Causes Of Motivation

Want to understand the causes of motivation?

We have created the ultimate guide.

Use the table of contents below to find what you are looking for:


Motivation often seems simple enough on the surface, but a closer examination determines there are many factors that go into whether a person is properly motivated to perform certain tasks. There are emotional, biological, social, and cognitive factors that all play an important role in motivation.

Understanding the causes of motivation can help somebody improve their quality of life, success, self-esteem, and much more.

However, at the core to all motivation, what one must first understand is this:

You will always move towards what you define as being more “pleasurable”.


You will always move away from what you define as being more “painful”.

The keyword here is define because each person has the opportunity to decide for themselves what they do and do not prefer.

This is why many disagreements can take place because we all have a set of different definitions and beliefs.

Just because you may define something as being “good” does not mean the person next to you will.

Therefore, it is important to understand that everyone will have a different set of motives and to not make any assumptions.

What Is Motivation in Psychology?

Psychology is focused on understanding the human psyche and how it affects behavior. Since motivation is a profound factor in accomplishing a wide range of goals, it often takes center stage in many discussions and sessions.

In psychological circles, there are three fundamental components to motivation.

They include:

  • Activation
  • Persistence
  • Intensity

Activation is focused on the actual decision a person will make to begin a specific type of behavior. For example, a person who needs to pay rent and buy food is going to be motivated to action (activation) by the desire to earn money to pay for these basic necessities.

Persistence is the factor in which a person will continue moving forward with a specific and set goal, even when hurdles are thrown in their way. An example of this would be an individual who takes the required courses for a specific degree, even though it may not be of any interest to them, but is a necessity for the core requirements of that program.

Intensity is a factor of just how much concentration, focus, and energy is put into the pursuit of a specific goal. If an individual is intense and his or her pursuit of a set goal, their motivation will be considered high.

What Is Motivation Theory?

There are numerous motivational theories that exist, including Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the Acquired Needs Theory, Cognitive Evaluation Theory, Classical and Operant Conditioning Theory, and Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory.

The underlying aspects of many of these theories involve basic necessities, desires for external or extrinsic rewards, a sense or desire to fit in, and even to possess the basic necessities of life.

Components of Motivation Psychology

There are numerous components that go into motivation, as mentioned previously, but they also include basic instincts, essential drives and specific needs, and even arousal.

Arousal in this sense does not specifically refer to a sexual intimacy or act, but rather what gets them to feel a sense of fulfillment or accomplishment.

Some people have low arousal levels and would be more than content to simply read a book by a nice, warm fire while others have high arousal needs and constantly feel the need to be engaged in risk-seeking behaviors.

Basic behaviors, like eating food and sleeping, are driven by the necessities of biological existence. When you feel hungry, you look for something to eat. These basic drives and needs can provide enough motivation for people to go out and get any job, even though they might prefer to look for something else. When a person is hungry, tired, or cold, their motivation can often become stronger than if they had these needs provided for them.

(Note: This is why some people are okay with living on the street and being homeless while others strive for more success in life).

With instinctual motivation, this theory suggests that behaviors are driven by instincts, or fixed, inborn behavioral patterns. There have been numerous psychologists through the years who have focused on these basic human desires as explanations for the things people do, including Sigmund Freud, William James, and William McDougal.

What Is Motivation in Education?

Motivation can affect students from a broad range of backgrounds. Some students are driven by a strong desire to accomplish a certain goal, such as achieving an A on a science test.

Other students may be more focused on social components of their time in a college or university, for example, as opposed to the pursuit of a specific degree or attaining certain grades or accomplishments.

For example…

Student A may have the aspiration of becoming a doctor and so is motivated to do well in school.

Student B may have not found their purpose in life yet so they ay drift from one major to the next and spend more of their time partying and focusing on their social life.

Many teachers struggle with student B and spend too much time trying to force the student to learn rather than focusing their energy on helping the student find their passion in life which in turn would motivate the student to learn.

Until the student can associate learning with something that benefits them, teachers will always struggle to capture their attention.

Definition of Motivation by Different Authors

Through the years, there have been numerous definitions of motivations by a wide range of authors. For example, in 1911 Frederick W. Taylor postulated that employees were driven by economics and therefore higher pay would create more motivation and productivity.

Maslow, in contrast, with his Hierarchy of Needs, broke down motivation into five essential categories, including physiological, safety-related, feelings of love, self-esteem, and self-actualization.

Frederick Herzberg, in the 1950s, proposed the theory that he called the Two-Factor Theory which basically broke down motivational factors into hygiene and motivator factors.

