What Motivates People: Top 5 ‘Deep Rooted’ Reasons That Motivate All Humans (the science)

chasing money what motivate people What Motivates People: Top 5 'Deep Rooted' Reasons That Motivate All Humans (the science)

What motivates you? Is it money ? Is it freedom ? Is it love?

Successful people always find a way to keep going and keep moving forward. Sometimes despite unsurmountable odds. But how, why?

There are different specific reasons, but generally, deep intrinsic motivation is the powerful source of energy that motivates all of us deep down. There are four basic categories that most types of motivation fall into. These motivations ignite our fires deep down within, and causes us to act.

What Motivates People: Top 5 'Deep Rooted' Reasons That Motivate All Humans (the science)

Motivation drives everything we do. 

Sometimes we’re consciously aware of our motivations, but sometimes our sub-conscious acts with-out us  even realizing that we’re being motivated from deep with-in ourselves.

Maybe your motivation comes from a deep drive to be a better father than your father. Or maybe it’s to make a positive change in the world. Or may something darker, more sinister, like being motivated by revenge.

People are motivated by different things, and almost always, there are multiple and conflicting motivations with-in all of us. 

Still, there are a few generally universal categories when it comes to what really motivates people to do things.

Let’s dive in to gain a deeper understanding of the deep rooted core reasons behind what motivates people.

Everyone Acts Based On 5 Basic Deep Rooted Motivational Categories

Bear chasing aside, researchers and scholars have proposed several theories and models to explain motivation.

Most theories (if not all) suggest that all motivation comes from the basic desire of people wanting to achieve something.

As an example, according to Maslow’s theory, we find motivation from our desire to fulfill the five basic needs: social, esteem, biological, safety, and self-actualization.

Abraham Maslow, is a esteemed psychologist who has found that our desire to meet these needs creates “”innate pressures”” (motivation) that influence our actions and behavior.

We all have these needs in us, and they drive us to achieve.

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1. Basic Human Needs That Motivate Us

Our basic human needs are pretty obvious. They include basic things that all humans need to survive.

  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter
  • Clothing

2. Security and Safety NeedsThat Motivate Us

After the basic human needs are met, our motivations usually tend to become a bit more complex.

People generally want control and order in their lives, which leads to being motivated by forces of wanting safety and security. Examples include,

  • Financial security
  • Health Assurance (and insurance)
  • Safety against crime, accidents, and injury

3. Social NeedsThat Motivate Us

People are social creatures by nature. Even those who are introverts and just want to be left alone still have basic social human needs. The need for emotional relationships drives human behavior, even in ways that we are not consciously aware of.

For example, a toddler throwing a temper tantrum may be just a cry for attention.

  • Friendships
  • Romance
  • Family
  • Social groups
  • Love in general

In order for people to avoid problems like loneliness, depression, and anxiety, it is important to feel a sense of community and be loved and accepted by other people.

The need for acceptance is one of the largest sub-conscious motivating forces that so many people are unaware of.

4. Motivated By Esteem Needs(Respect)

Appreciation and respect are huge motivating forces.

Being motivated by the need for respect isn’t usually a consideration by most people until the first three levels of motivational forces have been satisfied.

Self-Esteem becomes an increasingly important motivational force in order to gain the respect and appreciation of others.

To sum it up, people have a deep rooted need to know that they are valued and by others and feel that they are making a contribution to the world.

Desire to win, academic achievements, and personal hobbies can all play a role in fulfilling peoples esteem needs.

According to Maslow, both esteem and social motivations combine to make up a “”psychological need for hierarchy”.

Those who lack self-esteem and the respect of others can develop feelings of inferiority which can become a great ‘negative motivator’.

5. Self-Actualization (self-fulfillment) NeedsThat Motivate Us

Self-Actualization is similar to esteem motivation but very different at he same time. People motivated by self-actualization want to do more and contribute more because they feel that they can and they want to contribute as much to society as possible.

Those motivated by esteem may also want to contribute more to society but they want to do so for the recognition, not for the contribution.

Those who are deeply motivated by self-actualization look to fulfill themselves by doing the best that they are capable of doing.

