The six types of motivation.

Why do some people stick with their goals while others quit?

Why are some projects so difficult to finish while others feel easier?

Why do we break our most important promises to ourselves so damn often?

Why is it so hard to just “get motivated” sometimes?

I obsess over these types of questions and I try to use my life as an ongoing “research lab,” testing theories and tweaking to get better results.

One thing I know for sure is that what motivates your best friend or partner is NOT necessarily going to motivate you.

Motivation is not one size fits all.

Royale Scuderi (best name ever) wrote a piece for Lifehacker that I’ve shared with pretty much everyone I know. In it, she outlines six “motivation types.”

While I am not convinced that there are “just” six types, it’s a pretty thorough list — and very interesting to think about.

Here’s my quickfire summary of the six types:

1. Rewards / incentives – “I want to get [specific reward], so I’m going to do [action].”

2. Fear of consequences – “I want to avoid [bad thing], so I’m going to do [action].”

3. Achievement – “I want to achieve [triumph, milestone, award, public recognition], so I’m going to do [action].”

4. Growth – “I want to feel like I am continually improving, progressing, moving forward, so I’m going to do [action].”

5. Power – “I want to feel strong, powerful and influential, so I’m going to do [action].”

6. Social factors – “I want to feel a sense of belonging, like I am part of a tribe, coven or community, so I’m going to do [action].”

Recognize yourself in any of those profiles?

Maybe one or two “pop” as particularly strong factors for you?

If you commit to a goal that is not “synced up” with your motivation type, it will feel incredibly difficult, laborious and tedious to drag yourself across the finish line.

Every step of the way, you’ll be trying to “make” yourself feel motivated.

You will probably quit very quickly.

Or fail to even begin.

I speak from personal experience.

Story time:

A few years ago, a lovely group of friends convinced me to sign up to be part of their cycling club. They were meeting several times a week to train for a long bicycle race. The race was a fundraiser for a great cause: raising money for breast cancer research. All of them had participated in the race for several years and they LOVED it.

“It’s SO much fun!” they told me. “Seriously, you won’t believe how amazing it feels to be part of the race. The music, the teams, all the people, being part of this community. It will change your life.”

I signed up to join the team and then… I did not attend a SINGLE training meet-up. Not. Even. One. I did not attend the race either. My friends were bummed and I felt so ashamed. I could not understand why I felt ZERO motivation to be part of this experience. I remember literally crying, feeling like a monster because for GOD’S SAKE, it was a fundraiser!

Looking back, I realize now that most of my friends were strongly motivated by social factors (“I want to feel a sense of belonging, like I am part of a tribe, coven or community, so I’m going to do this”) which meant that participating in a fundraiser bicycle race was the PERFECT experience for them. It synced. It worked. They didn’t have to “force” themselves to do it. Some training days felt easier than others, but deep down, they just LOVED it.

Me? I am not motivated by social factors. Never have been. This is probably why I have never been part of a book club, or a writing circle, or a business mastermind group, or any kind of “club” or “association.” It doesn’t mean that I am a friend-less grump-face. I love my friends. But “being part of a tribe” just isn’t my driving motivation to do… anything.

I am, however, highly motivated by rewards and power.

If I had understood my motivation style back then, I could have re-wired my attitude about the race to set myself up for success.

I could have figured out some kind of “reward” that I would receive after completing the race, for example.

I could have coached myself through it by reminding myself how “powerful” and “important” and “helpful” I was going to feel once I’d completed the race.

I could have done a lot of things to re-frame the experience to dial up my enthusiasm and commitment.

Instead, I tried to “make” myself get excited about the “social” component and I just couldn’t get turned on. No joy-boner whatsoever. So I floundered and failed to even begin.

Today, I know my motivation style very well and — whenever possible — I design goals to sync up with my type.

Once you know what motivates you — and design your world accordingly — you become unstoppable.