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An Overview of Learned Motivators

By Daniel Bobinski

What drives us to do what we do? Many social scientists say there are two types of drivers; extrinsic and intrinsic. Personally, I preferred the terms learned and natural, as I think they’re easier to understand that way.

This month, I want to provide an overview of the six learned (extrinsic) motivators. Chances are you’ll resonate with a few of these. Take note! Self-awareness is the foundational starting point for emotional intelligence. Also know that assessments exist that can help you quantify the intensity of your preferences in each of these areas.

The six spectra of learned motivators

First on the list is the motivation of knowledge. Essentially, this scale shines a light on how we’re motivated to acquire and use knowledge. And on one end of the scale are people motivated by understanding things as much as they can. They’re driven by the opportunity to acquire lots of knowledge in pursuit of the truth.

At the other end of the knowledge scale are those who are more instinctive. They prefer relying on past experience, seeking new knowledge only when needed to accomplish the task at hand. Both ends of the scale value knowledge; they just value it differently.

Next is the motivation of utility. This scale is about the different ways we value the practicality of things. At one end of the scale are people driven by a strong desire to get a return on whatever time or financial investments they make. At the other end of the scale are people more concerned about completing tasks for the sake of completing tasks. They are not driven by getting something in return for it.

Third on the list is surroundings. This scale identifies the way we are motivated by the environment around us. Some people are driven by having an atmosphere of visual and emotional balance. Others are driven by practicality, placing little value on harmony or aesthetics. It’s more of an objective approach, preferring function over form.

The fourth scale is about community, and it has to do with what drives us to help others. At one end of the scale are very intentional people. They tend to give of their resources when there’s a direct or important connection to the recipient. At the other end of the scale are people who give freely for the sake of giving. They are driven by the idea of being helpful and supportive.

The next scale identifies how we use power. At one end of the scale are those who are driven by the opportunity to set their own direction and pace. At the other end are those who prefer to be in supporting roles.

Last is the scale about life systems. At one end of this scale are people motivated to have a structured life – a system for living. At the other end of the scale are people regularly open to new philosophies and new ways to accomplish tasks.

In the coming months, I’ll be taking deeper dives into each of these learned motivators.

Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. is a best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. For more than 30 years he’s been working with teams and individuals (1:1 coaching) to help them achieve excellence. He was also teaching Emotional Intelligence since before it was a thing. Reach Daniel through his website,, or his office: (208) 375-7606.



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