What Motivates You?

Pushing a big rock up a hill image cropped.jpg

(and what does this teach you about how to motivate others?)

Motivation to live life to the full; where do you find yours? Do you even know what actually motivates you? This blog explores the key motivators in life, so you can understand yourself better, and make informed choices to create the life you truly aspire to.

There are many different theories about what motivates us. In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) terms, the universal drivers are pain and pleasure. 

  • Some people will be motivated by pleasure – they will be drawn towards things that give them a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. 
  • Others will be driven by avoiding pain. Decisions will lead them away from those things which distress and hurt them emotionally.

Of course, there are times when everyone will identify decisions based on both but without exception, we will favour one over another. It is important to realise that it is not about one being better or worse, they are just different.

There are then a variety of other things that drive and motivate us to be who we are. Most of us make daily choices at an entirely unconscious level. 95% of our behaviours happen without any conscious thought at all they become habitual. These patterns of behavior have a significant impact on the quality of our lives.

Let’s look at the theory supported by Anthony Robbins…

He describes us as having six different human needs. According to his theory, everyone needs all of the first four but that we will have two dominant needs. It is the way in which we satisfy these needs which makes the difference. They are deeply wired into our persona so will have them satisfied come what may. We can achieve them in a positive, neutral or negative way. Understanding what makes us and others tick gives us the choice to achieve the need in the most constructive way possible.


We all have a need for certainty. It is at the core of our need to survive. We get certainty from or relationships, the job we do, hobbies, religion, food, drink, drugs, holidays, routines etc.

The need for certainty is powerful. The level at which we need to have a sense of control over our lives will determine all the choices we make. It demines how comfortable we are with change.

It is why some people will put up with abusive relationships. They fear change more than the status quo.


We achieve uncertainty or variety from the very things which give us certainty, relationships, the job we do, hobbies, religion, food, drink, drugs, holidays, routines etc.

The paradox is we need both, we all need variety or uncertainty otherwise we would be living “groundhog day” 

It is the relationship between our need for certainty and uncertainty and the way we choose to achieve it which shapes much of our lives.

If you look at the types of holidays people enjoy it gives a good indication of their needs. If they always choose to go to the same place, like to repeat doing the same things with the same people, the need for certainty will be high.

Those who are driven by uncertainty are likely to choose to go to different places looking for adventure and variety. 


Significance is not about ego. It is about how we feel valued. We gain that sense of value in a wide variety of ways, through or job, our skills – sporting, musical, technical, through the clothes we wear, our possessions – car, house, jewelry etc.

One person may gain a sense of significance from only wearing designer labels whilst another from only buying from a thrift or charity shop.

Some get their significance from doing things for others where another may get it from being a victim, a bully or always being ill.

The challenge is finding a way to satisfying our need or the need of others for significance in a wholly positive way.


In this context, love means the intimate, passionate love between two people. We have a connection with family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, clients, pets etc. People will often settle for connection as it feels safe. They do not have to open up and be vulnerable in these relationships as they would do to achieve true love.

Most people wish for love deep down although many settle for connection or significance instead as it feels safe.

We all need some level of certainty, uncertainty, significance, and love and connection. The relationship between each and the way we achieve it is the underlying structure which shapes our lives, our relationships and the way we behave.

The following two needs are incredibly important to some and of no relevance to others:


There are many who wish to grow and develop personally or constantly work on the growth of others. Learning intellectually, physically, emotionally and/or spiritually is all part of growth.


This can be a contribution to one’s own development or that of others. It can be at the level of wanting to surprise or spoil the family or that of making an ongoing significant contribution to others through personal contact or charitable works to raise money to help others.

Think about you?

What governs your thoughts and choices?

How about your partner, your children, your boss or your colleagues? Understanding what drives and motivates is the key to getting the best out of yourself and others!

So let’s look at an example

As I work with a large variety of people it is easy to spot the patterns. By using an example I hope it will help you to see these patterns in action.

The most common pattern I have noticed in those who present as workaholics commonly is that they favour certainty and significance. They will often use phrases such as “I must succeed, failure is not an option” or “I like to be in control”.

When you talk to them about the life they would aspire to they have all identified love as being most important to them. Of course, some of them have created loving, stable relationships, yet many others dream of being in such a relationship but have failed to either create or more often to sustain one. 


I discovered that workaholics tend to spend a significant amount of energy on underpinning certainty and significance in their lives. This has left little time and energy to find and sustain true love. Moreover, I found that they have concentrated on the area of their lives where they feel most comfortable and that is around achievement and success. 

When we have looked at the underlying cause I often find that there is a profound belief that they are either unworthy or unable to be loved. They are driven to succeed so that they feel better about themselves and more worthy of being loved by others. The reality is that no matter how well they have succeed they constantly move the goalposts as nothing they achieve makes them feel better about themselves.

The same people often have a great connection with others on a large scale, lots of friends and positive relationships with work colleagues. This means that the pain caused by the potential loss of the love of someone special is to some extent softened. As a result, they live their lives dreaming of love but they are not quite uncomfortable enough because of the high levels of connection in the workplace to make a radical change. 

At work, they feel valued, successful and in control, they have lots of connection which in turn makes them feel safe.

In their personal life, they feel unworthy, unlovable a failure.

So it is no surprise that they choose to spend their time where they feel good about themselves. In the end, work takes on a disproportionate significance; there is no time or energy left to look for and to support a loving, passionate relationship. They have become a workaholic.

Consider your own needs… What drives you? 

If you answer yes to these then you look for certainty:

Are you someone who likes to know what is what, you like to have a routine and feel in control, and to know how things stand. Do you put up with things that are negative rather than rock the boat? Do you crave comfort and wish to avoid pain?

Maybe uncertainty is your crutch:

Are you an adrenalin junkie, do you run from commitment or end relationships which appear to be getting too intense? Do you love new things but quickly lose interest once you have mastered the skills? 

Is significance a need for you?

Do you want to be noticed? Do you feel the need to succeed to make up for a perceived failure in early life (failed 11+ or a school exam for example)? Do you feel at your best when you are doing things for others? 

What do you really want out of connection?

Do you want to be loved? Are your relationships in life offering love or connection or both? How important are they to you?

If you have a perfect life, the things that drive you are obviously working well for you. If you feel a yearning for something different it is possible that the basic needs that drive you are not working at the optimum level for you. 

To help find the right motivators in your life to meet with your goals of happiness, you can get in touch with me for 1-2-1 coaching or to join a group.

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