11 Types of Motivation: What They Are & How to Use Them

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Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are the two main types of motivation and represent all motivational drivers. Intrinsic motivation describes all motivational-types driven by internal rewards while extrinsic motivation describes all motivational-types driven by external rewards. However, within these two broad categories are more granular types of motivation that highlight specific motivating factors.

While it's important to have a baseline understanding of general internal and external rewards, the motivational-types that fall within these broad intrinsic or extrinsic categories better identify specific rewards and incentives you can use to motivate. We'll therefore start with the main categories of motivation and then dive deeper into their various types.

Main Types of Motivation

Here are the main types of motivation and the internal or external rewards they use to motivate:

1. Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation represents all the things that motivate you based on internal rewards like self-improvement or helping a friend in need. For example, you may be motivated to get a promotion because you'll learn valuable skills. Conversely, you might be motivated to succeed because you want to positively affect the lives of the people around you.

However, while the above examples are positive, intrinsic motivation can also have negative drivers. For example, you can motivate yourself to learn new things because otherwise you’ll feel unfulfilled. The outcome of your actions is positive, but the specific type of motivation you used was focused on stopping a negative outcome rather than creating a positive outcome. For this reason and more, there are many types of intrinsic motivation that all focus on a specific motivational reward or driver.

Regardless of positive or negative, intrinsic motivation is typically more sustainable than extrinsic motivation because it usually focuses on positive or altruistic things you can control. Conversely, extrinsic motivation typically focuses on things that are given to you by someone else and therefore is not directly within your control to achieve.

2. Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation represents all the things that motivate you based on external rewards like money or praise. These types of motivation are more common than intrinsic motivators and include achieving things due to a tangible incentive, fear, or expectation, all of which depend on external factors. For example, people want to get a promotion because of the expected raise.

Like intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation can sometimes be negative. For example, you can be motivated to perform better at your job due to fear of being fired. This shows that extrinsic motivation, like its high-level counterpart, has many different motivational-types that highlight a specific external motivational driver and explains how effective it is at motivation.

As you can see, motivation is more complex than simply categorizing it as either an internal or external incentive. For more information on general intrinsic and extrinsic rewards and how they compare and contrast, check out my article on intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation. Otherwise, keep reading for specific types of motivation that leverage these reward systems on a granular level and can help you excel in life

Types of Internal Motivation

Here are the specific types of intrinsic motivation and the rewards they use to motivate:

3. Competence & Learning Motivation

Competence motivation, also known as learning motivation, states that people are motivated more by the process itself rather than by the reward at the end. The reason is that people who are motivated by competence motivation are literally motivated by the act of learning or getting better as they move towards the completion of a goal or task instead of the destination itself.

For example, if you want a promotion because you’ll learn valuable skills and not because of the higher expected salary, you’re motivated by competence or learning motivation. This is an extremely valuable motivator and should be used in almost any motivational strategy. This is because new, relevant skills are often more valuable than even money because, unlike material things, they’re assets that no one can take away from you.

4. Attitude Motivation

Attitude motivation refers to the type of motivation that's cultivated through the desire to change the way you or other people think and feel. While it has some similarities to the externally-focused social motivation below, people who are motivated by attitude engage in actions and interactions with the express intent of making themselves and the people around them feel better in a positive and uplifting way.

For example, if you’re motivated to work for a non-profit or volunteer in a soup kitchen because making people feel good makes you feel good, you’re motivated by a change in attitude. Similarly, if you’re a manager at a company and you get joy out of helping your direct reports grow and succeed, you’re also taking part in attitude motivation.

5. Achievement Motivation

Achievement motivation states that people are driven by the desire to pursue and achieve specific goals. People who are driven by this type of motivation desire the achievement of a task or goal itself, and not necessarily because of the reward that’s attached. For example, an entrepreneur might build a business for the goal of building a world-class organization, and not necessarily because there’s money involved.