In 1953, Elton Mayo devised the Human Relations approach, which essentially negated economic factors as motivators. In 1960, McGregor put forth Theory X and Theory Y, which basically stated theory X individuals were lazy and needed a more autocratic style of management to keep them motivated while theory Y individuals actually enjoyed work and need few external motivators to be productive.

How Inspiration Causes Motivation

Many people who are caused to become motivated to do something in their life do so via inspiration.

These people have seen something or someone, read a book or some quotes, and have now become motivated to take actions towards a new goal in life.

For example…

If a young boy sees a baseball player and is now inspired to become like them, this will give them the desire to take action towards behaving like them.

Or someone may see a movie or read a book about someone and this inspires them to take action.

This inspiration acts as a spark because it now gives that person something to aspire to.

The key ingredients in this spark is that:

A. It gives the person an example of what their life could be like. This gives the person a visual they can hold on to.

B. It gives them a purpose and a reason to take action which will give them the desire they need each day (especially to overcome the many obstacles).

C. It gives them a positive feeling they can associate with the behavior with.

Pleasurable feelings and visuals are highly necessary to cause someone to become motivated to do something in their life.

How Do You Get Motivated When You Are Depressed?

This can vary from person to person. However, the key here is to first get to the root cause of why one is depressed so that becoming motivated is a natural occurrence versus an uphill struggle.

See: How to get motivated when depressed

Since motivation is a complicated factor, it’s important to understand one’s own intrinsic attributes and what brings them joy or happiness.

It may be a good idea to lower expectations. By setting lofty expectations, by not achieving those it becomes easier to feel like a failure, thus exacerbating depressive symptoms a person experiences.

Physiology may also be an essential component at combating depression. By exercising, it helps to release endorphins and other chemicals in the brain that help you feel more inspired, positive, and thus motivated.

Be consistent. By maintaining a solid schedule and sticking to it, there’s less chance to feel as though you missed an opportunity and therefore to become depressed by those failures or perceived failures.

Set limits. By establishing limits on time, energy, and goals, it becomes easier to avoid the feeling of becoming overwhelmed by so many things to get done, especially in a short amount of time.

Rely on others. Friends, family, and even other external support networks can provide a great boost for you when you may be depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed with stress.

What Causes Lack Of Motivation?

When someone has a lack of motivation it is because they have not found the reason “why” they should do something.

All humans are motivated by pleasure and need to associate a benefit with anything they do.

With that said, one must never assume that because most people are motivated for one reason that all people should be motivated by the same reason.

We all have a different set of beliefs and definitions that make us who we are.

Purpose is what drives all humans to take action. Without purpose or desire, no one will take action as life becomes meaningless.

Many people who lack motivation do so because it stemmed from something in their life that could have traumatized them or caused them to define or believe that the action they should take is no longer pleasurable.

Things such as:

  • Fear of failure
  • Anxiety & stress
  • Feeling overwhelmed


These are all negative feelings of pain that the person has now associated with the item at hand.

Other individuals lack motivation because they have low self-esteem, lack confidence, and/or have created the bad habit of procrastination.

What Are the Main Causes of Laziness?

Generally speaking, laziness can be brought on by:

1. Bad habits

If the person has established a set of poor habits where they procrastinate and are not responsible in a timely manner, then it becomes much easier to become lazy.

For example…

If someone does not make their bed one day, then the following day, and then a week has gone by where they have not made the bed, the habit of being lazy has set in.

This lazy habit can then spill over into other areas of their life.

2. Sleeping In Too Late

Unless the person has been through strenuous exercise, is ill, or other harmful circumstances have presented themselves, the human body should only rest for no more than eight hours a day.

Anything more than that, the mind becomes very sleepy and slow and makes it easy for laziness to set in.

3. Lack of interest in life

If a person does not have a purpose or mission in life and there is no beneficial reason for them to be interested, it is much easier for laziness to become part of their daily life.

4. Poor diet

Eating poor foods such as fast foods, soda, or foods filled with sugar or high carbohydrates drains the body of nutrients and lowers a person’s energy and vitality.

5. Negative thinking

If someone is thinking negative thoughts all the time and is playing the victim role then it is much easier for them to become lazy.

6. Environment

If someone is around a negative environment (household, neighborhood, friends, etc.) then it makes it much easier for them to become lazy because they are probably surrounded by other lazy people.

Why Is It Important to Be Motivated?

Motivation is the reason you take action.

To get anything you want out of life and accomplish your goals, you must take action.

As human beings, we need to continue to grow and evolve to become our best selves. Becoming stagnant and staying the same will cause a form of imbalance in the human psyche that can manifest in many forms of dis-eases.

It is important that each person identify what they want from life and have a purpose as this will create a desire to live and take action each day to overcome challenges, learn, and grow.



Send this to a friend