Types of motivation

Examine the 9 types of motivation and how to provide the best motivational boost for an outstanding result.

For every goal set out, there is a motivation that backs it up. It might not be well laid out enough to be understood by every goal-getter, but it is nevertheless there.

Motivation is the fuel that drives the accomplishment of a goal and if it isn’t there, achieving any goal becomes a difficult task.

In this guide, you will learn about the different types of motivation that will serve as a bedrock for understanding how to complete your goal in different roles.


What is motivation?

Motivation is a force that makes people act, set goals, and achieve them. It is a psychophysiological process that controls human behavior, as well as sets its direction, actions, and constancy.

Motivation is heavily influenced by culture, society, and lifestyle. Different cultures have their own motivation drivers. Education, social environment, and lifestyle affect it even more.

You may not realize it, but the culture and values you were brought up with also determine your motivation. For instance, if you were born in a family that places high importance on giving to charity, you may be motivated to take on a role that helps others reach their own professional goals.

On the other hand, if your social group contains many people that place a high priority on achieving professional success, you might strive to get a promotion because of your lifestyle and surroundings.

According to incentive theories of motivation, all types of motivation can be divided into two major groups: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic and extrinsic types of motivation

A rewarding future sponsors both types of motivation, but what makes them different is where the reward is coming from. For the intrinsic, it is an internal reward, while the extrinsic comes from outside of the individual – it can be other people or something else.

What is intrinsic motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is most easily defined as those things that motivate a person with the aim of being rewarded internally.

This is any activity based on personal gratification or just for the fun of it without expecting external praise.

There are so many activities that are done daily and are dictated by intrinsic motivation. It could be going to the gym, learning new skills, playing games or sports, or helping someone cross the road because it gives you pleasure or a sense of purpose.

Anything at all that makes you feel good within yourself is fueled by intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation examples

Example 1:

Peter is a young footballer who loves what he does but isn’t good enough. Everybody trains for two hours a day at the stadium, but Peter takes an extra one hour after the training to do some more practice. He wants to be good at his passion, not for applause, but himself. This is a typical example of intrinsic motivation. In the end, he will get better because he is self-motivated to do so.

Example 2:

Sharon has struggled with health issues throughout her life. Other people have tried to encourage her to maintain her health. However, for most of her life, that encouragement hasn’t been enough to make a change. Over time, Sharon becomes tired of feeling bad, and knowing she isn’t at her best. One day, she makes the resolution to eat healthier and joins a gym. At first, it’s difficult, but she keeps trying. As she continues her healthy routine, she begins feeling better about herself, and notices she has more energy. Because she can tell how much better she feels when she’s healthy, she continues her routine and even starts counseling some of her peers to help them do the same.

Example 3:

James has always wanted to travel the world, and get to know people from other cultures. While his friends and family don’t travel much, he’s determined to make his dream come true. However, James also knows that to travel and be able to talk to locals, he’ll need a better way to communicate. He decides that his goal is to take an extended vacation to Italy and live with locals. James starts taking Italian classes after work, and within a couple of years, he’s able to travel to Italy and communicate with his new neighbors.

Example 4:

Brenda loves animals, and has since she was young. She sometimes volunteers at the local animal shelter, but she isn’t quite fulfilled. Homeless animals are what really make her sad, and she wishes she could do more to help them. Brenda starts to set up programs to rehabilitate homeless animals and find foster homes for them. She doesn’t make any money doing it, but she feels good knowing that she’s helping animals in need find a good home.

What is extrinsic motivation?

Extrinsic motivation stands for all the things that serve as an external drive, which is classified into two categories: compensation and punishment.

For compensation, it can be salary, bonuses, goods, money, and an appraisal.

Punishment might include fines, blame, judgment, and many others. This side of extrinsic motivation is usually mistaken to be negative, but it has quite a lot of positivity.

Extrinsic motivation is shown when an employee does his job well and gets fairly paid. At the same time, he comes to work on time because he knows if he comes late, he will lose money or even be fired. Also, he will be able to get a bonus from the supervisor if he achieves the goals set for him.

Either way, extrinsic motivation comes from someone or something else outside of the person being motivated.

Extrinsic motivation example

Example 1:

The sales department wasn’t performing as expected. The department head decided to motivate them and promised to give a team bonus if they achieve the month’s target goal. The monetary reward was inspiring. The team has reached the goal even earlier. This is the most common example of extrinsic motivation in the workplace.

Example 2:

John has trouble waking up on time, and frequently sleeps through his alarm. As a result, he’s often late to work. He’s received plenty of warnings from his boss, but he still comes in late. One day, John’s boss is tired of giving him warnings and tells him that the next time he’s late, he’ll be fired. John knows he needs the job, and the money, and resolves to be on time from then on.