If you’re driven by achievement motivation, you are typically self-motivated and process-oriented, meaning that you value the process of getting better more than the end result itself. While the achievement of a goal might seem like an external reward, in actuality this type of motivation is largely internal. This is because you aren’t enamored by the glitz and glamour of a reward like money, but rather the feeling of accomplishment you get when you complete a worthy task.

6. Creative Motivation

Many people are motivated by creativity or the innate drive for creative expression. When you're motivated by the desire to express yourself, you are tapping into creative motivation. Examples of creative motivation include things in which you feel compelled to create, such as the motivation to write a book, act in a movie, play the guitar, build a product, or start a business.

Creative motivation typically manifests itself as an internal feeling that you have something to say that needs to get out. Whether you want the entire world to see your art or just a few people, anything you create in an attempt at self-expression is driven by creative motivation. While the things you create can be tangible they can also be intangible or ephemeral.

7. Physiological Motivation

Often, humans are driven by some internal force beyond their explanation. For example, this is sometimes the case when you pursue someone out of love. Your actions are motivated by deep physiological feelings that are primal and cannot be ignored, regardless of how hard we try. This represents the physiological motivational factors that are both internal and outside of our control.

Consider Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs. All humans are motivated by basic needs such as food and shelter, as well as higher-level psychological needs and self-fulfillment. These needs are innate in all of us and we are internally-motivated to achieve them at all costs, making it helpful when trying to understand the thought process of yourself or others.

Types of External Motivation

Here are the specific types of extrinsic motivation and the rewards they use to motivate:

8. Incentive Motivation

Incentive motivation, unlike achievement motivation, says that people are motivated more by the reward than by the achievement of the goal itself. Instead of being motivated by the pursuit of a task, those who are motivated by incentives are driven to take action because of an expected (and often specific) reward. For example, if you want a promotion because of the higher salary and not because the new responsibility makes you feel fulfilled, you are motivated by incentives over achievement.

However, incentive motivation isn’t a bad thing. In fact, while it seems like the opposite of achievement motivation, the two can actually be used together. For example, if you want a promotion, you can be motivated both by the higher salary as well as the more complex and fulfilling work. In scenarios like this, it’s a win-win, because you are externally rewarded as well as internally fulfilled. Seek goals or tasks that have incentives as well as elements of achievement motivation.

9. Fear Motivation

Fear motivation is a motivational type that uses consequences to drive people into action. Fear motivation can be thought of as a “negative motivator” in that you aren’t motivated by a reward but by the avoidance of pain or consequences. Rather than incentivizing yourself or others with positive motivators, fear motivation uses punishment or negative motivators—like getting fired—as a way to keep you productively moving towards specific goals, tasks, or deliverables.

While fear motivation sounds bad, it can actually be used as a positive. For example, if you need to get in shape, you can plan a summer pool party at your house or apartment complex, and use the fear of showing up out of shape as motivation to stick with the gym and your diet. Think of fear motivation as positive stressors or positive constraints that help you outsmart your future self, overcome bad habits, and live the life you want (but might be too afraid to go after).

10. Power Motivation

Power motivation is a motivational factor that says people are motivated by control over their own lives and the lives of others. Everyone wants choices, and people are often motivated to increase their overall life-options and control the environment around them. For this reason, power motivation manifests itself in the desire to affect the direction of our lives and the lives of those around us.

Power motivation, taken to its extreme, can be seen in real-world horrors like Nazi Germany and other scenarios where the hunger to control others outweighs any moral obligation or code. However, when scaled back, power motivation can actually be positive. For example, while it might be bad to control others, trying to place control over your own life can be a good thing. Power motivation, then, motivates you to be intentional in your thoughts and actions so you manifest the life you want.

11. Affiliation & Social Motivation

Humans are social creatures, and social motivation—also known as affiliation motivation—states that people are motivated by social factors like belonging and acceptance. Humans have an innate desire to connect with others, and social motivation causes us to seek connections by contributing to a social group. While it may seem internally motivating, acceptance is often the motivating factor, which isn't something you can give yourself within a group.

