Monday, May 10, 2010

The 4 Main Motivations in Life - Which One Are YOU?

I am extremely passionate about studying relationships, and studying different personality profiles. What I want to talk about today is one of the most helpful concepts I've ever come across. What is it in life that motivates people? If we know what motivates us, we will know how to be successful, and how to live the best life possible. I hope as you read you will really identify with one or more of these main motivations. I think you will also really understand the people around you better, and it will help you to see life through a different lens, a sharper lens.

There are four primary things that motivate people in life. I will begin by explaining the first one, Significance.

People who are primarily motivated by Significance have a deep desire to have a significant impact on the world around them in this lifetime. Significance people are dreamers. They long to see change in culture, government, religion, and many other realms. These are people of action, they are not afraid of laying down their life for “the cause.” People who are motivated by significance often do well with mission-oriented seasons and they are forever setting goals for themselves. They feel restless much of the time, and they always wonder if they are doing enough.

The downside of being primarily motivated by Significance is you will sometimes sacrifice relationships in order to change the world. Sometimes you run so far ahead and build the most amazing organization ever, and when it’s all said and done you lose your family because you forgot to make time for them. Significance people may also struggle with timing. We all have seasons in life to walk through, and the person motivated by significance might begin to feel resentful in their season of insignificance. But many times it’s in that hidden place that Significance people will be developed and strengthened, stretched and challenged. That season should be embraced and cherished for the Significance person because you want your failures to be dealt with in the secret place, and you want your successes to be public.

If you are primarily motivated by Significance, don’t be afraid of insignificance. It is what you’ll have to learn to surrender to before you can be unleashed onto the world. Remember that your life is not about arriving at your destination, it is the entire journey that defines us. Don’t forget people in your life that are on this journey with you. No matter how important you become and no matter how noble your work is, your family is the most important thing in your life. Don’t be one of those people who built something amazing and then had no one to share it with.

The second primary motivation is Connection. People who are motivated by connection are moved by relationships. If there is a relationship in their life that is out of sorts or disconnected, it will be the only thing that person thinks about until it is fixed or resolved. A Connection person is very community oriented. They love people, they love family, they love friends, and they love to share their life with those around them. Connection people are not motivated by success or money or fame or anything else that may be offered to them if it would cost them a relationship with someone they cared about. Connection people do not do well with isolation. They have many close friends and it would be difficult for them to choose one favorite.

The downside of being motivated by Connection is sometimes they fall into the trap of being people pleasers. They tend to not take strong stands on issues because they are afraid it would cost them a friendship or a connection with someone they love. Sometimes Connection people don’t develop a strong individual identity because they have never spent time alone, time that would allow them to figure out who they are. Connection people can be codependent and lean too much on others.

If you are a Connection person, don’t be afraid of some alone time. Don’t be afraid to test some of your connections with confrontation. Many times if a confrontation ends a friendship, it wasn’t a very real friendship to begin with. Remember that quantity of friendships don’t always equal quality of friendships.

The third primary motivation is Certainty. People who are motivated by Certainty are planners and they like to feel very secure about their future. Certainty people are not fond of surprises, and they are not thrill seekers. They enjoy charts and spreadsheets, stability and consistency. The world would be a very chaotic place without Certainty people! They have their feet firmly planted and they know where they are going. They enjoy safe, thought-out responsible plans and strategies. They are not big risk-takers and they don’t enjoy spontaneity.

The downside of being motivated by Certainty is many times they can become the “Debbie Downers” of a group. They have to always be the “No” person. Certainty people can get stuck in ruts, they can be resistant to change (not all change is bad). And they can be controlled by fear. Remember, with great risk can come great reward. If they never step out and try something new, they don’t grow.

If you are a Certainty person, you will probably have to learn how to let go in life. You will have to learn how to take risks and be ok with adventure every now and then. You will have to find ways to give up control, and believe in something bigger than yourself. You will also probably have to learn how to be more understanding with those who are not like you, less judgemental and more accepting. You will have to learn how to embrace living by the seat of your pants at least once in life. And it will be good for you!

Last but not least, we have the category of those who are motivated by Uncertainty. These people have a zest for life and they are major adrenaline junkies. They love adventure! They wake up every morning with excitement of the unknown and they are not afraid to wing-it. Uncertainty people are so much fun and they add color to life. Without them, the world would be a very boring place. Uncertainty people can often achieve some of the greatest things in life because they put all their chips to the middle of the table, made their bet and WON! They can also suffer some of the greatest losses in life because they are so all-or-nothing. Uncertainty people feel suffocated by schedules, and they feel drained of inspiration when they have to plan things out. They are very emotional and they are easily swayed by their moods. Uncertainty people have the ability to forgive quickly and let the past be behind them. They don’t hold onto grudges and they love freedom more than anything else in this world.

The downside of being motivated by Uncertainty is life can be very unpredictable for the person who loves Uncertainty and for everyone around them. Life for those who love Uncertainty people can be like a roller coaster, major highs and major lows, fun and scary all at the same time. The ironic thing is is that many Uncertaintys end up marrying Certaintys. Go figure!

If you are motivated by Uncertainty, don’t be afraid of structure. I personally think Uncertainty people who have done the work to ground themselves and anchor themselves into someone/something solid have the capability of being the most dynamic and successful people in the world. As fun as you are, you will need to realize that your way of life scares the ever-living crap out of some people. So you will need to learn balance. Don’t ever lose your edge, don’t ever try to be something you’re not, but learn how to be responsible with people’s hearts. Learn that some things are not worth risking, and learn how to have value for the daily grind.

You may find as you read all four that more than one applied to you. That is typical. Most of us have our primary motivation and then our secondary motivation. You may have guessed mine, but if not I’ll tell you. I’m a Significance-Connection person. Before I had a family I was ALL significance. But now I feel the pull of putting people before ideas and plans. I will change the world someday, but I won’t do it without them (my fam). And right now, I’m enjoying the whole journey; dirty diapers, laundry, tears, smiles, laughter, all of it - the whole enchildada!

This concept was originated by Lance Wallnau, one of my favorite teachers on the planet. You can learn more from him at


  1. I am not sure which one I am. I have read this twice. I should ask Doug. I guess connection jumps out at me most.

  2. Awesome! I think I'm an uncertainty-connection-with a touch of significance.