Self-actualizing people are self-aware, looking for personal growth, less concerned with recognition and the opinions of others, and mainly interested in fulfilling their potential as a person.

Top Specific Motivating Forces (sub-categories of the 5 main categories)

With-in the five basic motivating categories above, there are more specific reasons behind peoples motivations.

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1. Motivated by Power

Being motivated by power is very common. Power falls either under social need or esteem need for motivation as noted above.

Being in power means being able to have a particular influence over a person or an event. Truth be said, everyone wants power or control in certain ways.

But some people are just motivated by the want for power more than others.

Some people desire power, fame, and influence just because they love to take charge. Others want it to have control over their lives, systems, and other people.

So do you feel the need to take charge all the time? Is finding fame your motivation?

If yes, then your motivation is to find influence and power. 

2. Money Motivation

The financial aspect is, of course, among the greatest motivating forces in life.

Being motivated by money is different than power. Money motivation can fall under categories 1-4 above.

Money can buy you power, money can buy you materialistic nice things, and money can buy you freedom. This is why businesses use financial incentives like salaries, wages, medical insurance, and retirement benefits to motivate workers.

The thing is that money satisfies psychological and security needs. It acts as a basis of respect, power, and status in social settings. 

Some people want the finest things in life, and they think they can get them if they have money. 

Unfortunately money cannot buy you true respect or unconditional love.

3. motivated By Your Legacy (Recognition)

leaving a legacy motivates people to do things What Motivates People: Top 5 'Deep Rooted' Reasons That Motivate All Humans (the science)

People that are driven by legacy and recognition put in extra effort to ensure that they turn the spotlight on themselves whenever they can.

 Are you such a kind of person? Do you desire recognition from others?

 If you are motivated by recognition, you’ll always want to prove others wrong or prove that you can do something. You’ll outshine and outperform anybody, especially if the spotlight is on you.

Being motivated by legacy falls under the esteem and social categories. 

4. Motivated by Passion 

People also find motivation in the thing they are most passionate about. What’s your passion? 

Your career can also be your passion. Sadly, most people never develop a passion for their careers. They only go to work for the paycheck or the sake of it.

But if you put in some passion, you’ll spice up your venture and enjoy every moment of it. You’ll grow! 

Being motivated by passion falls under the highest level of self-actualization motivation.

When you are passionate about what you do, you wake up earlier, work harder and smarter than ordinary people. You’ll sacrifice, invest your effort and time to see something thrive.

Passion is powerful. It is what makes and motivates  successful people to be successful. 

5. Motivated By The Pursuit of Perfection

You’ll always hear that perfectionism makes you stall and that it is time-wasting (which is true sometimes).

But, if you find motivation by chasing perfection, do it! Perfection gives us direction, a goal, drive, guidance, and inspiration.

Sometimes, it’s what allows us to forge forward despite all odds and obstacles while chasing our passions and dreams.

However, always draw a fine line between striving for constant improvement and insisting too much on perfection. Sometimes, insisting on making something the best of the best keeps people from reaching their potential.

6. Desire to Win As A Motivational Force

What Motivates People: Top 5 'Deep Rooted' Reasons That Motivate All Humans (the science)

In every venture, whether business, sports, or even war, contenders must exhibit the willingness to win to be successful.

Desire to win can be under esteem, social or in some cases self-actualization motivational categories.

The desire to win is what usually translates into resilience, determination, perseverance, hard work, and eventually, performance.

This is why most people are willing to sacrifice everything and devote their effort, time, and money to their endeavors.

Truth be said, without the desire to win, it can be near impossible for anyone to beat all odds to achieve the highest goal there is.

However, while at it, remember that over-obsession of winning destructive. It can overcome you so much that you may start to cheat and lose the fundamental values you uphold.

After all, winning isn’t everything.

7. Motivated By A Desire to Help Others

Serving and helping others is a motivating force for some people. Such people include philanthropists, whose course in life is to uplifting others, share their wealth, and changing other people’s lives.

Being motivated by helping others is clearly defined under the self-actualization category.

If you love to volunteer, be other people’s voices, or participate in activism for whatever cause (including global warming), channel your energy and effort towards it. 

