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Definition of Motivation

Updated February 15, 2021
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Definition of Motivation essay

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Motivation is a stimulating term for many people. The term itself can have distinct meanings for each individual. One of the definitions that I interpret of the word motivation is that it is the desire to obtain and break self-boundaries making you a better individual. Another definition I would interpret from the word motivation is that it is when you are driven by something to achieve your needs, wants and aspirations.

Motivation has two different categories within itself which are intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is when an individual is motivated to execute activity for their own interest and their personal reward, not external rewards. Extrinsic motivation is when an individual is motivated to perform an activity to receive a reward or avoid punishment. I will explain more about the term motivation regarding three relevant theories of motivation.

One of the theories that I have chosen to explain my definition of motivation is The Need Theory. This theory was developed by the American psychologist Abraham Maslow (1943, 1954, and 1971). Maslow anticipated that human beings have a certain amount of needs and that they are categorically organized in a hierarchy with some needs being more basic than others. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is presented as a five-level pyramid, which is shown in the image below.

Maslow argued that self-actualization is our most crucial goal and that freedom of inquiry and expression is a prerequisite of this. Also, in Maslow’s point of view, self-actualized people are more sporadic and that creating circumstances for individuals to develop capabilities to this extent was a thought-provoking task. As well as this, Maslow argued that needs are organized in a hierarchy, with lower order biological and safety at the bottom, and higher order of self-actualization and transcendence at the top. From the nine of which he identified Maslow thought there were five which were the more important ones for individuals to self-actualize and easier for individuals to get across.

This hierarchy, Maslow argued, has the following properties:

  1. Needs are not an actual motivator until those lower in the hierarchy are more or less satisfied, satisfying needs are not a motivator and that we have a distinctive longing to work up the hierarchy.
  1. A deficiency of need satisfaction can affect mental health. Contemplate the frustration, anxiety, and depression that can increase from a lack of self-esteem, loss of the reverence of others, an inability to withstand relationships, and an ability to develop others’ capabilities.
  1. The experience of self-actualization stimulates a desire for more. Maslow claimed that self-actualized have ‘peak experiences’, when you have had one of these, you want another.

This theory links to my definition of motivation, which is that motivation, is the desire to reach and break self-boundaries making you a better individual. This relates to my definition as Maslow’s theory states that we have innate needs (including drives and goals) and he presented the five which are the most important for individuals for everyday use, and in making an individual a better person for example biological and safety at the bottom as they are the more obvious and easier for individuals to break these boundaries. As well as this, self-actualization and self-esteem are more significant and harder to reach for individuals in this day and age, making it more satisfying for individuals to break each boundary going on to the next.

Another theory I have chosen to explain my definition of motivation is The Goal Setting Theory. This theory was developed by Edwin Locke (1968). Locke developed this theory to explain human actions in specific work situations he argued that goals and intentions drive human behaviour.

The goal theory has four different propositions which are supported by research:

  1. Challenging goals lead to advanced levels of performance than simple goals. Difficult goals are called ‘stretch’ goals because they encourage us to improve.
  2. Specific goals lead to higher levels of performance than vague goals such as ‘do your best’. It is easier to alter our behaviour when we know precisely what we are required to do. Goals should therefore be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-related.
  3. Participation in goal setting can progress performance by increasing commitment to those goals, but managerially assigned goals that are sufficiently explained and justified can also lead to high performance.
  4. Knowledge of the results of past performance is necessary for effective goal achievement. Feedback encloses information and is also motivational.

The theory has been tested mainly in conditions where short-term goals can be conveyed clearly and in quantifiable terms. It is not very clear whether the theory applies to long-term goals, for example over a period of years, as these goals are more likely to be qualitative and to change as circumstances alter. The two most important findings of this theory are that setting specific goals produces higher levels of performance than setting vague goals. Goals are very specific and therefore more challenging and harder to achieve, often they can also have a direct and positive influence on performance. This relies on the notion that the harder the goal, the more a person will strive to work towards it. However, such influences on performance are mediated by two conditions. One of the first conditions is that the goal must be accepted and acknowledged; and secondly, feedback must be used to develop areas of weakness. Another condition is that giving feedback on the strategies that are used to obtain goals is very important, especially for complex work, as challenging goals place emphasis on the final outcome rather than on performance strategies.

