Ever wondered what it takes to get you motivated to perform various activities in life?

For example:

How do you develop motivation?

What do you do when you have no motivation?

How to get motivated to work?

How to get motivated to workout?

How to get motivated to clean?

How to get motivated to study?

And, once you get motivated, what does it really take for you to stay motivated long enough to see said activities through?

These are all vital questions – after all, motivation is what pushes us ahead in life.

It stimulates excitement and persistence to pursue any task – without it, we’d never finish college, never find a job, and never commit to that new exercise routine.

Luckily, all of these questions boil down to one relatively simple answer – our motivation for everything we do in life depends on our wants, needs, and expectations. We just need to figure them out and ask a couple of relevant questions:

Do we need to work out? 

Do we want to work out? 

And what reward can we expect if we do?

Here’s what researchers have to say on the matter and what we can learn about getting motivated from their 7 motivation theories (+ motivation examples). For 8 great popular tips on how to stay motivated afterward (+ motivational quotes), stick around until the end.


How to get motivated?

There are 7 main theories of motivation – here’s what you can learn about getting motivated from each of them:

1. Get motivated with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

According to Maslow’s theory, once you satisfy your needs, you no longer feel motivated to pursue them.

So, our motivation stems from our needs. 

However, there are several types of needs you need to satisfy – only when you satisfy the higher-need levels will you become motivated to pursue the lower-need levels. Here’s how these needs stack up:

Hierarchy of needs infographic - Clockify

  1. Physiological needs – the basic needs, such as the need for water, food, shelter, etc. These needs always need to be satisfied first.
  2. Safety needs – the need for being protected from physical danger, and enjoying economic security, etc.
  3. Social needs – the need to partake in social interactions and belong to a group.
  4. Esteem needs – the need to grow and maintain your sense of self-esteem and self-respect, as well as your competence and independence.
  5. Self-actualization needs – the need to turn your potential into reality. You’ll feel motivated to pursue these needs last – once you satisfy the first 4 types of needs.


When trying to motivate yourself for high-end needs, always make sure you satisfy the lower-end needs first – otherwise, you won’t be able to get motivated.

For example, let’s say you’re looking to land your dream job – apart from making sure you don’t go to the interview hungry, you’ll also need to expand your social circle and work on your self-esteem first.

Take seminars, reach out to experts in your industry on Linkedin, and join a class in something you know you’ll be good at – success in any of these actions will increase your self-confidence and bring you closer to reaching the highest levels of self-motivation needed for your end goal.

2. Get motivated with the Theory of Four Motivations

The Theory of Four Motivations is based on the concept of external and internal motivators.

It pursues the idea that we need a reward in order to get motivated for a task. 

Based on the type of reward we’re aiming at, we distinguish between action-based and non-action based motivators and rewards:

The theory of four motivations

Action-based motivators

These motivators imply that an action has occurred – you felt motivated to perform an action, and you performed it, out of a drive to seek an internal or external reward.

1. Extrinsic motivation – you feel motivated to perform an action solely to get a reward or avoid a punishment.

Type of reward you’re looking for: External reward

MOTIVATION EXAMPLE: You feel motivated to train football only because you may someday win trophies or because your parents want you too.

2. Intrinsic motivation – you feel motivated to perform an action because you enjoy doing it.

Type of reward you’re looking for: Internal reward

MOTIVATION EXAMPLE: You feel motivated to train football only because you enjoy it.

Non-action-based motivation

These motivators imply that an action has NOT occurred – you felt motivated to perform an action, but you haven’t performed it, despite the drive to seek internal or external rewards.

1. Introjected motivation – you want or need to perform an action, but if you don’t live up to expectations, you feel tension and guilt.

Type of reward you’re looking for: Internal reward

MOTIVATION EXAMPLE: You want to get good grades at school in order to keep up with your friends – anything less than an A or B on your tests makes you feel bad.

2. Identified motivation – you know something needs to be done, but you have yet to start working on achieving your goals.

Type of reward you’re looking for: External reward

MOTIVATION EXAMPLE: You know your college application depends on your SAT scores, but you procrastinate instead of studying.


Ask yourself: Do you value other people’s opinions more than your own? 

