10 Motivational Theories Can Help You Win in Life Even In Low Ebb

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Motivation may seem like a simple concept. It’s commonly viewed as the drive to achieve one’s goal and succeed in an endeavor. The significance of motivation can range from getting ... Read more

Motivation may seem like a simple concept. It’s commonly viewed as the drive to achieve one’s goal and succeed in an endeavor. The significance of motivation can range from getting out of bed to starting a business.

It can also be likened to adrenaline. Medically speaking, adrenaline is a hormone that the body produces that keeps you awake and alert. Like adrenaline, motivation can keep you alive, active, and alert. It can also ignite your passion. Your motivation will only work if you let it work.

Motivation is a simple concept but plays a vital role in everyone’s lives. It is what keeps you going, keeps you from giving up. It sparks ideas and interests. It’s what you need to achieve your dreams. Without motivation, you somehow lose the desire to live. You live without excitement and fail to see the bigger and better picture.

It may be a simple concept, but there are so many ways people view motivation. Several theories are related to the idea. Some of them explain the reasons behind motivation; others talk about the effects. Disclaimer: most of these theories are focused and based on working but can still be applied in everyday life.

Here are the 10 Motivational Theories 

#1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Theory on the hierarchy of needs is a very well-known one. It revolves around the idea that people have levels of needs. Before one tier is answered, the one below it needs to be met first. The levels start from the most basic to a complex need. They are:

1).Physiological Needs (basic)

  • Biological needs are essential to human survival:
      • Food
      • Water
      • Air
      • Clothing
      • Shelter

2). Safety Needs

  • Protection from any type of danger.

3). Social Needs

  • The need for human interaction and relationships.

4). Esteem Needs

  • Assurance of self-importance and appreciation and respect from others.

5). Self-actualization

  • Manifests on its own when the person understands themselves. They are open to new adventures and eager to learn new skills. These can lead them to pursue their life goals.

To understand the actions you need to take in life, you must first determine what level needs to be focused on. The tier that needs to be met determines the direction of your motivation. Looking into this, you’ll be able to understand yourself further and learn what you need. When you know yourself better, it will be easier to answer the rest of your needs.

#2. Hertzberg’s Two-Factor Motivation Hygiene Theory

With American psychologist Frederick Herzberg behind it, this theory focuses on what negatively and positively drives employees to work. There are two kinds of factors that determine this:

1). Motivators

  • These factors are considered positive. They play a role in the workers’ motivation to work better and harder.
  • These include recognition, opportunities to grow, and interesting work.

2). Hygiene

  • These are factors that take part in the employees’ desire to work less and of low-quality. These may even prompt them to leave.
  • Poor working conditions, low salaries, and toxic workmates are some factors in this type.

Motivation is the drive you have to go for something you want or need. This theory can help explain what you need and why. Once you know the motivators and hygiene factors of any situation, you can go ahead and grow on the upside and try to eliminate the downside. You are in control of the actions taken.

#3. The Hawthorne Effect

Simply put, people perform better when they are aware that they are being observed. Because of the attention they’re getting, they intentionally become a better version of themselves.

Having people in your life is indeed important, especially those who positively influence you. However, bear in mind that you don’t need attention and approval to motivate you to be better. Do it ultimately for yourself.

#4. Expectancy Theory

The Expectancy Theory focuses on the message that a person’s action or behavior relies on their expected outcome. How you see the rewards and consequences influence the way you view the result. Three elements need to be considered:

1). Expectancy

  • This refers to the idea that the effort you put in will yield an achievement.
  • Your past self, confidence, and difficulty of the task determine the expectancy.

2). Instrumentality

  • This refers to the belief that meeting performance expectations will reward you.

3). Valence

  • This refers to the value you put on a reward.

This theory basically explains why people think about the future. They are motivated by it. Reminded yourself that whatever you do or don’t do today will undoubtedly affect your future. Being mentally organized and prepared for whatever comes your way can help you face any challenge.

#5. Three-Dimensional Theory of Attribution

Briefly explained, the Three-Dimensional Theory of Attribution theorizes how people attach meaning to behavior, whether it be personally or to others. People rationalize the actions done by them or by others. These reasons will affect future behavior and motivation.

There are three attribution characteristics:

1). Stability

  • Is the factor permanent or temporary?
  • Positive situations with stable factors will create positive expectations, thus motivating the person to continue. The same idea goes for negative situations with stable factors.

2). Locus of control

  • Were the causes external or internal?
  • An internal factor may cause a more significant impact.

