Why do people strive to do the things that they do? Psychologists have been trying to explain this for a long time. Knowing the factors that drive people is incredibly important when it comes to working on teams and understanding the actions of others in general.
To understand what motivates people, we need to first learn about people’s needs. Psychologist Abraham Maslow created the “hierarchy of needs” in the 1940s. Every one of us acts in a way that helps us get our needs met, and it goes as follows:
- Physiological needs – breathing, sleeping, eating, etc
- Safety – freedom from fear, societal law and order, stability, being employed, being healthy, etc
- Love and belonging – family, friendship, intimacy, feeling a sense of connection to your community, etc
- Esteem – being confident and respected, feeling a sense of self, confidence, achievement, etc
- Self-actualization – fulfilling one’s potential, personal growth, creativity, etc
People generally will try to fulfill the most basic needs before moving up and fulfilling the higher-order needs.
Later on, in the 1960s, psychologist David McClelland expanded upon this and came up with three main motivators for behavior. Each one of us has one of these depending on our personality:
- Achievement – the desire to accomplish challenging goals on their own, often through risk-taking
- Affiliation – these people will act out of their desire to belong to a larger group
- Power – these people desire competition and control or influence over others