Drive Theory Of Motivation Explained

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  • 04 Feb 2024
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Do you struggle with motivation? Whether it's not having enough or having too much with no purpose to aim for, understanding'motivation' from an evolutionary and psychological standpoint might be the key to assisting you with yours.

In this post, we'll look at motivation through the lens of 'drive theory'. We will next provide you with some practical guidance to assist you channel your motivation toward a consciously decided and desired objective.

Much of this may be considered 'alignment'. That is, choose a goal that you genuinely want, tie it to your inner power/talent/skillset, and then do actions that will inevitably lead to such objective becoming a part of your experience.

You may not have thought of yourself in this manner, but you are an excellent manifesting machine. Just take a moment to reflect on your life up to this point, including all the good, terrible, and indifferent situations. All of this adds up to who you are now.

How strong could you be in achieving your goals/dreams if you could channel that manifesting power and focus it on your desired results? What if you could start doing this by just altering your mindset?

The issue is, this isn't just about discovering new ways to mindlessly pursue any old goal. This is about understanding your emotional connection (drive) to your reasons and why you may be disconnected.

Do your motives coincide with your goals and serve you or others?

What Is a Drive Theory?

First, let's define what we mean by a 'Drive Theory'. R.S. Wordsworth's 1918 book, Dynamic Psychology, is regarded to be the first to introduce the term 'drive' in reference to human action.

In truth, American philosophers J.B. Watson and J.J.B Morgan wrote a paper titled Emotional Reactions and Psychological Experimentation that appeared in the April 1917 edition of the American Journal of Psychology.

What he, Watson, and Morgan are all discussing is the link between our basic emotional states and motivation. They focused their theory on three primary emotions: fear, fury, and love (using love in the same way that Freud used sex).

It might literally be any form of emotional energy. Motivation refers to emotional feelings that are based on the absence of something. These instill sufficient willingness (motivation) in us to act in order to fill that need.

So, a 'Drive Theory' examines the emotions that underpin a given human activity, which is carried out in order to achieve a specific objective. The drive theory of motivation is possibly the most fundamental of all drive theories, as it underpins all we do!

The Role of ‘Time’ in the Drive Theory of Motivation

Again, while this may appear simple, it is vital to discuss the role of time in terms of our motives.

I am sure you have heard the term ‘delayed gratification’ before. It is frequently considered as a fundamental sign of intellect and a marker of success in life. In essence, this implies that if we don't pursue immediate gratification, we can reap higher benefits in the long run.

Time is critical to how our motivation works. In truth, time is the issue since you begin in one location and wish to end up somewhere another. You're inspired to take action because you want your future to be different than your present.

What is driving this motivation? It might be about control: you want to create a sense of certainty in your future so that you know you will be financially or emotionally comfortable.

Assume you are driven to get a master's degree and contribute to a pension because you want to improve your career opportunities and have financial stability as you grow older. You are taking action now in order to reap anticipated benefits in the future.

What is pushing you here, though? What is the emotional engine that drives the wheels? Fear. Fear that you will wind up in a future state of deprivation.

We'll put this situation on hold for the time being, but keep it in mind because we'll revisit it later.

The fact that time is finite also plays a part in what motivates us. As the only living creatures that grasp the reality of our ultimate death, we understand that if we want to experience something during our lifetime, we must act now.

Finding Your ‘Why’

Many early discussions of "drive" among philosophers employed quotation marks. This suggests a desire to promote its use as a novel phrase. This also suggests that they saw it as pliable and susceptible to interpretation.

If you are suffering with motivation at work or in your personal life, you may find it simpler to summarize everything as your 'why'.

You've undoubtedly experienced the child who answers every question with "why?" in an unpleasant and robotic tone. It may be unpleasant, but they have discovered something: our relationship with the truth!

As grownups, it is quite easy to become lost in the shorthand. Our subconscious programming drives us to seek efficiency. This makes complete sense, of course. You'd never get anything done if you had to remember to take every breath and walk every time you stood up.

However, this continuous automation and cutting corners may catch us off guard. We might become sidetracked on pathways defined by reasons we no longer want or that are not helping us.

A lot of psychology aims to eliminate early trauma, and for good reason! Our subconscious mind is geared to communicate in terms of emotional energy. This is especially true throughout our early years, when we have yet to acquire a mind. As a result, trauma may easily become entrenched, controlling our behavior far into adulthood without our awareness.

Interrogating why we desire (or don't want) anything is an important first step in discovering your 'why'. It's possible that your lack of drive, procrastination, and seeming self-sabotage stem from a lack of desire!

The Drive Theory of Motivation and a Midlife Crisis

Returning to the former scenario, you are motivated by the dread of ending up in a future state of need. Most midlife crises revolve on this. It's realizing, whether consciously or unconsciously, that you've been living your life to satisfy the desires of others.

The balances of time have tipped against you, and you've spent the majority of your life dancing to the music of someone else! Perhaps not an actual person, but an assumed one. However, we may avoid this by intentionally connecting with what is now driving us.

