Understanding Motivation

Learn about "Drive Theory," motivational outlooks and ARC (autonomy, relatedness and competence) for achieving sustainable high performance.

We often use interesting phraseology when we discuss our employees’ motivation. We talk about “what drives people,” or “what’s pushing them” to reach their goals, terminology that suggests that the individual is the subject or recipient of the motivation, instead of the source. This in turn suggests that all motivation is something external to the individual—yet some of our most inspirational examples of motivation defy this simplistic explanation.

Consider, for example, several “greatest of all time” sports stars, like Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, or the Williams sisters. Each has won the pinnacle of their respective sports multiple times, yet each continued repeatedly to win that contest again and again. Why? Do they really need another trophy on the shelf? Tom Brady has enough Super Bowl rings to almost occupy each finger of both of his hands—why would he need to start working on his toes? Michael Jordan even quit basketball to play his first love—baseball—after winning the championship three times in a row, only to come back from baseball and do it again. Why? Was it the millions of dollars? The adoration? Was it the shoes?

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