This may be a crude example, but the answer will determine whether you’re more likely to be satisfied with an internal or external reward.

Bear in mind that seeking only external rewards doesn’t have to be a bad thing – but, it may influence your level of happiness in the long run.

For example, trying to get good grades just for the sake of it may be a destructive motivator you’ll regret later in life – but, there’s no denying that good grades will increase your chances of getting into your dream college.

So, instead of doing something to please others or conform to a norm, find your own motivation for your goal, one that will bring you an internal reward – in the form of the sense of enjoyment you’ll feel when your hard work pays off for you.

3. Get motivated with Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory

According to Herzberg’s theory, there are two separate sets of factors in the workplace:

1. The motivators – the set of factors that cause job satisfaction.

They include factors such as:

  • recognition
  • achievement
  • advancement

MOTIVATION EXAMPLE: When you have a high chance of advancing in your company, you feel more satisfied with your job.

2. The hygiene factors (or demotivators) – the set of factors that cause job dissatisfaction.

They include factors such as:

  • the level of supervision
  • company policies
  • working conditions
  • salary
  • chances of securing the job for a longer period.

MOTIVATION EXAMPLE: When you have high levels of supervision in your company, you feel less satisfied with your job.

Bear in mind that the absence of one set of factors doesn’t guarantee the onset of the other set of factors – the absence of the factors that lead to job dissatisfaction won’t necessarily lead to job satisfaction, and vice versa. 


The factors that determine whether you’re happy and motivated at work depend on the individual – so, it’s up to you to decide what your motivators and demotivators are:

  • → For example, just because your job has no advancement options it doesn’t mean you’ll be dissatisfied with your job – not if you really enjoy what you do.
  • → On the other hand, just because your salary is high it doesn’t mean you’ll be happy with your job – if you’re not getting along with your colleagues.

So, when looking for a job, think about what you know will motivate you in it: a high salary (despite unreliable colleagues), or a job you enjoy (despite no advancement options).

When making your decision, make sure the motivators trump the demotivators.

4. Get motivated with McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory

McClelland’s theory is closely related to learning theory – he believed that all the needs we have are learned and acquired by:

  • the people we live with
  • the environment and culture we live in
  • the experiences we gain in life

According to McClelland, people have 3 types of driving motivators, i.e. needs:

  1. THE NEED FOR ACHIEVEMENT– this is the need to achieve excellence in something you do, by also being better than the competition:
    • you want to achieve better results (much more than other people)
    • you have no problem with taking responsibility
    • you need constant performance feedback to help you keep going
  2. THE NEED FOR AFFILIATION – this is the need to create and maintain friendly relations with the people in your environment:
    • you want approval and acceptance
    • you tend to conform to the wishes of others
    • you value other peoples’ feelings
  3. THE NEED FOR POWER – this is the need to make a lasting impact and difference in life overall:
    • you need to emphasize a leader-follower relationship with others (with you being the leader)
    • you want to control your environment
    • you want to make an impact on people


Although the need for achievement and need for power often go hand in hand, they may be in opposition with the need for affiliation – so, you’ll need to identify the type of needs that drive you:

  • → Maybe you’re the most motivated when you’re advancing at work?
  • → Maybe you’re the most motivated when you’re getting along well with your colleagues?
  • → Maybe you’re the most motivated when you feel in control?

Once you decipher what drives you, it’ll be much easier to work on creating workplace conditions (or finding a job) that will make sure you get motivated.

5. Get motivated with The Participation Theories

Douglas McGregor distinguished between two views of people, in terms of their participation at work – he labeled these views as two different theories:

  1. Theory X – a mostly negative view, according to which people are:
    • passive
    • naive
    • self-centered
    • lacking in ambition
    • unconcerned for the needs and goals of their companies
  2. Theory Y – a mostly positive view, according to which people are:
    • assertive
    • concerned about company goals and needs
    • willing to take on the responsibility
    • willing to strive for achievements

In the end, McGregor drew out the 2 theories to serve as the extremes in which working people behave.

No one really falls exclusively in either of the 2 groups – instead people swing from one group to another. These changes are related to how their priorities, motivations, and environment change.

This is where William Ouchi’s Theory Z comes into play – according to it, people need to be generalists instead of specialists at their workplace. So, they need to undergo constant training and expand their knowledge. 