Quite frequently, the mid-life crisis is the reality, which is no longer balanced by our story and is coming through. When the illusion that there will always be enough time crumbles, what we truly knew all along emerges.

Working to meet society expectations, such as mortgages, pensions, and savings accounts, is often unfulfilling. They do it because they want it to pay off in 'the future', but they don't realize that it will entail spending the majority of their life in service of their later years.

When the drive theory that underpins their motives is exposed and deconstructed, chaos ensues. They realize that their motivation has been driven by the fear of failing to match someone else's expectations, which is terrible.


How to Understand Your ‘Drive’ And Start Taking Back Control of Your Motivation

The first thing to acknowledge, own, and embrace is that you have never failed at anything! You are a manifesting machine that works around the clock with perfect execution. Failure does not exist; instead, faulty belief systems do.

Start thinking of yourself as the maker of your own world. Not God-like or anything; you can't control external factors, but you can definitely control how you respond to them!

Practicing thankfulness is a simple (yet difficult to adopt) life tip. By just looking for all of the things in our lives for which we are glad, we are training our subconscious to notice more reasons to be grateful. This begins to fuel our reticular activating system (RAC), resulting in one of those useful, corner-cutting shortcuts in our subconscious.

Pretty soon, all you'll see in any given scenario is what you can be grateful for, and you'll have recovered your power as the creator of your reality.

Accepting that underlying fact, however, requires you to own everything. You are responsible for everything that has happened in your life up to this moment. Of course, tragedies may have occurred in your lifetime and will most likely occur again, but how you respond to them is entirely up to you.

This is not about assigning blame or passing judgement. Don't take this as an excuse to beat yourself up. Simply acknowledge that who you are today, as well as the nature of the world around you, is the product of your own choices.

Once you've grasped that essential truth and power, you may make new decisions to achieve new results. If, indeed, you desire new results. You could discover that, after reflecting on what your drive has been up to this point and what you believed your motives were, you are really content with where you are. If so, celebrate it!

The Role of Environment in Drive and Motivation

This is only a basic overview of how our environment, both sociological and geographic, influences what inspires us.

From a geographic standpoint, it is clear that in areas where seasonal fluctuations are most severe, humans have had to create a drive to fortify themselves during less harsh times in order to withstand more intense ones. "Make hay while the sun shines" and so on. The motivation here is obviously a mere fear of survival.

When it comes to societal concerns, it's critical to understand why we're social beings in the first place. A lot of it comes from the need for care as newborns. A foal or calf may stand and walk alone within hours of birth, but human children require years of reliance to develop complicated motor abilities.

So we are born with an inbuilt sense of our frailties and the need for assistance from others, which leads us to form a support network. We know we need aid, whether it comes from family, friends, or mentors. The dread of not obtaining the necessary nourishment and direction to live is what pushes us to create.

There is a lot of discussion about the 'evils' of capitalism and how money is the root of all evil. The suggestion is that they are the wrong things to be motivated by.

Without a doubt, many feel compelled to 'keep up with the Joneses', but the motivation behind this is fear. The fear of losing out, being judged, or being left behind, and so not having a support network. It springs from the same source as our need for nurturing and inclusion: we want to continue developing!

Money is just the symbol of a value that has been generally agreed upon. It is a totem. We may assign any meaning to money we wish. On the surface, seeking more of it in order to meet our genuine wants rather than those of others has no effect on the outcome or motive.

What does alter is the intention, which is where the actual motivation rests.

Creating a New Drive

How can we regain control of what motivates us in order to stay motivated in the areas that matter the most?

We discussed time earlier and how it links to our motivations in a fundamental way: we don't have something right now, therefore we're driven to have it later. That's simple to comprehend, but what if you pretended to have it already?

This is not a 'fake it till you make it' situation. What we're talking about here is becoming in energy alignment with who you want to be, not what you want to achieve. If you genuinely comprehend and experience the emotional state you'll be in on an ordinary day in your dream life, you may begin to feel it right now. Living in those energy states right now invites that reality into your life and makes it an unavoidable part of the future.

Energy has a frequency, and emotions are examples of 'energy in motion'. By hanging on to the frequency of the emotions we desire to have (i.e., just picturing our future and then allowing ourselves to feel the emotions connected with it), we connect with the future we want in an expanded rather than contractive manner.

Again, everything boils back to intention. If you sit around fantasizing about becoming a millionaire, living on a yacht, and driving a Bugatti - but do so with the assumption that you don't have that life right now - you're merely maintaining the frequency of lack. You'll only draw more luck!

If you sit around, still thinking about the boat, the money, and the Bugatti, but this time you're thinking about how amazing it will feel, how lucky you'll be, and all of the beautiful things you'll be able to do with your life, you're growing. Your entire purpose is to expand and think expansively.

Your desire makes all the difference and is what will eventually keep you motivated long after the 'honeymoon' time in any particular activity.


The drive hypothesis of motivation is both complicated and straightforward. Most people understand it intuitively, but in order to properly manage it with our intellect, we must engage in a great deal of complicated thought.

In many respects, it symbolizes the conflict between our primitive 'lizard' brain and our evolved, conscious mind.

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