How does motivation affect behavior?

Motivation: 7 + 5 tricks that will motivate you

When it comes to goals, there is only one way to achieve them: Motivation. Diligence, discipline, a sense of duty - all of this does not help much in the long run if motivation is missing or waning. Motivation is a fundamental success factor. Only through them do we develop the willingness to make an effort, to develop further and, if necessary, to take detours in order to achieve a personal goal. Behind this are the most diverse motives and motivations: Money, power, recognition, lust, fun and many other factors can motivate us enormously.

But what is really behind it? Is motivation just a feeling? Or a super mental power? And can motivation be re-awakened or even increased if we lose our drive? Regardless of whether it's a job, hobby, sport, volunteering or starting out on your own: In the following, we'll show you how motivation works, what happens in the brain and how you can motivate yourself with simple tips and tricks ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Definition: what is motivation anyway?

Motivation is the totality of all motives (motives) why a person does what he does. It determines his striving for his individual goals. The term itself comes from the Latin word “motus” - in German: “movement”. However, motivation is not just the drive ("motor") that sets us in motion. It also keeps us active (“motivated”).

This makes it a close relative of perseverance, willpower, determination and volition. And such an elementary success factor.


If our motivation is strong and wholesome, we can accomplish anything. (Dalai Lama)



Most of our behavior is goal-oriented or single-minded. To achieve these goals, however, we need an incentive, an incentive, a real interest. This becomes clearest with the question: "Why do I get up in the morning at all?" Many people are likely to ask themselves this question, especially on a Monday. Classic reactions:

  • Do not feel like…
  • I'm too tired…
  • Without a third coffee, nothing works ...
  • I hate mondays…

What makes us get up anyway and start the day - that is our motivation:

  • Because we're thirsty.
  • Because we want to use the day.
  • Because we want to advance professionally.
  • Because we want to make a difference.
  • Because we don't want to lose our job.

Maybe all together. Motivation can meet different needs. It is involved in practically everything we do. Except that in most cases we unconsciously follow it.


What we need most in life is someone who makes us do what we are capable of. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Two forms of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic

Where does the motivation come from? Does it come from within or does it come from outside? Motivation research has been dealing with this question for a long time. Today, scientists largely agree that there are two main types of motivation, which are derived from different incentives and also have different effects. It is about two opposing poles on a scale: the so-called intrinsic motivation and its counterpart, the extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation

This form of motivation comes from within, from within ourselves. It is the strongest type of motivation. This is associated with better performance and greater satisfaction. We are driven by our own goals, desires and passions. Therefore, this motivation is also independent of external factors. The only thing that matters is what inspires and spurs us on. More about this HERE.

Extrinsic motivation

This motivation is awakened and strengthened by external factors and incentives. As a rule, it is about promoting a desired behavior. The main motivators are mostly material or financial: goods, money, bonuses. But they can also be of an immaterial nature: social status, power, fame. Or even negatively - in the form of penalties and sanctions. More about this HERE.

How both forms of motivation work together

The intrinsic motivation does not exclude the extrinsic one, however. Both can work together symbiotically and motivate us particularly strongly. However, the extrinsic motivation can at some point completely replace the intrinsic one.

This is most evident in a hobby that we turn into a profession: a moment ago we were doing something of our own free will. Because we felt like it. Because it was just fun. Now it's our job. We even get money for it. However, others also associate expectations with payment. We may even have taken on responsibility - for employees, for customer relationships. We have obligations now.

Money and success have taken over the helm as external motivating factors. There is also a subliminal fear of failure. If we fail at all, the external incentives become real motivation killers.

The same thing can happen to us at work: A job that we do because we love it and see a purpose in it can easily be corrupted by high pay and bonuses. We get used to money and forget (or betray) our actual motivation. Money eats up zeal.

The problem with extrinsic motivation is that it ceases to function as soon as external stimuli fade. Some scientists even say: You cannot motivate people to do anything that they are not intrinsically motivated to do. Otherwise - similar to a drug addict - you have to keep increasing the dose (= money, bonuses, status, etc.) so that it still works. The key to sustained and true motivation therefore lies primarily in ourselves. And in our ability to motivate ourselves.