Example 3:

Trisha is a social person, and she wants to stay up to date with the latest trends and technology. While her iPhone works perfectly well, it isn’t the newest one, and she feels left behind. A lot of her friends already have the newest iPhone, and she knows having one gives people the idea that she’s more successful and on top of trends. Because of societal expectations, she feels the need to buy the new iPhone.

Differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations

Let’s look closer into the main differences between these two groups of motivation.

Intrinsic motivation Extrinsic motivation
Can be positive and negative. Can be positive and negative.
Comes from inside. Comes from external (outside) subjects.
Hard to stimulate or foster. The reward is an automatic booster.
Sustained for a longer time. Limited hold on the individual.
Hard to apply to a group or individual. Easy to apply to a group.

In other words, both intrinsic and extrinsic types of motivation have pros and cons.

Types of intrinsic motivation

The next six types can be classified as intrinsic motivation. A careful look into each of them will give you a broad insight into how they all stand out in their various forms.

1. Competence motivation

Basically, competence motivation is driven by curiosity, willingness to know more or have some skills.

This kind of motivation is also known as learning motivation as it involves building more expertise on a subject matter and is not a competition among peers. So, if a promotion happens because of the skills garnered, it is a plus, but was not the primary goal.

You can see a practical example of competence motivation when an employee spares his free time to learn something, like a new skill. It can be a salesperson who is learning new sales techniques, or a designer learning a new framework.

Both of them are motivated by learning, because they want to know something new and improve their work. And they don’t directly expect to get an external reward.

Another example is the curiosity of explorers. They want to know what is there under the surface of the ocean, or deep in space.

2. Creative motivation

Creative motivation is often known to be prompted by a sense of wanting to say or express something.

It could be in the form of words, art, song, business, or production, but it always starts from trying to express oneself.

Because of the initial self-drive, creative motivation is never mistaken to be an extrinsic motivation.

So, even if just one person is benefiting from the creative expression, the motivation is still sustained.

An example of this type of motivation is the urge to write a book or a poem. Even if it doesn’t get to the ends of the earth, or doesn’t get published, there is always the fulfillment of penning those sentiments into words.

The reward in this case is not in bonuses or incentives, but in intangible assets that are gratifying.

3. Achievement motivation

The achievement motivation is somewhat like competence motivation in that it aims to achieve a goal just for personal development.

If the goal is to pursue a remarkable feat just because of the feeling of attaining that height, then it is a practical illustration of achievement motivation.

It could be a particular title in a company or position in society, and as long as it is not focused on being rewarded monetarily, then achievement motivation is the drive.

Most often, the process of getting that accomplishment with this type of motivation is not burdensome, even with any fluctuations that come along the way. Whether it yields recognition by an external party or not, the result is always the goal.

Also, this motivation propels the motivated person to feel worthy when the feat is achieved.

The best example of achievement motivation is found in sports. Just look at the Olympic records. These are the greatest athletes in the world and all of them are passionate about what they do. They want to be the best and write their names in history.

In an organization, it can be a desire to be the best in the department. It is often used in sales departments, like a leaderboard or the wall of fame. Also, a fair bonus is usually included.

Another common example is certification. An employee wants to get a certificate to prove their skills.

4. Attitude motivation

This type of motivation is based on the willingness to change the world, make something good, or help people.

It doesn’t matter what people will say, how they feel, or what vibes seep from within.

The main thing is that a person sees something that is wrong and wants to fix it, help, or change it.

Of course, it also comes from culture, his education, and other aspects of his personality.

An example of this is helping an older woman to carry her shop bags way back home regardless of the day’s stress and tiredness. There is no tangible reward to it, but an attitude motivation sponsors the feeling of helping someone.

Another good example of such motivation is when people are cleaning the ocean beach from discarded plastics. Or helping homeless animals to find a new home.

5. Affiliate motivation

The feeling of belonging to a group or society and being accepted is ignited by affiliate motivation.

For example, Theresa needs to make money, but she also wants to do meaningful things with her life. She’s been interviewing at different jobs, and now two different employers are offering her a job.
Company A is a well-known company, and they make good money. Company B can pay her decent money, but the company mission also includes supporting the community and group volunteering.
Theresa likes the ethics of Company B, and chooses to work there instead. That is just what affiliate motivation is all about.

A more intimate example is that of David who works as an HR intern in a big organization. Aside from the work hours, David and some other colleagues were to discuss fashion trends and anything not relating to work just to socialize. David has the choice to either join or not but he did because he was motivated by affiliation motivation.

Affiliate motivation is the bedrock of this drive as that desire makes people seek openings where they will be accepted and wanted.

6. Physiological motivation

Physiological motivation focuses on satisfying basic physiological needs: air, food, water, sleep, warmth, sex.

Therefore, as the primary needs of life, the main goal for them is to survive.