Evolutionary psychology tells us that all humans are motivated by these social factors. For this reason, it’s important to always seek new connections as well as continue to grow the connections you already have. Finding a group of people who love and accept you can motivate you to new heights and result in true happiness.

types of motivation

When to Use Different Types of Motivation

The best motivational strategy is to blend multiple types together, giving yourself maximum motivation. However, certain situations might call for a specific blend of motivational forces and factors. To help, check out the different situations below and which types of motivation are best for each.

Types of Motivation in Business

Business is a unique setting because often you’re trying to motivate yourself as well as those around you. Sometimes, you’re trying to motivate others even more than yourself. To help you achieve maximum motivation and productivity for you and your team, it’s important to consider the following types of motivation.

The types of motivation in business include:

  • Achievement motivation
  • Incentive motivation
  • Fear motivation
  • Power motivation
  • Competence motivation
  • Attitude motivation
  • Creative motivation

Types of Motivation in Sports

Like business, motivation in sports can refer to either the team or the individual. For individual athletes, both intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation can be powerful drivers. For example, an athlete might be motivated by their desire to get better and increase their competence as well as a bonus check for winning a big game.

For teams, the most common motivator is extrinsic and often centered around the shared goal of winning or imposing their will on someone else. However, teams with high chemistry can be motivated intrinsically, for example by the shared desire to help each other succeed.

Here are some specific types of motivation for sports:

  • Achievement motivation
  • Incentive motivation
  • Fear motivation
  • Power motivation
  • Competence motivation

Types of Motivation in Education

In educational settings, motivation is typically taught as theories rather than actionable advice. For this reason, the best types of motivation center around actual educational motivational theories, such as the expectancy theory of motivation, the equity theory of motivation, and the arousal theory of motivation.

Luckily, if used correctly, motivational theories can become actionable and powerful motivational drivers for yourself and others. For more information, check out my article on the top motivational theories to know and use.

Types of Motivation for Students

However, if you're instead looking for motivation as a student or looking for a way to motivate your students, then academic motivational theories won't be right for you. You'll instead want to leverage the specific types of internal and external motivators below.

Here are some good types of motivation for students:

  • Achievement motivation
  • Incentive motivation
  • Competence motivation
  • Creative motivation

Types of Motivation in Psychology

Similar to education, psychology and psychologists are most interested in the theories behind motivation rather than actionable advice or applied science. This is why most psychological theories are taught in education. Theories like the expectancy theory of motivation, the equity theory of motivation, and the arousal theory of motivation are the most applicable to psychology.

If you're interested in learning more about the top motivational theories, check out the link in the education section above.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is Motivation?

Motivation is the incentive or reward behind why a person is compelled to act a certain way. It also represents a desire or willingness to engage or entertain a specific thought, routine, or habit. You can increase or decrease your motivation through physical and mental strategies.

How Many Types of Motivation are There?

There are many different types of motivation. The broadest types are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation which represent all internal and external rewards. However, within these two broad categories are 7-9 specific types of motivation that highlight a single motivating factor.

What Are Some Motivational Techniques?

There are many techniques used to motivated individuals as well as groups. For example, positive incentives like a raise or promotion as well as negative incentives like punishment are motivational techniques. Ultimately, any plan of action that results in an increase in motivation—within yourself or others—is considered a motivational technique.

Can Motivation Be Positive & Negative?

Yes, motivation can have either a positive incentive or negative incentive. For example, you can motivate someone both through positive techniques like praise as well as negative techniques like punishment. Also, it’s possible to either motivate or demotivate someone, depending on your chosen actions.

Conclusion: Types of Motivation

Overall, while all types of motivation are either intrinsic or extrinsic, there are really many types of motivational incentives that can help you succeed. Each type has its own motivating factor, but you can use multiple types of motivation together to help you achieve optimal levels of motivation. Make sure you understand when and where to use each one, as well as which ones resonate with you and increase your motivational force.

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