Whether it is giving money and time back to the less fortunate or mentoring upcoming entrepreneurs, keep serving humanity.

According to Winston Churchill, we make a life by giving.

8. Being Motivated By Negative Feelings (3 types)

Negative motivations are interesting because they can really motivate us at any level.

  • Fear

Fear is a strong motivator. It makes us uncomfortable and pushes us to want to move out of the discomfort towards a better place or towards a safer place.

It is also effective for speed. For instance, fear of not meeting deadlines doubles our ability to work hard to achieve something before the due date.

Fear for failure is another powerful motivating force. It pushes us towards our goals and away from scenarios we want to avoid.

  • Guilt
What Motivates People: Top 5 'Deep Rooted' Reasons That Motivate All Humans (the science)

Another negative feeling but with the power to motivate is guilt. Guilt can lead people to think of others, be empathetic, and act honestly.

Guilt can also be effective in influencing desirable and healthy behaviors. It pushes people to apologize and want to correct the wrongs they do to others.

  • Shame

Shame is among a person’s most dreaded emotional experiences. While this feeling deserves all the bad raps it gets, it isn’t always that bad for us.

In his Theory of Positive Disintegration, Kazimierz Dabrowski proposes that people go through shame only to emerge the other side stronger and more at peace with themselves.

Dabrowski’s theory suggests that shame is a vital and ultimately the first step towards personality growth after going through a life-altering crisis.

People that live past this feeling tend to have some form of psychological extra-sensitivity. They often experience crises and traumas in a stronger, deeper, and more meaningful way.

Why Do Some People Disguise Their Motivating  Force?

People are complex, and more often than not, we tend to have two reasons for our actions—a good reason and an ulterior one.

hide true motivation disguise What Motivates People: Top 5 'Deep Rooted' Reasons That Motivate All Humans (the science)

We only allow people to know what we want them to think our motives for action are, when in the real sense, we are disguising (or at least not publicly advertising) our ulterior motivating forces.

For example, an old friend of mine (who didn’t have a car) used to ask me to “hang out” but most of the time we spent together was running errands to various stores.

After a couple repeats of this same senario I realized her motivation was not to be friends, but to use me for rides.

Some people have some kind of “hidden reality” operating in the background when doing something. Humans tend to have mixed motivating forces, with some being selfish and others socially beneficial.

people are motivated by self interest What Motivates People: Top 5 'Deep Rooted' Reasons That Motivate All Humans (the science)

Most People Are Motivated By Self-Interest
(but not everyone)

University of Colorado. Professor of human behavior, Dr. Cropanzano, describes self-interest as a person’s focus on the needs, desires, and personal benefits of one’s self.

Experts also agree, that often times, your actions which display self-interest, are displayed without your conscious awareness.

Acting in one’s own self-interest is commonly referred to as “psychological egoism”. What exactly is psychological egoism?

Stanford university describes ‘psychological egoism’, as a theory based on the understanding that each person has but one ultimate aim in life…, his or her own welfare. 

Dr. Robert Shaver has shown that the theory of ‘psychological egoism’ is supported by the frequent observation of self-interested behavior.

Even ‘surface level’, apparent altruistic behavior, is often revealed to be ultimately self-interested behavior.

Based on the evidence, the biological motivational forces behind the actions of ‘most people’ does appear to be rooted in self-interest.

It is very difficult to understand the deep rooted motivational forces behind every single human action, but according to Maslow’s theory and ‘psychological egoism’, most people are ‘by-in-large’ motivated by self-interest.

Being motivated by self-interest is not a bad thing, and when your own personal self-interest is aligned with the best interest of society, great things can happen.


What drives you to wake up each morning?

Is it money, is it passion, is it basic needs, or is it to boost your esteem? Whatever your motivation is, if you’re consciously aware of it, then you’re probably miles ahead of most people.

As long as you’re aware of what your deep motivations are then it empowers you to peruse your goals and move forward in life much more efficiently.

By understanding your motivations at a higher level, it can also help you understand other peoples motivations, often better then they understand them.

Need some motivation tips ? – Check out or article on finding motivation with-in.

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