In physiological motivation, the reward might not be always tangible but it is always felt.

No doubt, basic human needs are not negotiable. The desire to be healthy, sleep more – all of these are driven by this type of motivation.

Of course, it is not a motivation you can use in your company. However, it reminds us that what is important, is to consider employees’ health, both physical and mental.

TIP: If you notice someone is trying hard, but has some issues and he looks tired and sleepy, he may be having other issues and you need to help him to allow him to work at his best.

Types of extrinsic motivation

There are three motivation types that can be classified as extrinsic, and they all show the very common aspects that stimulate many daily actions.

1. Reward-based motivation

This is probably the only motivational type that many are aware of, because of its popularity and that it is the easiest way to get a fast motivational boost.

Promise employees a bonus in their salary or set a bonus for a specific result, and people will start working harder.

The issues with this type of motivation are that it doesn’t last long; people get used to it.

It is just as the title says, and it involves the reward attached to it more than just a mere internal feeling. If there is no incentive, this type of motivation is not seen to be a drive.

The reward is always external and substantial as opposed to intrinsic motivation.

A good example is a competition between sales in the workplace to sell a certain amount of goods. If the reward is money instead of just selling to help the company make more sales, it is reward-based.

Regardless of this fact, reward motivation is not totally wrong even though the drive is incentive-based.

A reward-based motivation can work hand in hand with achievement-driven motivation, as the reward can also give a fulfilling sensation of achievement. With both motivation types, you will be rewarded externally and be gratified with doing what the company wants.

2. Power-based motivation

Just as the name already states, this is based on the human desire to have power over other people. Or, change the situation around their lives.

It can be said that controlling other people is not always bad, even if it has some negative connotations.

It doesn’t always mean control; sometimes, it means they are motivated to lead.

A good example of power-based motivation is Leadership. A leader is a person motivated to lead people.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” –  It is not just a fancy quote from Spiderman. A great leader will inspire people to overcome challenges and will help them organize their work. He will take this responsibility for them and will lead.

At the same time, like anything in bad hands, it can bring bad outcomes. An incompetent manager can ruin the atmosphere in the team, decrease productivity, or even increase employee turnover.

HRs should pay close attention to this type of motivation, the individuals that respond to it, and how the company uses reward based motivation.

3. Fear-based motivation

It is a motivational type that drives people to achieve something they otherwise won’t have been able to. It is not based on any monetary reward, but on the fear of pain or awkward feeling.

Fear-based motivation is always tagged to be negative, but it isn’t.

Though fear-based motivation could involve a negative result to motivate, it usually ends up producing positive results.

A good example is trying to be at work on time because your manager has promised to fine latecomers. The new rule by the manager clearly states that anybody that comes late more than once will not just be fined but fired. To avoid this, you wake up early every morning to beat traffic and be at work. This sudden change to work resumption will be fear-based, not because of the love of the work.

So, if the motivation has to do with producing more for the company, with fear of consequences used as a baseline condition, then fear motivation is being used.

Of course, you shouldn’t rely heavily on it, because the negative aspects of this type of motivation can overcome any positive results. And instead of increasing productivity, it may lead to demotivation, lower job satisfaction, stress, and as a result, a rise in turnover.

Best types of motivation for different activities

Having looked through the major types and their subtypes, it is also relevant to know which types of motivation are best in various scenarios.

1. Best types of motivation for employees

As an employee in the business world, there is a need to be both internally and externally motivated.

In fact, there is also a need to be the reason someone else is motivated. Hence, some selected types of employee motivation will yield this positivity and also help those around you.

  • Reward-based motivation
  • Attitude motivation
  • Fear-based motivation
  • Creative motivation
  • Achievement motivation
  • Competence motivation
  • Power motivation

2. Best types of motivation for managers

Whether it is a group of five or a thousand, managers surely need some specific types of motivation in management to function.

They are always meeting different people, and one thing that keeps them around is being motivated positively.

Here are the best forms of motivation managers need to manage effectively.

  • Reward-based motivation
  • Power motivation
  • Achievement motivation
  • Attitude motivation
  • Competence motivation.

3. Best types of motivation in education

In the educational platform, types of motivation for learners are usually not practical, but theoretical.

The best motivational types selected for education are the following.

  • Achievement motivation
  • Reward-based motivation
  • Fear-based motivation


Altogether, the different motivation types that fall under the two major categories are widespread and have their own specific rewards.

Yet, for any intrinsic or extrinsic motivation that becomes a drive, their respective characteristics can be blended to get the best end result.

All that you have to do is understand the goals that need to be achieved, and provide the right motivational boost by using the right types of motivation for the situation.

Remember, you cannot use every type of motivation in every situation. However, you also aren’t limited to just one.

Mix it up, and achieve an outstanding result.