Download: Calendar - 365 sayings for every day

You will find even more daily motivation in our free annual calendar with a total of 365 motivating and inspiring images, graphics, sayings and quotes - one for every day. You can download it here for free. Attention: large file because of 365 pages!


Download motivation calendar

Motivation Psychology: The Importance of Needs

Motivation researchers, psychologists and philosophers have been dealing with the question of what motivates people for around a century. One of the best-known models in motivation theory comes from Abraham Maslow - the so-called Maslow pyramid of needs. It was around 1943 when the behavioral scientist realized that there are different levels of motivation or needs behind it. According to Maslow, there is a hierarchy of human needs:

  • The three lowest levels cover the so-called deficit needs. In other words, basic physical care, personal security and social relationships. According to Maslow, these needs must first be satisfied in order for one to experience anything like satisfaction at all. Only then do the growth needs follow.
  • The growth needs include social recognition or individual needs (status, money, power, career) and, at the top, self-realization (recognizing and developing one's own potential). However, they are practically never to be satisfied: after all, an artist paints to express his creativity, not to paint ten, 50 or even 100 pictures.

The hierarchy of needs also explains why people are willing to invest time, work, effort and energy or to accept losses just to achieve something: They satisfy their essential (intrinsic) needs. Just everyone at different levels.

Maslow's model is not without controversy, however. Many other models and motivational theories have developed from this to this day. For example the two-factor theory (according to Herzberg). She considers dissatisfaction and satisfaction separately. Means: If you are not unmotivated, you do not necessarily have to be motivated.

The two US psychologists Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan, both the founders of the so-called “Self-Determination Theory”, for example, see three basic psychological needs that every person has:

  • The need for competence (effectancy).
  • The need for autonomy / self-determination (autonomy).
  • The need for social integration (affiliation).

Above all, the need for competence and autonomy are decisive for the development of intrinsic motivation.

Because of them, people want to be fully in control of something and take pleasure in it. They do not need an external reward. Curiosity, interest and spontaneity are enough to change and develop.

The 2 directions of motivation

Whether or not an upcoming change is successful also depends on the drive from which we act. Motivation means "movement". Accordingly, there are two directions:

  • Away-from-motivation
    When it comes to getting away from motivation, we want to “get away from something”, away from an undesirable situation, a bad job or people. However, there is usually a reflex to flee behind this. “Taking it away” can also be an easy evasive action and an unstrategic approach. The main thing: away!
  • Towards Motivation
    On the other hand, those who “orientate themselves” somewhere are mostly following a plan or a strategy - and promptly look determined. With the moving towards motivation, we want to achieve something, develop towards a set goal and have a clear view of where the path should lead you.

In order to be successful and to maintain self-motivation, it is therefore necessary - in the long term - that we know where we are going. Whoever changes "towards" something and recognizes a meaning (or positive purpose) in it remains permanently motivated (see also The Paradox of the Search for Meaning).


Where there's a will, there's a way. Who does not want something, finds reasons.

Finding motivation: How can I re-motivate myself?

After so much theory, the question arises: "How does (new) motivation come about?" Or, to put it another way: "How can I motivate myself better?" can only do that temporarily. If any. In addition, you know from the preliminary remarks and the in-depth motivational analysis that it is essentially about finding, rediscovering and awakening one's intrinsic motivation. It's not that difficult at all. The following tips will help:

1. Define goals

Motivation is purposeful. The goal, in turn, must mean something to us. So find out what you really (!) Want: in life, in your job, in your relationship. Even with everyday things - such as studying for a final exam - it helps enormously to be aware of the long-term goal (entry into a job, job change, career). As soon as you remember why you started something and what you do it for, you are immediately more motivated.

2. Recognize motivators

Reflect on what drives you. Everyone has some kind of trigger to which he or she particularly responds. These can be extrinsic factors such as recognition or money. But also internal incentives such as success or self-efficacy. Or positive affirmations for every day. It is crucial that you create an environment for yourself that inspires your zeal.

