Mar 5, 2011

Know and Use Your Motivational Needs for Your Success

I have a friend whose dream was to work for Government administration (until retirement). This dream came true after four years of waiting and trying. He was very happy and, naturally - I am happy for a friend. Still remember him saying ''work for government administration is the best job one can imagine. Maybe does not pay so well but at least it is ''safe/stable/secure.'' Not sure what exact word he used to described it but it was one of these. Suggesting nice, precious routine, too.

I was nodding my head but thinking I could not imagine myself in the same job. The sole word ''routine'' makes me want to quit a job before even starting it. Today I stopped to think about why this might be so. The article reminded me of 6 human motivational needs and made me think how different I felt about the job my friend was dreaming about. I figured these motivational needs probably explain why.

When I was very young, hardly twenty or so, I was certain I should treat others the way I wanted to be treated. Somehow it felt only logical that others want what I want. Now I don't believe it (so strongly) anymore. It's been a while since I learned we/our motivations seem similar, and yet are very different. It helped me be more accepting, tolerant, sometimes even more influential.

I dislike (sophisticated) tests that label people into charts and give you names you don't even know what to do with, except that they sound good. Some of these tests, concepts, names, questionnaires look like a fad, complicated and expensive way to explain something simple that makes you know exactly what your next step ought to be. Today I'd just like to make you think about simple concept of motivational needs we all have, and the way to understand them and use them to choose, shape and guide your career success.

Six human motivational needs are need for:

1. Certainty

2. Variety

3. Significance

4. Love/connection

5. Growth

6. Contribution (doing something more than yourself)

Here is what I learned by reading a little more about these motivational needs:

  • First 4 needs must be met to survive in the world.

  • We can fulfill them in positive and negative way.

  • Some needs might be more or less valued - you can see some needs as more or less important. Based on your unique life experience you learn to place different levels of importance on each of these needs.

  • Some needs can complement each other and some can conflict with each other.

  • Two needs you value the most determine in large part the course of your life.

Without trying to do a job of a psychotherapist or go deep into theory I tried to understand and figure out basic, practical implications of these needs. All these motivational needs and the ways we are trying to fill them will shape our finances, health, relationships. This means they will shape our careers too.



Positive ways of meeting the need for certainty:

Saving money for emergency

Learning about money and business creation

How can need for Certainty be used in negative way?

Trying to control people, or even

Staying at home and not going to work etc.

Being controlling.


Positive ways of meeting the need for significance:

Being a head of organization

Becoming a great athlete

Negative ways of meeting the need for significance

Getting into a fight in the bar/Using abusive language

Having significant problems

There are other examples of the ways you can meet your needs in positive and negative ways in this article.


I suppose my need for variety might be a bit more important when making career choices than that of a friend I mentioned. Of course, variety is not the only criteria, but it is more important to me than security.

Who cares about my self-analysis here? Let's say I wrote all that trying to give an example,of something that worked for me, and try to understand exactly why it worked - so that you will manage to do the same if you haven't already.

Every time I understand myself, ( I often did not have a clue at a time) employees, clients, or other people (I contact or work with) better - I make better decision and produce better results. I also feel better.

As you work with people, for people, and other people work for you, you are probably going to be wrong assuming others have the same motivational needs as you do. If you are a manager having this in mind will be more precious. Not only you can make better choices and decisions - you can use the knowledge of what motivates others to help them reach for the results your team needs, while getting what they need the most.

If you would like to get to know more about your needs and take more active role in fulfilling them, try to do the following exercise:

Exercise: Your Needs Analysis

  1. Rank these six human needs from most important to least important…

  2. What is the need you value the most? How do you fulfill this need in positive ways? How do you fulfill this need in negative ways?

  3. What is your second most valued need? How do you fulfill this need in positive ways? How do you fulfill this need in negative ways?

  4. How do these top two needs conflict with each other?

  5. How do these top two needs compliment each other?

  6. How do these top two needs affect your relationships? …your finances? your health?

Hope you know exactly what you need (the most) by now and are taking active steps to get your needs met. I hope you know and respect your needs and priorities by creating teams, companies and roles in which you know what you are doing is what you value the most. Achieving your goals should be a bit easier and less boring, too. When you make this reality for yourself and others, it will help you gain influence and their respect. As always I am looking forward to hear what your experiences are and any thoughts you are having on the subject.

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