August 25, 2023

Drivers – What drives us?

What are the drivers that sometimes make us feel chased?
What actually drives us?
Why do we do what we do?

Especially when we notice that we are running in the wrong direction and that what we are doing doesn’t seem to be doing us any good, it can make sense to stop and look at what is driving us in the first place.

Maslow’s pyramid of needs

Abraham Maslow had an approach that I think is good because it provides a solid basic idea, even if I don’t fully agree with it.

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Maslow’s pyramid of needs is a model that represents human needs in a hierarchical structure. The pyramid is divided into five levels, with the basic needs at the base and the more complex, higher needs following upward.

  1. Physiological needs:
    These are the basic physical requirements for human survival, such as food, water, sleep, and respiration. Without these needs, man cannot exist.
  2. Safety needs:
    Once physiological needs are met, people strive for safety and security. This includes physical safety, health, stability in work and living conditions.
  3. Social needs:
    On the third level lie the needs for social belonging and love. This includes friendships, family ties, and romantic relationships.
  4. Individual needs:
    This level includes the need for recognition and appreciation by others. These include self-esteem, status, and achievement.
  5. Self-realization:
    At the top of the pyramid is the need for self-actualization. This is about recognizing and realizing your potential, being creative, solving problems and fulfilling your individual purpose.

In the 1970 extended version of the pyramid, self-actualization slides further up and the “Cognitive Needs” and “Aesthetic Needs” are inserted. The last point of the pyramid is “transcendence”. More information about Maslow’s pyramid of needs on Wikipedia.

The idea behind the pyramid is that the lower needs must be satisfied before the higher needs can come to the fore. For example, someone who is starving is likely to care more about food than self-actualization. Maslow’s pyramid of needs provides a useful framework for understanding how human motivation works and how different needs can affect behavior.

In my opinion, however, individual levels can also have a lower weighting.
There are enough examples of people, for example from Buddhist circles, whose need for security or belonging is low or where the need for recognition is even completely absent.

In the end, the question is which deficiency is perceived as such and causes the person to become active to avoid the pain of “deficiency” and to eliminate the deficiency.

What drives us? Towards-To Motivators and Away-From-Drivers

Often, this is referred to as the toward-to strategy or toward-to motivation, or the away-from strategy, avoidance strategy, away-from-motivation, away-from-drivers, or away-from-reaction.

Personally, I think the distinction between the two categories makes quite a bit of sense.

“Away-from-motivation” driver

With a away-from response, we want to avoid a condition that seems unpleasant or painful, such as conflict. Pain avoidance is a powerful driver that causes people to react quickly to danger or discomfort. It comes from a primal instinct to protect us from harm and works similarly to how we flinch when we burn ourselves on the stove top.

The power that can spring from a away-from-motivation is indescribably immense and fast. Serious sustainable changes can be achieved abruptly in a very short time.

However, in the away-from reaction, the body is in a stress/escape reaction. Cortisol is released. While this temporarily leads to higher energy and attention, it comes with a hefty price tag. More on this in a more detailed article on the away-from reaction.

What triggers the away-from / flight reaction?

In the coaching scene, people like to work with the so-called “pain point”. In doing so, the pain of a situation is specifically magnified and intensified an extended into the future by continuing to draw in a situation. This triggers primal fears, which in the worst case can come very close to traumatization. I think quite little of it, because it is basically just magnifying a symptom that then becomes so painful that you want to change something. The actual cause of the symptom is often overlooked. See also symptom and cause. At worst, this may well have fatal effects on the physical and mental health of clients.

Primal fears that lead to the away-from reaction

Many of our behaviors can be traced back to our basic fears.

  1. Fear of not being good enough
    This anxiety is central and can show up in different areas of life, such as self-worth, performance, and interpersonal relationships. (Part of the fear of not being good enough is also the fear of not having enough in consequence).
  2. Fear of rejection
    The fear of being rejected or not accepted is a strong driving force in human relationships. (Part of the fear of rejection is the fear of missing out).
  3. Fear of pain or negative consequences
    This underlying fear has both physical and psychological dimensions and can shape behavior in many situations. (Part of the fear of pain is the fear of the unknown or the fear of missing out).
  4. Fear of loss
    Whether it is the loss of people, material goods or security, the fear of loss is one of the primal fears. (Part of the fear of loss is also the fear of not having enough).
  5. Fear of death
    Although not always at the forefront, fear of death is a pervasive concern that can influence human behavior.

Drivers that act as a “solution strategy to avoid primal fears”.

First of all: This is a paradox – the classic chicken and egg problem.

While the drivers are supposed to be the “solution strategy” to avoid the primal fears, violations of the drivers actually trigger and reinforce the primal fears.

This is because the drivers are instilled by parents, school, environment and come in baggage with various beliefs and any violation of a belief brings the fear,

In transactional analysis, a psychoanalytic theory developed by Eric Berne, the concept of 5 drivers is introduced. This model identifies five main motives or “drivers” that can influence a person’s behavior in different situations. These drivers are: “Be perfect”, “Be pleasing”, “Hurry up”, “Be strong” and “Try hard”.

The problem with these drivers is that the drivers usually arise from external influences such as upbringing, etc., and comprise a collection of beliefs that first cause our primal fears to become active.

The main drivers identified by Eric Berne are:

  1. “Be perfect”
  2. “Be pleasing”
  3. “Hurry up”
  4. “Be strong”
  5. “Make an effort”

There is a very good driver test where you can find out how pronounced the individual drivers are in you. I myself took this test three years ago and 4 out of 5 values were in the health risk range and the fifth was close to it.

Today, at the time I am writing this article, 3 of the drivers are balanced and at a healthy scale and two are still in the red but no longer in the critical range.

Conclusion on away-from-motivation:

The away-of motivation is an incredibly intense force with which vast amounts of resources can be mobilized, but at the same time it chases us, as if we were running blindly from a lion. Our body is in a fight or flight response all the time and is just flooded with stress (cortisol), which can have some serious negative effects on our health in the medium and long term.

This topic is so extensive, especially because of the effects, that I will publish a separate article on it when the time comes.

The alternative: Drivers Towards-to-Motivation

In contrast to the away-from motivation is the toward motivation, which is about doing something that attracts us. It’s about attracting pleasant things and experiences, not escaping or avoiding them.

Maybe you’ve experienced yourself what it’s like when you’re really drawn to somewhere or to something. Maybe to another person, to a place, or to a particular activity that came so easily to you that it didn’t even feel like work.

It’s like swimming in the ocean with the waves instead of fighting the current.

Towards motivation is characterized by the fire of passion and enthusiasm.
All of a sudden, even difficult things become easy.
A joy and passion that people around you will feel, that will captivate them and where all of a sudden support and things will flow to you from corners that you would not have expected.

I have experienced this myself and was initially so perplexed when various people from whom I would not have thought it at all suddenly offered me support in a way that I would not have thought possible before.

More on this in due course in a more detailed article on towards-to-motivation.

Combine away-from-motivation and towards-to-motivation

When we discover our true passion and we know the direction we want to go, the way-from motivation can help us leave the old behind more quickly. If we don’t have a clear direction, a clear addition, we run blindly in any direction, which doesn’t really get us anywhere.

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