3. Switch off demotivators

Conversely, there are regular obstacles and setbacks that can demotivate us enormously. Unfortunately, it is not enough just to know your goals and look for a motivating environment. We also have to recognize what regularly stands in the way of achieving our goals. Anyone who has recognized these demotivators should - if possible - eliminate them or at least bypass them. Sometimes it is just as effective to be less demotivated than to be more motivated.

4. Name milestones

No matter what you set out to do, you should make sure that your goals are realistic. Some people tend to deceive themselves at this point. You design cloud castles, plan without a time buffer or underestimate the complexity of a task. That has to go wrong - and then becomes a demotivator (see above). In addition, large tasks and goals seem rather insurmountable or unattainable. That too is demotivating again. You can fix this by breaking big goals down into smaller milestones that are much easier and faster to achieve. In this way you get closer to your goal little by little, produce lots of little success stories on top of that - and stay motivated.

5. Set limits

We like to postpone unpleasant tasks. This is called procrastination in technical jargon. However, time pressure and deadlines counteract this “procrastination”. The finding goes back to the British historian and publicist Cyril Northcote Parkinson. At the time, he formulated it as what is known as Parkinson's law: According to this, work expands to the extent that there is time available to do it - and not how much time you actually need to do it. Time limits ensure that we stay motivated and don't get bogged down.

Even more: the so-called goal gradient effect reinforces this: the closer we get to the goal, the more we try. Voluntary. No matter how much we exhausted ourselves beforehand; no matter how much energy reserves have already been used - no one is exhausted on the last meter. Give up? No way! Everyone gives everything again. Highly motivated - until the final.

6. Create routines

Whether in sport or at work: Routines make life easier. And you can bridge a motivation gap. We just work then. Admittedly, routines don't give you a new motivational kick. But you give us security. For example, that we can repeat certain successes. The handles are perfect, we can rely on ourselves. This not only saves time and energy and guarantees quality. It also motivates us because we are certain that we can achieve a certain goal.

7. Treat yourself to rewards

Unpleasant work is much easier if we repeatedly reward ourselves for what we have achieved in between. You have to be able to treat yourself to something. That is enormously motivating. However, it is important that you choose rewards that are motivating enough. But at the same time, they do not suppress the existing (intrinsic) motivation in the long term. Otherwise, at some point you will only do things for the reward and no longer for your ultimate goal.

5 psychological tricks to increase your motivation

In addition, there are a few small psychological tricks with which we can manipulate ourselves skillfully and motivate ourselves:

  1. Background colors
    Colors convey different emotions. And they rub off on our performance and motivation. According to Ravi Mehta and Rui Zhu from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, a red screen background immediately makes us more alert, more alert. Blue, on the other hand, gives us the feeling of security. That in turn encourages - unconsciously - courageous innovations.
  2. Group dynamics
    Work performance depends not only on objective factors, but also on social ones. Social control sharpens our senses, our concentration and motivates us to avoid mistakes. This is the compact understanding of the so-called Hawthorne effect. The psychological trick here is to consciously expose yourself to social control in order to stimulate yourself - by telling your friends about your goals. Like in the fitness studio: there, the large number of spectators mobilize some reserves of strength. After all, nobody wants to be naked there.
  3. Force of nature
    Great poets and thinkers have always sought the vastness of nature in order to first ventilate their minds, then inspire them. You were right: when we walk, our minds also wander, open the horizon, discover and learn. The writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau already recognized: “There is something in hiking that fires and invigorates my thoughts; my body must be in motion if it is to be my mind.” So what are you waiting for? Go out, get new motivation from the great outdoors. Even if you just walk around the block ...
  4. Musical accompaniment
    Music motivates. Everyone: athletes, workers, programmers, etc. According to researchers at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, recreational athletes who listen to music during treadmill workouts exercise ten times longer than their peers without sound. Music distracts and also makes hard training sessions easier. The rhythm can also help to synchronize or even accelerate the pace of work. The right background music even makes the office more productive.
  5. Finiteness
    Usually the thought of death scares us as hell. Not exactly motivating. However, numerous studies have now shown that when confronted with their own finitude, many people begin to set new, better priorities. Thoughts of death motivate us, for example, to eat healthier or to act more environmentally friendly and more sustainable (study by the University of Leipzig).Memento mori as an injection of motivation - Apple founder Steve Jobs already used it in his legendary Stanford speech: “Death is probably the best invention of life. He is the engine of change. Your time is limited, so don't waste it! "Or as the saying goes:" Everyone has two lives: the second begins when we realize that we only have one life. "

That is why you should have goals in life!

