What motivates our behavior? What models do we have to interpret it? How can it help us to be accurate in this analysis? We see it in this article.
Last update: Augusts 18, 2020
Have you ever wondered why we behave the way we do? One of the goals of psychology, indeed one of its main aspirations, is to answer this question. In this article we try to identify and define the so-called purpose of our behavior.
To do this, you need to talk about essential needs, motivation and how to regain control when emotions are heightened and instinct wants to take over.
To choose wisely in life, you have to listen to yourself, in every moment of life. "
– Abraham Maslow –
Primary needs and purposes of behavior
There are different psychological models or perspectives to describe our needs. One of the best known is perhaps Abraham Maslow's pyramid. The American psychologist suggested that in order to overcome a group of needs one must first satisfy those of the underlying level. Maslow's pyramid of needs is distributed in this way:
- Physiological needs: include needs such as food, sleep, rest, sex, or breathing.
- Safety: work, health, private property, own and family physical safety, etc.
- Affiliation: friendship, affection, family, sexual intimacy.
- Recognition: trust, self-esteem, respect, success.
- Self-realization: morality, spontaneity, creativity, accepting judgments and solving problems.
According to this scheme, therefore, our behavior can be motivated by needs. For example, if security needs are not met, our actions will be directed towards this goal. We will be motivated by the level of physiological needs.
We all share the basic needs, which is the bottom of the pyramid. These needs explain the way we act. In other words, the motivation would be closely linked to the purpose our behavior is aimed at.
Motivation and behavior
According to the Sabatini Colletti dictionary, motivation is the set of forces, factors, phenomena internal to an individual that contribute to directing his actions, his behavior.
La motivation is one of variables that affect our behavior. It is intrinsic when it pushes us to satisfy a pleasure, extrinsic when it is linked to external incentives. There are other ways to classify motivation:
- Success-oriented motivation. It is in tune with the need to act and excel.
- Membership oriented. It is linked to the need to be part of a group, therefore to stay in contact with others.
- Power oriented. It is about the ability to influence and control, but also to be recognized.
The sources of motivation are therefore different; they vary according to our awareness of the relationship between our needs and our actions. Sometimes this relationship is learned, determined by culture or family.
It is individual although some goals can be shared. The point is, we don't always recognize our needs; This means that we could act to satisfy a need that we have not consciously identified.
This often leads us to err in identifying the motivational vectors that direct our actions; or we identify them, but we lie when we are asked to express them.
How to avoid being governed by feelings, habits and thoughts?
When you are not aware of your needs, it is easier to feel lost, cut off from life. It is as if we are being guided by a higher force. For example, if we are ruled by fear and shame, we show avoidance. Other emotions such as anger and joy invite us to action.
This also extends to thoughts and habits. In other words, translating into action and instantly what we feel and think or simply following the inertia marked by habit leads us to not understand what we really want.
What can we do then?
We need to work with our awareness to avoid that the purpose to which our way of acting is aimed is dictated by these factors. To do this, we can:
- Live with your head in the present. It will help us be more connected. From this position it will be easier to find new and better solutions.
- Meditate. Facilitates reflection and analysis.
- Asking ourselves "why do I do this or to whom is my behavior directed?". Asking ourselves this question will lead us to pay more attention to the behaviors we perform automatically; those with whom we often let others direct our life.
In addition to this, we should be in tune with our well-being, remaining attentive to our mental, physical and social health. In this way we are more aware of the needs that require our attention.
It can be helpful to practice mindfulness, a technique that, according to some research, takes us away from the danger of meaningless behavior. Kudesia (2019) in an article published in Academy of Management Review, attributes to this practice a better management of situations through transformation processes.
In summary, the purpose of our behavior is determined by several factors. It is different in each of us and we can follow it in the most authentic way by becoming aware of why we act. By doing so, we will have more chances to take back the reins of our life.