What Drives You?


It’s almost the half-way point for the Spring Semester with my students. I am in the midst of preparing their mid-term exam and one of my favorite models from Organizational Behavior to share with them and to make sure they understand is the Four Drives Model of Motivation.

In a nutshell we, as humans, have four main drives to

  • Acquire
  • Bond
  • Defend
  • Learn

Every decision we make, at it’s core, is motivated by at least one and often times more than one of these drives. But that’s not all. That is actually the ‘easy’ part. What gets tricky or ‘messy’ is what happens between the drive behind your motivation and the choices you have and ultimately the decision you make. In between is what I like to call the ‘lens through which you see the world’ and that is made up of your: social norms, past experiences and personal values, aka the ‘messy’ stuff.

Now before I lose you, let’s bring this model into a reality check. One of the great questions a student asked last week was “Do we really use all of this every time we make a decision?”

Short answer - yes.

Longer answer - we do but some of it is done subconsciously.

Social Norms

Quick example: what did you eat for breakfast today? I can remember in college that a close friend and roommate was from Cechezolovakia and her breakfast was usually sandwiches whereas mine was often cereal, fruit or some sort of toast or bagel. It was each of our “social norms” of what others eat for breakfast around us that influenced our breakfast decisions.

Your social norms can be within your family, your school, your town, your church, your state, your political party affiliation, etc. The circle you use as your social norm can be as big or as small as you make it to be. But as I shared with my students, be aware, be very aware of how you are defining your group. As the saying goes, you are the make-up of the five closest people around you. Your group and associations inform how you make decisions.

Social norms have a very big impact on how we make decisions. How we choose to act, speak, etc. is influenced by what we see as norms around us. Sure, many of you may set your own ‘norms’ but don’t be fooled into thinking you are immune - because you have friends and loved ones and others you look up to. They influence you, perhaps more than you know.

Past Experiences

When it comes to past experiences, this one can be easier to understand because things that have happened to you previously can impact how you act, what you say, what you do, etc. For example, when our 10 month old puppy, Ralphie, jumps up and puts his front paws on the counter and we bring him back to the ground and tell him ‘no’ he learns (or at least he IS learning) to not jump on the counter. He doesn’t want me to roll him over and tell him no, so he doesn’t jump.

For me, a personal example is how I communicate with my boys. I know that if I ask them “How was school today?” I will get “fine” or “good.” But if I ask “Who made you smile today?” I get a story and more context to their day - and usually some other stories after that. So, I learned from past experiences that asking a yes or no question gets me nowhere… :)

Another past experience is being more of ME when it comes to talking with people in groups and potential clients. I am a coach and teacher at heart, yet my years of research and consultant training have left me, sometimes just too polished.

How can you be too polished? Well, being careful to say the ‘right’ things and not upsetting the apple cart so to speak - that is being too polished. And I found out the hard way that being polished does not attract the clients and partners I work with the best. I ask a lot of questions, I listen, I synthesize information, I ask again and I get raw and real with you. That is what my clients love about working with me. Yet, if I am not truly myself in the initial conversations with women who want to learn more about my coaching programs and they sign up - it just isn’t a good fit - for anyone.

So, from past experiences I am learning to bring my true coaching and teaching self to every conversation - when that’s what a woman is looking for.

Personal Values

This one gets tricky. You are not alone if you are wondering what ‘Personal Values’ really means. Especially since students of all ages struggle with this. My explanation is this:

Your personal values are the things you stand up for. Or the opposite of things you cannot stand.

For example, one of my personal values is being a good-hearted person. I don’t spend time with people who are mean-spirited, who gossip to try and make themselves feel better by demeaning someone else. I don’t have time and space for needless drama in my life so people who have positive energy, raise their kids to be kind and respectful of others, enjoy life - those are the people I want to spend time with. That is a personal value.

Another way to think of personal values are what are the unwritten rules you use to make new friends, join a group, analyze people and make your own judgements. How do you decide if you want to spend time with someone, work on that project, volunteer your time, etc.

Your Lens

So, bringing it all together, you do have drives for motivation to make a decision based on the choices you see. Yet...

The choices you see are shaped by the lens through which you see the world.

Social norms - these are dependent upon who you surround yourself with and who you choose to associate with. The people around you have great influence.

Past experiences - they shape what we do and don’t do. Yet, there is a bit of caution because your past doesn’t necessarily shape your future. It’s important to learn from mistakes, yes…but it’s also important to distinguish between mistakes you made and mistakes others made that you took on as your own.

Personal values - they are your unwritten rules for how you move around in life. They set the tone for who you develop relationships with, who you share time with - all of it. The tricky part with personal values is sometimes they get over-run by what we think we need or should be doing instead of what we want to be doing.

All in all, your lens is under your control. You shape what you see and how you see…

So, what do you see through your lens?

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