The most important thing in life is to have goals at all. Studies even say: those who have goals live longer. But how do you find your goals in life? And almost more importantly: How can we keep an eye on them and orient ourselves to them? You will find an answer and solution to this in the video:

Motivation at work: more fun at work?

In hardly any other area is it about (lack of) motivation as often as in the job:

  • High performers are always highly motivated.
  • Demotivated employees push work according to regulations.
  • Managers should challenge and encourage employees.
  • Coaches and trainers should discover and develop potential.

In short: it is generally about motivation in the workplace and performance improvement in particular. Mostly through extrinsic means. But shouldn't it be in our own interest to maintain or increase motivation in the job? After all, it is our job - in the sense of a calling. At the same time, we benefit from a positive working atmosphere. It is rewarded with a higher quality of life, with more satisfaction and happiness.

This even has a positive effect on health: high motivation reduces stress and increases stress resistance. Still, many complain about their job. Torturing yourself to work in the morning, longing for the weekend or a sabbatical.

Motivation to change: Good reasons for changing jobs

Admittedly, there are jobs in which hops and malt are lost. Bullshit jobs. Here it doesn't help anymore to work on your own motivation. The only solution is to change jobs soon. There are always good reasons for this:

  • Professional development
    Not every job offers the opportunity to develop all of your potential. At some point you come across a glass ceiling. The end of the career ladder has been reached. At least here. Professional and personal growth is only possible externally. This is not only legitimate, but also determined and strategically consistent.
  • Expand competencies
    When you can do everything from scratch, boredom quickly spreads. That is neither good for motivation nor for your career. If you want to learn new things, expand your specialist knowledge and develop your skills, you can first try this internally. Sometimes, however, you have to change employer, industry or even profession in a targeted manner.
  • More balance in life
    Priorities can shift in the course of life. At the beginning there is usually professional advancement and new challenges. You want to prove something to yourself and to others. Build a good life. When much of this is achieved, other factors take precedence: family, friends, free time. If you can't do that in your current job, you have to change.
  • Decreasing identification
    At first you did the job with great enthusiasm and commitment. Over time, however, you will find it makes less and less sense. You can neither identify with the products nor with the values ​​that the company embodies. That puts a huge strain on motivation. A professional reorientation is particularly useful in this case.
  • Suffering health
    This is the most extreme case: the job makes you sick. When health suffers, it is no longer a question of motivation to change - it is a duty. No job in the world is worth exploiting your own body for (or having it carried out).

Before you take this final step, you can give it a second chance: Motivation at work can be found and maintained even with monotonous work by making the best of it.

Gain motivation through clear goals!

That doesn't mean accepting one's fate. Also, you shouldn't ask yourself “WHY” you're doing the job that isn't fun at all. That is rarely effective. Rather, the trick is to think about it:

How does the job bring me closer to my goal?

You remember? An essential factor for more motivation (the intrinsic above all) is to recognize an overriding goal in our actions and to pursue this. It doesn't even have to be a professional goal. In that case the job becomes a mere means to an end. But the key is to keep an eye on the big picture to stay motivated. The result could be:

My current job serves as a gateway to my dream company. From here I want to work my way up and ultimately get to my dream job.

Or:

I want to create the financial basis for my family so that I can devote a lot of time and attention to my children during puberty. It's okay if the work demands more of me now so that I can reduce later.

In this way you can see the big difference between self-motivation and external motivation: Do not wait for you to motivate others - the boss, the colleagues, the people around you. You should always take this important task into your own hands.

Download: 15 tips for more motivation at work

More motivation in the job? Then use these 15 little-known tricks. Give the individual methods a few days or weeks to develop their effects. Only then do you decide what works best for you personally.

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[Photo credit: Karrierebibel.de]