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Life System Motivations

By Daniel Bobinski

This is the final installment in a series about the six learned (extrinsic) motivators. The first installment examined the different ways people are motivated by knowledge. Then, we looked at how tangible things – including money – may or may not motivate us. Following that, we looked at how we are driven by our surroundings. Then, we examined different ways people are motivated to give to others, and last month we looked at different ways people are motivated to exercise their power.

In this final installment we’ll examine how different approaches to having a “life system” can drive our behavior. (Find all six columns here.)

The motivational spectrum of ‘rules for living’

This last spectrum has to do with if and how we’re driven by systems for our personal values and beliefs. Before I dive in, you should know all six of the spectrums in our motivational model could be described as values, but this last category has to do with how much we adhere or don’t adhere to a defined system for living.

At one end of the Life Systems scale are people we call structured; at the other end are those we call receptive. As the “structured” identifier implies, people who prefer that end of the spectrum are motivated to follow a structured set of guidelines. Conversely, receptive people often resist structure, being drawn instead to new ideas and opportunities for how to live life.

Traits of a structured person

People on the structured side of the spectrum place a high value on working within a defined system or established structure that correlates to their chosen principles and beliefs. They desire consistency in how they organize their life and their work teams. Structured people often support causes that align with time-tested, traditional beliefs.

Individuals with strong structured motivations enjoy working with others who hold beliefs similar to theirs.

Traits of a receptive person

People with a receptive motivator have a drive to consider new systems and new ways of doing things, and will quickly adopt new practices if they see the possibility of a benefit. They may seek change for the sake of trying things a new way and can even be openly resistant to structured approaches.

Individuals with receptive preferences are often good outside-the-box thinkers and get excited about exploring new options and new ways to do things.

Putting it all together

A good student of emotional intelligence strives first to understand self, and a great framework for learning about oneself is “head, hands and heart.” Head is one’s cognitive style, hands is one’s behavioral style and heart is one’s motivational preferences. This series on motivators has provided an overview of the “heart” aspect – what drives, or motivates, people to do what they do. By knowing your own motivators, you can more effectively manage yourself for better productivity and effectiveness. That’s the foundation for building strong emotional intelligence. Become a student of these things, and you’re on your way.

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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