2014 is almost over. Many of you are beginning to plan 2015.
What are your motivations for next year? What do you want
to accomplish? Who will hold you accountable? What drives
| What Drives You? Understanding
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 dont get a good look at them. They are experienced
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 Freuds 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
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 doesnt 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.
The four basic drives are:
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.
- The drive to acquire
- The drive to bond
- The drive to learn
- The drive to defend
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.
- 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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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 ones
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.
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).
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