Defining motivation


What is motivation? Maybe the place to begin is to say what motivation isn’t. Many people incorrectly view motivation as a personal trait— that is, some have it and others don’t. In practice, inexperienced managers often label employees who seem to lack motivation as lazy. Such a label assumes that an individual is always lazy or lacking in motivation. Our knowledge of motivation tells us that this just isn’t true. What we know is that motivation is the result of the interaction of the individual and the situation. Certainly, individuals differ in their basic motivational drive. But the same student who finds it difficult to read a textbook for more than 20 minutes may devour a Harry Potter book in one afternoon. For this student, the change in motivation is driven by the situation. So as we analyze the concept of motivation, keep in mind that the level of motivation varies both between individuals and within individuals at different times.

We define motivation as the processes that account for an individual’s intensity, direction, and persistence of effort toward attaining a goal. While general motivation is concerned with effort towards any goal, we’ll narrow the focus to organizational goals in order to reflect our singular interest in work-related behavior.

The three key elements in our definition are intensity, direction, and persistence. Intensity is concerned with how hard a person tries. This is the element most of us focus on when we talk about motivation. However, high intensity is unlikely to lead to favorable job-performance outcomes unless the effort is channeled in a direction that benefits the organization. Therefore, we have to consider the quality of effort as well as its intensity. Effort that is directed toward, and consistent with, the organization’s goals is the kind of effort that we should be seeking. Finally, motivation has a persistence dimension. This is a measure of how long a person can maintain their effort. Motivated individuals stay with a task long enough to achieve their goals.

Motivation is the characteristic in an individual which make him or her to take initiatives or challenging tasks and complete the same successfully.

  • farhin

    very informative but would like know how to motivate students specially during board exam. This is theory but how to apply this practically.



  • I am glad that you shifted the focus to the “individual” in the end. How long the employee is able to do that depends on several profound factors. Take a look at the link below.

  • Very good definition for Motivation in simple english