaotic childhood along with my high level of introversion, a stable, habit-driven home life fills me with peace and allows me to play leadership roles at work.
    • Creativity: I love to create things — schticks for housing justice campaigns, blogs, activities for my little critter friends (Squish & Mr. Fender and the rest of the crew), etc.
    • Enjoyment: Spending time with Rebecca and feeling extremely calm in my garden are just two examples of how I try to fill my life with as much enjoyment as I can.
    • Power: I want to create justice-oriented change; building and using power are vital to achieving this.

  2. There are many things that motivate me.

    One of the more surprising ones that I have only recently grown aware of, is a sense of order. I have been working at a bookstore, and I find that when I alphabetize a bunch of books, it makes me feel better.

    Understanding that, it explains why I like mathematics so much. There is definitely a sense of everything fitting into place in the abstract world of math.

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