The Participation Theories

According to Theory Z, people are more likely to swing towards the positively classified people from Theory Y – but only if they are provided with the right knowledge:

  • People who know what their roles are and why they are significant to the company as individuals are more likely to be motivated.

What people need to know: 

  • the company goals
  • the amount of contribution they can bring to reaching said goals
  • People who know that the company’s success will bring certain rewards to them are more likely to be motivated.

What people need to know: 

  • how reaching the company goals will satisfy their own needs and wants


Knowledge may be power – but knowledge also brings motivation.

For example, employees who work in flexible, transparent companies where they feel like their contribution and opinions matter, are more likely to feel motivated.

The following elements are also likely to lead to high motivation – so make sure you inquire about them when looking for a job, or when establishing a management system:

  • → strong company culture
  • → long-term employment
  • → constant development
  • → having a part in decision making
  • → individual responsibility
  • → the concern for the happiness of employees

6. Get motivated with Argyris’ Immaturity – Maturity Theory

According to Argyris’s theory, the management practices in your company influence the behavior and personal growth of people – as well as their motivation and drive.

There are two extreme types of management systems Argyris emphasizes – one triggers immaturity in employees and the other trigger maturity.

Immaturity - Maturity Theory

Let’s call these two systems Management System A and Management System B:

1. Management system A – a rigid management setting that triggers immaturity, by encouraging:

  • high task specialization
  • a rigid chain of command

It makes the employees:

  • passive
  • dependant
  • disinterested in really contributing to the company

2. Management System B – more flexible management that triggers maturity, by encouraging:

  • high employee participation in the company
  • Independence in making decisions

It makes the employees:

  • independent
  • interest in their work on a deeper level
  • more actively engaged in the workplace


This theory is geared especially at improving motivation in companies – as you probably guessed, a company that harbors the Management System B is more likely to have motivated employees.

So, if you’re looking for a company where you’ll feel motivated to work, or if you’re a manager looking to implement a new management system, make sure you know what you’re looking for – flexibility, and plenty of opportunities for active participation and engagement.

7. Get motivated with the Expectancy Theory + Expectancy Model

Victor Vroom’s was the one who first noticed the relationship between expectancy and motivation – and defined The Expectancy Theory based on his findings.

This theory proposes that motivation is directly caused by the relationship among:

the effort you put into your work ⇄ the performance you achieve ⇄ the reward you get for your efforts

So, in order to feel motivated, you’ll need to:

  • value the idea of awards
  • expect a reward for your efforts
  • invest effort into reaching the said reward

In the end, rewards bring satisfaction –  the promise of such satisfaction leads to better performance and higher self-motivation.

This is where The Expectancy Model kicks in…

It was proposed by Porter and Lawler who took some inspiration from Vroom’ Expectancy Theory and then improved it:

According to the Expectancy Model, motivation DOES NOT equal satisfaction and performance directly. 

Instead, motivation is a complex system where a number of elements lead an individual to pursue satisfaction and good performance:

The Expectancy Model

1. The effort you put in a task depends on:

  • the reward
  • how you value the reward
  • whether you believe that reaching said reward is possible

2. The element of satisfaction is vital, but cannot be triggered by just any award – Porter and Lawler also distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic awards:

  • Intrinsic rewards are tied to self-actualization and the feeling of accomplishment
  • Extrinsic rewards are tied to your working conditions and status in the company

In any case, if the intrinsic and/or extrinsic reward meets your expectations, you’ll feel motivated.

3. Sometimes a large effort will lead to high performance, sometimes it won’t – if the employee’s abilities are low and his judgments poor, a great performance might be out of reach no matter the size of the effort.


What we expect to get from our efforts is vital for our motivation – but it takes adequate abilities and decisions to get us through the finish line in the end.

So, pick a goal for which you’ll feel satisfied when you reach it – but also one that’s manageable enough for your abilities and aspirations, so that you know your efforts won’t be in vain.

How to stay motivated?

