What drives us, propels us forward toward goal-driven behaviors, pushes us to test our limits, or work late into the night – THEN guides and sustains actions through disappointments and obstacles? Motivation is the WHY in the equation of understanding and maintaining behavior as we actively move toward an objective. This is a sensitive topic because it exposes principles, ethics, and perhaps even a person’s moral code. These can be intensely personal. When you question a person’s motivation, you are calling into question their values, and many do not take the time to examine their motives more closely. Tread lightly in this arena.

A motive can be an impulse acted upon without much thought. These are usually in the category of instincts or biological drives. However, motivators, when well defined and thought out, can propel us to persist. And the goal would, therefore, be better understood. Often the motivation is hidden or concealed. It might be stated as one thing, but at its core, is something completely different or even the opposite.

When we understand the drivers, we can also enhance the reward. For example, if they arise from extrinsic motivators (those outside of ourselves – promotions, trophies, praise from others, or money), it is clear when we have achieved our goals. If they are intrinsic, rewards such as personal gratification are sometimes obscured but can be the most satisfying.

Abraham Maslow outlined a pyramid of human needs that served to help define motivators in the 1950’s. His work continues to have value today. He was the first to focus on positive psychology. He posited that first, we must meet life-sustaining needs (food shelter and safety). Only then can we move up the ladder to satisfy the necessity for belongingness, love, esteem, cognitive pursuits, toward individual growth, and helping others. Today this process is viewed as more dynamic and encapsulates the Wellness Model used for the Walk.

What motivates us is essential information needed for self-awareness. Learning or opening our minds to the intentions for performing an act helps us more clearly value and appreciate the act itself. We can be both soothed because we are meeting an innate drive toward survival, a biological need – eat, drink and sleep, or be inspired – and a need for arousal when the underlying reason for behaviors is apparent.

In defining your values and your motivations, take the following steps:

List ten things you value and why – and rank them by importance.

Ask yourself if you are driven primarily by instinct, biological needs, or extrinsic or intrinsic factors.

Examine where you put most of your time and energy

Pure honesty is taught, and is a skill acquired alongside a higher level in communication.

So, getting ‘real’ with ourselves is difficult, but worth the effort when we know, it propels and protects us as we navigate the uncertainties of moving forward on a goal. If you believe this to be true, walking this challenging Walk takes on a new and more profound meaning. By examining motivations, clarifying goals, and values, the exercise becomes a skill set, and can become a template for multiple arenas in our life. (Think the five areas of Wellness: Physical, Psychological, Intellectual, Relational, and Spiritual.—– These are described more fully in your handbook).