3). Controllability

  • Were they in control of the factor/s?
  • Chances are if they have control and believe they can do better, they will be less motivated to try again because they already know the outcome and are satisfied with it.

This theory can teach you that things are not just in black and white; they entail elaborate explanations. When you fail, you shouldn’t be disheartened. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. When you are confident of success, don’t be cocky. For both situations, you can always be better. Be motivated to improve.

#6. Acquired-Needs Theory

Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the Acquired-Needs Theory is need-based. The thought it wants to get across is that life experiences produce three types of needs:

1). Achievement

  • This pertains to the drive to succeed and reach a standard.

2). Affiliation

  • This need is geared towards being friendly and warm with others to create meaningful relationships.
  • There is a desire for acceptance. People who have this type dominant in them prioritize value relationships.

3). Power

  • There is a want to spark change in people, to influence and impact.
  • People with this like being in control.

Although certain types of needs are dominant in people, they consist of more than one kind. This theory can serve as a lesson to balance things out. It’s good to have more than one thing going for you. However, putting the majority of your attention on one goal will give you a higher chance of succeeding.

The theory also gives you a chance to work on yourself. Working on balancing your needs, exploring your past self, and focusing on a dream will make a better version of you.

#7. Equity Theory

The Equity Theory encapsulates the idea that motivation stems from comparing yourself to others. Others, in this case, are ones who are in a similar situation to you. You want everything to be equal. An advantage on their part makes you less motivated to do better because you see things as unfair.

For example, two friends come from the same high school. When they enter college, Friend A gets noticed more, and he/she gets better grades. Friend B doesn’t exert effort because, in their mind, there is no point in trying if they won’t get recognized, anyway.

To be rightly motivated, you should act according to the situation. This theory somehow encourages people to acknowledge fairness and equality. Yes, it is good to better yourself for altruistic reasons. However, there are times when you need to look out for yourself.

In certain instances, you should ask yourself if the reward suits the effort you exerted. Fight for what is right. Let inequality inspire you to better yourself.

#8. McGregor’s Participation Theory

This theory consists of two sub-theories: Theory x and Theory Y. Theory X lists some of the negative attributes innate in humans. These include being lazy, lacking ambition, and disliking responsibility. The theory also suggests humans naturally lack intelligence and are self-centered.

In contrast, Theory Y comprises the positive traits present in humans. We are not passive and actually welcome responsibility. The drive to achieve and desire to succeed is innate in us. We are also naturally independent.

There is a clear distinction between X and Y, but they are both present in people. These labels do not define what one person is. You can possess some traits from X and some attributes from Y. No one is perfect.

#9. Argyris’s Theory

Argyris’s Theory suggests that management practices affect workers’ growth and behavior. The seven personality changes they undergo make them more mature. In a nutshell, they experience personality development. The theory also says that maturity depends on how people are treated.

This theory encourages a cycle, starting with you. You should act in the way you want to be treated. Carry yourself in a manner you feel would get the kind of attention you want. Since maturity depends on how people treat you, make them treat you how you want to develop.

#10. Reinforcement Theory

This theory is similar to the Equity Theory. If prior beliefs are strengthened, people will get the motivation to continue what they go praise for. If efforts are ignored, the motivation to repeat will decrease.

For example, a student took the initiative to clean the classroom before class. The teacher came early and praised him. With confidence and pride, he’s done this every day since then. On the other hand, if the teacher had taken no notice of his action, he would never clean the room again.

Motivation doesn’t always need to come from oneself. Acknowledge the efforts of who is deserving, and you can make the world a better place.


What does this article about motivation aim to get across? Motivation is a simple yet complex idea. There are theories explaining the reasons behind motivation, and there are others that talk about the effects.

The theories can also provide an underlying lesson behind them. They could be telling you not to let labels define you. Balance your needs but focus on one goal could be another message it wants to convey. The lesson could also be to fight for what is right.

Bear in mind that these are just theories, not a rulebook to follow. They are merely a guideline on what to know about motivation. They may contain tips but should not be viewed as requirements.

We also want to emphasize the importance of motivation in living. Without it, you tend to live a life that can be mediocre, if you’re lucky, or undesirable. You don’t have a zest for life and have no clear vision of what you want your future to be.

We hope the content in this article makes you realize the importance and complexity of motivation. We also hope that you use what you’ve learned from this to not only uplift yourself but help others, too.

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Jesse Long

Hi, my name is Jesse, father of a Yorkie and the founder of motivation2life.com. I really enjoy writing, especially the inspired and motivational articles, and believe that they will definitely help you become better.

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