Winter is winding down and soon we can enjoy the rebirth of nature and the beauty of SPRING. This is always a good time to recommit to your own personal growth and development. Take some time as you enjoy the season to reflect on your growth process.

Be sure to discuss growing with your coach. Your coach will hold you accountable for how you want to grow.

Now for this month’s thoughts about:

What Drives You? Understanding Our Motivations

Do you really understand what motivates you? Everyone knows how important it is to “know yourself,” yet few people do. Really understanding your motivations is a life-long challenge. Part of the problem lies in the fact that motivations are subconscious, so deeply embedded that we don’t get a good look at them. They are experienced as instinctive.

Are there basic drives that are common to all human beings? Which ones are driving us in our daily lives? How are they influencing the choices you make?

It used to be that people looked to Freud’s psychodynamic theory for explanations: we are driven by sex and power. But surely there is more than that. More recently, Maslow helped us to understand our basic needs for shelter, food, clothing, ego and belonging. Then he told us that only a few of us would become “self-actualized.”

David McClelland outlined three basic motivations in the 50s: the drive to achieve, the drive for power, and the drive to affiliate with others. His theory has been widely applied to understanding motivations at work.

Another psychologist in the 30s, Edouard Spranger, proposed that we seek to satisfy our interests in six areas: theoretical, utilitarian, aesthetic, social, individualistic, and traditional or religious. While this helps explain our areas of interests, it doesn’t address the underlying drives or motivations.

There is a new theory that proposes all humans have four basic drives in common. These four drives have been present since the beginnings of our species and have help in our survival. These four basic drives are embedded in our genetic DNA and remain very much active in us today.

Four Basic Human Drives

The four basic drives are:
    1. The drive to acquire

    2. The drive to bond

    3. The drive to learn

    4. The drive to defend
In a recent book on motivation, Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices (Jossey Bass, 2001), authors Paul R. Lawrence and Nitin Nohria explain this new theory on basic drives in humans. These two Harvard Business School professors draw evidence for their four-drive theory from evolutionary psychology and Darwin as well as from social sciences and organizational life.

Human beings are driven to seek ways to fulfill all four drives because these drives are the product of the species’ common evolutionary heritage: they increase the ability of our genes to survive.

    1. The drive to acquire objects and experiences that improve our status relative to others: This is defined as a drive to seek, take, control and retain objects and personal experiences. In the course of evolution humans have been selected naturally for this drive by survival pressures, based on the basic needs for food, fluid, shelter, and sexual fulfillment.

      People are driven to acquire both material and positional goods. Both goods and social status are important here. The drive to acquire is rarely satisfied; you can always want more and always seek ever greater status.

    2. The drive to bond with others in long-term relationships of mutual care and commitment: Humans have an innate drive to form social relationships and develop commitments with others that is fulfilled only when the attachment is mutual. Groups of individuals who were bonded to one another had a better chance of surviving environmental threats than group that were not. This drive draws humans into cooperation with others.

    3. The drive to learn and to make sense of the world and of ourselves: Humans have an innate drive to satisfy their curiosity, to know, to comprehend, to believe, to appreciate, to develop understandings or representations of their environment and of themselves through a reflective process. This drive without doubt has enabled mankind to survive the elements and has given humans distinct advantages over other creatures.

    4. The drive to defend ourselves, our loved ones, our beliefs, and our resources from harm: Humans have an innate drive to defend themselves and their valued accomplishments whenever they perceive them to be endangered. The fundamental emotion manifested by this subconscious drive is alarm, which in turn triggers fear or anger. This drive has obvious survival value. This may have been the first drive to have evolved in earlier human species.

      The drive to defend manifests itself in modern life in many ways. Much of human activity is generated by this drive. It is activated by perceived threats to body, possession and one’s bonded relationships, and also by threats to one’s own cognitive representations of one’s environment and of one’s self identity.
The Balancing Act

The four drives are innate and universal, found in some physical form in the brains of all human beings. The drives are independent even though they are highly interactive with each other.

Each drive also has a “dark side,” as when the drive to acquire becomes excessively competitive and diminishes respect for others, or when the drive to defend one’s current thinking diminishes the drive to learn new perspectives.

These four drives exist in each of us, and determine the choices we make. In some people, one drive will be more developed than others, creating an imbalance. In some jobs, some drives will be emphasized more than others.

Understanding how each of these drives shows up in your life can help you understand how and why you make the choices you make. Working with your coach can help you understand yourself better. You may be relying too much on your drive to acquire, or placing too much emphasis in the drive to bond, while neglecting your drive to learn. Often the drive to defend can overwhelm other important drives that must be satisfied in order to have a well-balanced successful life.

Which drives are guiding your choices? Which drive do you neglect? The key is in knowing that all four drives are basic to human nature and a balanced life must include some satisfaction in all four areas.

“The challenge is to find a course forward that fulfils all of our basic drives in some creative, balanced way. …The way forward must be to use the best side of each drive to check the dark, excessive potential of human nature” (Lawrence & Nohria, p. 283).

Final Thoughts:

Thanks for your time and your energy this month. I am always eager to grow my subscription list. Please help improve our world by forwarding this to others. Who knows where these thought seeds might take root and grow.

Coach Jerry

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Jerry Pinney

For the last twenty-two years Jerry Pinney has been president of his own consulting firm. Currently he focuses his efforts on providing executive and personal coaching to persons who are interested in improving their quality of life and consulting to small and mid-sized companies and nonprofits. He is a facilitator for peer advisory groups with The Alternative Board and is a Certified One Page Planning Consultant. Jerry has over three decades of experience in the food industry, and possesses a unique perspective of customer service, marketing and strategic planning. In addition to overall general management qualifications, Jerry has proven expertise in operational planning and business development. His food industry career started at Jewel Food Stores followed by a long career with IGA, with their retailers, wholesalers and ten years as Vice President of Marketing. In addition Jerry has served as Vice President of Membership for the National Grocers Association, Sr. Vice President of Procurement for Shurfine International and Executive Manager of The Zenon Hansen Foundation.

Jerry has also served on a number of nonprofit boards including: President of the Volunteer Center of Northwest Suburban Chicago. He is currently a Project Manager for the Executive Service Corps of Chicago. Jerry’s ESC assignments have included coaching for several Executive Directors, and consulting on various Board Development projects and on a number of strategic planning projects.

Jerry Pinney & Associates
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Chicago, IL,
phone: 312-842-4577,
fax: 312-842-4705

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