What is motivation?


In this writing, I want to share with you something about motivation. According to you, what is motivation? Can you give me definition of it? There are many different views about how to define “motivation”; however, Pritchard and Ashwood (2008) define motivation as “how we choose to allocate our energy to different actions to achieve the greatest satisfaction of our needs” (p. 6).

In the book “Managing Motivation: A Manager’s Guide to Diagnosing and Improving Motivation” they explain “our level of motivation determines which actions we’ll work on, how much effort we’ll put in, and how long we’ll work, and that a motivating environment is one in which expending more energy leads to satisfying more needs” (p. 7). There are nine key aspects of motivation that are important to understand (p. 8 – 9):

  • Motivation is understandable, and can be diagnosed and influenced.
  • Motivation is a process, a series of connected and ordered steps.
  • Motivation is a not a “fad issue” in management, it’s fundamental.
  • Motivation must be managed over the long term and takes sustained effort.
  • Motivation is logical, operating on principles.
  • Motivation is manageable and how you manage people influences their motivation.
  • Motivation is a work strategy—choosing what to work on, how much effort to put in, and for how long.
  • Motivation is collaboration between an organization and its employees.
  • Motivation levels that are high benefit everyone.

In addition, Reeve (2008) shows motivation levels expressed in four ways: behavior, engagement, brain activity, and self-report. First, behavioral expressions of motivation include:

  • How much attention you give something—concentration and task-focus
  • The effort you put into something
  • The amount of time it takes you to respond to a stimulus event (latency)
  • The persistence you show (how long you keep at something)
  • The choices you make
  • The probability that you’ll respond to something
  • Your facial expressions
  • Your bodily gestures

Second, engagement refers to “the behavioral intensity, emotional quality, and personal investment” you make in an activity. If you’re trying to determine whether someone is engaged in what they’re doing, pay attention to their behavior, emotions, cognition, and voice, of course, our brains and bodies know when we’re motivated and when we’re not because they give all kinds of indicators, such as brain activity, hormonal activity, heart rate changes, and respiratory rate changes, among other things. Lastly, people can self-report on their motivation levels, but this is not usually very reliable as a scientific method (Reeve, 2008, 13).


Pritchard, R. & Ashwood, E. (2008). Managing Motivation: A Manager’s Guide to Diagnosing and Improving Motivation. New York: Routledge Academic

Reeve, J. ( 2008). 5th edition. Understanding Motivation and Emotion. New York: Wiley Press.


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