Types of Motivators (Needs and Desires)

My most important motivators are primarily intrinsic:

  1. Learning, understanding, research; examples over the past year are nutrition and blogging;
  2. A job well-done, meeting goals, focussing on priorities, being organized;
  3. Problems must be solved;
  4. Be the best that I can be;
  5. Be an individual, unique, independent, in control; and
  6. Be busy.

This last motivator made me think about opposites. It’s possible that some people are motivated by not being busy! Theoretically the opposite of the first five are also possible … interesting thought that may be pursued in another post.

There are several other motivators that crop up from time to time. Some are extrinsic and some are academic:

  • Competition, pursuit of excellence
  • Winning
  • Being challenged
  • Helping others, coaching
  • Recognition
  • Respect and approval of others, especially parents
  • Pride
  • Power
  • Status, social standing
  • Avoidance of illness, pain
  • Friendship and peer relationships
  • Romance
  • Rewards
  • Wealth
  • Accumulation of material things

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow, an American Psychologist (1908-1970), is well known for his “Hierarchy of Needs” which can be viewed in more detail at:


He envisaged five groups of basic needs that people experience and work to satisfy one after the other in a consecutive sequence. I don’t agree with the necessary step by step sequence. I think people’s needs change over time. We find ourselves jumping back and forth trying to satisfy them. It isn’t as simple as accomplishing one level, moving on to the next level in immediate sequence, and never dropping back again. 

Maslow defines the basic needs as:

  1. Physiological Needs: these are our basic biological needs for oxygen, food, water, and a relatively constant body temperature.
  2. Safety Needs: security, especially in times of emergency
  3. Needs of Love, Affection and Belongingness: as people seek to overcome feelings of loneliness and alienation
  4. Needs for Esteem: self-esteem as well as extrinsic esteem which we get from others
  5. Needs for Self-Actualization: a person’s restless need to be and do that which the person was “born to do.”

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write.”

Steven Reiss: 16 Basic Desires Theory

In addition to Maslow, there are many other theories of motivation. I find those proposed by Steven Reiss, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Ohio State University, useful in extending a general list. Reiss questions the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic and has proposed a theory that 16 basic desires guide nearly all human behavior. Most of these 16 are already included in this post. Those that aren’t included or have an interesting slant are:

  • Order, the need for organized, stable, predictable environments
  • Physical activity, the need for exercise
  • Saving, the need to collect
  • Vengeance, the need to strike back/to win
  • Honor, the need to be loyal to the traditional values of one’s clan/ethnic group
  • Idealism, the need for social justice

If you want more details view these web sites:



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