This theory links to my definition of motivation, which is that motivation, is when you are driven by something to achieve your needs, wants and aspirations. The main reason that this theory relates to my definition of motivation is because Edwin Locke argued that goals and intentions drive human behaviour. This links with my definition, for example an individual has achieved all their needs and wants a car for their travels they would need to think of the car as an incentive to work towards so that they can achieve this want. As well as this Locke stated that when targeting goals they should be set with the subjective of SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-related. Using this as a subjective to set goals, it makes them more reachable and more realistic for individuals to achieve.

Another theory that I have chosen to explain my definition of motivation is The Reinforcement Theory which derived from B. F, Skinner. According to this theory, the behaviour is a function of its outcome. For example, you are working at a call centre and have got more sales than the amount you are supposed to obtain, when your employer finds out that you have achieved more they would give you a pay rise because you have gained more sales than everyone else. The outcome of your behaviour was favourable and therefore you are more likely to act upon this similar behaviour in the future.

The Reinforcement Theory gives a detailed account of four interventions to describe employee behaviour. Two of these interventions, positive and negative reinforcement are used to increase desired behaviours, and the other two are punishment and extinction these are procedures of decreasing the occurrence of undesired behaviours. This is shown below in the image:

Positive reinforcement is a way of increasing the desired behaviour. Positive reinforcement comprises the individual’s behaviour, making sure that their performance is met with a positive consequence. For example, an employee works late to finish their workload and cleans up after themselves the employer would praise and thank them for working late and cleaning up. The employee would know that their positive behaviour had a positive outcome and will be motivated to act upon this behaviour again.

Negative reinforcement is similarly used to increase the desired behaviour. Negative reinforcement uses the exclusion of unpleasant outcomes once the desired behaviour is acted upon. For example, constantly reminding employees to be more productive, by doing this it is often seen as nagging or badgering, which is a common negative reinforcement method. It typically focuses on places people in unpleasant conditions, obliging them to do better on their job until they reach the productivity level expected from them. The purpose of this is to stop the nagging when the desired outcome achieved this will reinforce positive behaviour.

Extinction is used to reduce negative behaviours. Extinction suppresses the pleasing stimulus that is maintaining undesirable behaviour each time the behaviour occurs, this usually happens until the behaviour stops completely or to the desired level. For example, an employee is constantly disturbing your other team members from their work. They are doing this by frequently talking while people are trying to work. The positive reinforcement that they are receiving from doing this is the engagement and attention of the other team members. Because of this, the employer could ask the other colleagues not to engage with this person at any point when trying to make contact.

Punishment is another method of reducing negative behaviour. This includes presenting results following unwanted behaviours. For example, issuing an employee with a written warning for the use of foul language is an example of punishment in action. The employee is under no illusion that they must improve their language or they could lose their job. Punishment is giving something negative, whereas negative reinforcement is the taking away of something negative.

In addition to the types of reinforcement, researchers also have focused their attention on schedules of reinforcement. This essentially is a rule stating which instances of behaviour will be reinforced. For instance, behaviours can be reinforced each time they occur. Sometimes, behaviours may not be reinforced at all. Reinforcement schedules take place in both naturally occurring learning conditions as well as more organized training circumstances. Continuous reinforcement occurs when behaviours are reinforced every time. This is best used during the initial stages of learning to create a strong association between behaviour and response. A fixed-ratio schedule is a reaction which is only reinforced only after a certain amount of responses. This produces a high amount of responding with a brief pause after the delivery of the reinforcement. Fixed-Interval schedules occur when the first response is rewarded only after a specified amount of time elapsed.

This theory relates to my definition of motivation because this theory explains the way that people would act upon their goals to motivate themselves. So when an individual gives it their all to achieve one goal then they would carry on with that same behaviour to achieve their other goals as they vary of the fact that this behaviour has placed a positive effect upon them. As well as this, once they start lacking it would affect them and it would have a significant impact upon their behaviour as they would feel like they are not achieving their goals so this would result in them motivating themselves to carry on pushing themselves to achieve their goals.

In conclusion, I believe that I have thoroughly explained the definitions of motivation with reference to the three theories which are Reinforcement theory, Need theory and Goal-Setting theory. Through the reinforcement theory, I have learnt a lot regarding the relationship and behaviour between employers and employees. The Need theory teaches me a lot about independence and individuality as well as this it also shows how individuals can improve themselves. Similarly, through the Goal-Setting theory, I have learnt how individuals can set goals for themselves and how this can link to everyday situations.

Definition of Motivation essay

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