What’s Motivating You?

It’s still January and not too late to start those resolutions. So…

How do I get motivated?

Motivation or why we do things is super interesting to me.

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy researching it because I’ve wanted to inspire and motivate – in the classroom, with my clients and with myself.

Recently I was watching Tony Robbins do a Ted Talk. In it, he identified 6 key factors that motivate human behavior.

They are: certainty, uncertainty (or variety), significance, love/connection, growth and contribution.

His 6 characteristics allow us to dig a little deeper into motivation and get into the why behind it.

If we can identify the why, we can better understand our needs, our thoughts, emotions and ultimately our behavior.

So, let’s walk through these.


People who are motivated by certainty crave safety and security. They prefer routine and want life to be predictable and ordered. They’re uncomfortable with change or stretching out of their comfort zones. Is that you?


Those who like uncertainty or variety need change, and stimulation. They are easily bored, crave new-ness, and adventure. If you are one of these people, it’s hard to sit at a desk all day doing the same thing. Perhaps these folks find work as tour operators, are self-employed or are entrepreneurs specializing in startups.


For those seeking significance, they strive to be accomplished, knowledgeable, and worthy of respect. Many people crave to feel important, or relevant and play it out in a myriad of ways. They become an expert in a field, enjoy being the life of the party or crave to be in charge – the boss.


Love and connection satisfy the need for belonging.  As humans, we all want to be loved and feel connected to others. If love and connection are your primary motivators, you seek out a partner, friendships, to be part of a community- at work, socially or perhaps in a church or temple setting.

Both growth and contribution are ways that we self-actualize.

Tony Robbins says that the previous four (certainty, uncertainty, significance and love/connection) are all on the level of personality. Where as these two, growth and contribution, are on the level of the soul.


Each of us craves growth. It's the natural order of life to grow, learn and evolve. If you’re primarily motivated by growth think of what you fill your life with – books, online courses, goal setting, seeking out teachers and mentors. Perhaps even travel.


Lastly, contribution is the ultimate aspect of self-actualization. Stepping out of ourselves and helping others is the most rewarding endeavor. Taking care of another human being, fills us with happiness, peace and love. Recognizing that there is more to do than taking care of me helps me remember that, in truth, we are all one. I can help others and make the world a better place – for that person and for myself.

When we explore why we do things, why we make certain decisions, we can trace them back to our motivation. It’s as if our motivation is calling the shots – giving us the feelings and the words to take action.

Am I calling this person because I want to feel significant or am I doing it because I want to be connected? Maybe I’m trying to contribute?

Am I moving back in with my parents because I need to feel secure or is it so I can grow by going back to school?

When we uncover what those underlying motivations are, it can help us more easily accomplish our goals and objectives.

Sometimes we don’t want to do things and the best way to get unstuck is to understand what’s behind it, what’s motivating you.

So here’s an example. When I found myself at 22 living in Hong Kong, working at a job where I felt neither significant nor connected, but had a constant routine that made me feel like a slave to my desk, I realized I had to make a change. And the things that stood out to me at that time were:

1.     Variety

I needed a job where I didn’t have to do the same thing all day long. I needed to move around and do different tasks.

2.     Connection

There I was living in a foreign country and I knew next to nothing about Chinese culture and had hardly any friends. I yearned to feel plugged in.

3.     Contribution

I wanted to make a difference. To have a job that could help others.

So, what happened?

I became a teacher and it met all of those requirements!

In delving in to our motivations, we can better understand ourselves and move in the directions that feel most fulfilling and rewarding to us. Give it a try!

What’s motivating you?

Let me know by leaving me a comment below.

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