Learned motivators – why they’re important

I’ve received several questions lately about the importance of learned motivators. And yes, they are very important, so let’s dig in.

Learned motivators are acquired through events that impacted us emotionally in our earliest years.

Because these motivators are formed as a result of emotional events, I’m a firm believer that Learned Motivators are vitally important when learning emotional intelligence. But, before I go further, let me first list these six motivators so you know what I’m talking about.

The six spectra of “learned” motivators:
  • Knowledge (how people respond to the availability and use of knowledge)
  • Utility (how people value the ‘things’ in their life [including finances])
  • Surroundings (how people prefer their surroundings to be)
  • Others / Community (the ways in which people are driven to help others)
  • Power (the various ways people seek—or don’t seek—authority)
  • Methodologies / Life Systems (how people prefer their lives be structured)

These are the six “learned” motivators. However, these are also known as Driving Forces, because they’re formed by positive or negative emotions in response to various events. And, our perception of events -in correlation with deep seated emotions connected to events – eventually “drive” our choices later in life.

Here’s how it works:

  1. We experience something as a child.
  2. Instantly and unconsciously, we have an emotional response to it.
  3. The emotion is either positive or negative.
  4. We associate the positive or negative impression with the event.

If the emotions imprinted as a result of an event are strong, the imprint is deep, and that can really affect us.

Example of an imprint:

A common belief is that money motivates, right?  Maybe. Maybe not.

Let’s say a young child hears his mother regularly talking bad about everybody who has money. Who knows the reason – perhaps she grew up in poverty and has a chip on her shoulder. Maybe she was wronged by someone who was wealthy. Regardless, this young child hears his mother constantly berating people who acquired wealth. Keep in mind this young boy’s mother feeds, clothes and cares for him. She is the person who provides his security.

Let’s say one day this child says he wants to grow up and be rich, only to be mocked and ridiculed in front of his friends by his own mother. If the child experiences multiple embarrassing moments like this, can you see how this child may grow up with a repulsion to anyone seeking money? Worse yet, this person may be so emotionally repelled by the idea of being associated with wealth, he never establishes a retirement account.

Emotional imprints can deeply affect our thoughts, our motivations, and our behaviors.

I give more examples and explain more about learned motivators my new book, 10 Steps for Improving Your Emotional Intelligence, which you can get for free on this page. But whether you’re learning EQ to improve your parenting skills or you’re someone trying to achieve high functioning teams, I strongly recommend you learn about  these six driving forces.

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