To nicely complement the scientific theories about getting motivated, here are some additional motivation tips and strategies you can use to stay motivated – with a string of motivational quotes to help you stay inspired to pursue your goals:

🔷 Choose one goal

Zig Ziglar quote

Working towards several goals makes you unfocused and your end results sloppy – so choose one important goal you know:

  • you’re capable of achieving
  • you need to achieve
  • you want to achieve
  • you’ll get a reward if you achieve

This way, you’ll know what you need to focus on, why you need to focus on it, and what you’ll get if you do – so it will be easier for you to stick to this goal.

🔷 Get excited about that goal

Oprah Winfrey quote

Getting excited about a goal is vital for sustaining motivation – and working on something you love is the best motivator of all.

So, find a job you enjoy doing, pick a subject major at college you love, and try to find something you like in any task you’re assigned to do – these simple things will make sure you stay motivated in the long run.

🔷 Find inspiration

Jack London quote

Whatever the reason to why you have no motivation may be, remember that somewhere, someone had the same problems as you.

So, finding inspiration in people who’ve achieved what you’re looking to achieve is an excellent motivator.

If you ever get into a slump with your work and errands, think about how famous people overcome their problems and procrastination, and what words of wisdom they had to offer.

🔷 Start small

Vincent Van Gogh quote

It’s always best if you think big, but start small – even if your instincts are telling you otherwise.

For example, researching, writing, and editing a 10,000-word project proposal is basically just a disaster waiting to happen – you’ll likely fail and feel bad about it afterward, while your motivation to take on similar tasks in the future will plummet.

But, that’s just because such a task is basically impossible – you’ll fare much better if you start smaller.

Divide your 10,000-word proposal into several days – for example, write and edit 1,000 words each day. Set a time frame during which you’ll work on the said task (for example, 4 hours each day), and track the time you spend on the task each day, to make sure you progress as planned.

🔷 Don’t give up

Harriet Beecher Stowe quote

There will be problems along the way – but, you’ll need to remember that problems on the road to your goals are natural.

Moreover, they are usually temporary – so, if you’re ever feeling in a slump, remember that you’ll likely feel and fare better tomorrow.

Use that thought as motivation to push forward.

🔷 Be happy about every success

Nelson Mandela quote

As we’ve already established with great certainty, rewards are crucial to motivation – and establishing continual rewards for milestones on tasks will always make sure you keep pushing forward.

For example, when working on a 10,000 project proposal in 1,000-word stages, make sure you set a reward for the completion of each stage, in order to celebrate your hard work.

You can do this by going on a coffee break with friends or watching one episode of your favorite TV show after each stage. In the end, it’s all about being happy for any success you make along the road.

🔷 Ask others for support

asking for help quote

When you’re struggling and feel like you have no motivation, let others provide it for you:

Call your friends and family to ask for advice.

Or, join an online community to talk to people who have or had the same problems as you.

Remember, when all else fails in keeping you motivated, help and support from others who’ll be understanding of your plights will go a long way.

🔷 Accept you’ll have ups and downs

Winston Chruchil quote

In the end, it’s important to stress that you won’t always succeed – sometimes you’ll fail despite your best efforts, but that’s no reason to lose motivation to tackle a similar task sometime in the future, or to try again.

Simply, analyze your weak areas and think about what and how you can perform the same or similar tasks better another time – knowing how you failed the first time will give you the motivation necessary to make sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes in the future.

Wrapping up…

Getting and staying motivated is often a tricky process – one depends on our understanding of our motivation and the other depends on our choices and outlook on life.

7 theories serve as a great scientific foundation that helps you get motivated – and the overall gist is simple:

  • define the needs you know you have the motivation to pursue
  • think about whether your abilities are enough for you to perform well on your goal
  • think about the rewards you’ll expect after reaching said goal

On the other hand, staying motivated often seems more like a process – to make sure you maintain your motivation, you’ll need to:

  • choose one relevant goal you can reach
  • find anything about your current task you enjoy doing
  • look for constant inspiration in the successful people around you
  • work in smaller stages in order not to exert and demotivate yourself right from the start
  • not give up when you hit bumps on the road
  • be happy about every success you achieve
  • ask others for support when times get tough
  • accept you’ll have ups and downs

In the end, by doing all that, you’ll grasp what you want, what you need, what you expect, and how you can play up and maintain the right kind of motivation to make your goals possible.