Between satisfaction and theories of motivation

In this life, it is important to appreciate that there is no satisfaction and happiness without action even if action may not always bring happiness. You cannot be anything without some action: saying something, doing something and being something. It is due to this fact that everyone requires some motivation to overcome the challenges of the day with purposeful and positive action.

Motivation is that biological, social or psychological state that drives one towards taking action. It is through motivation that the uniqueness of each person is usually fulfilled and valued outcomes that manifest in improved performance, personal growth, increased wellbeing and sense of direction are realised. We all need motivation whether extrinsic (external rewards) or intrinsic (internal triggers) to enjoy peace, happiness and satisfaction.

Whatever motivates you should be maximised  so that you can be the best version of yourself. The conditions are not always right but like the sun that shines despite the clouds or like a flower that blooms amidst thorns, finding motivation will find you to attain fulfillment as well as  mental wellbeing, inner joy and personal peace that come it.

Abraham Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ is a major theory of motivation that helps to understand the psychology of human motivation. In his paper, ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’ published in 1943, Maslow underscored that our needs are just in five categories, from the most basic to the most complex.

They begin with physiological needs (the need for air, water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing and reproduction). Then, we graduate to safety needs (personal security, employment, resources, health, property), social needs (love and belonging, friendship, intimacy family, sense of connection), esteem needs (respect, self-esteem, status, recognition, strength, freedom) and we peak at self-actualisation needs (the desire to become the most that we can be). As Maslow said, “A person lacking food, safety, love, and esteem would probably hunger for food more strongly than anything else.”

One implication of this theory is that needs are limited by wants are unlimited. You shouldn’t make your wants your needs and there is always enough for one’s needs but the world isn’t enough to satisfy one’s greed.

Another motivation theory is Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory which states that just two factors determine job satisfaction. These are intrinsic factors (the nature of the job itself) and extrinsic factors (the pay, status, working condition and the environment at large). In his 1959 paper in The motivation for work, he identified two sets of needs that everyone has: lower level needs as an animal to avoid pain and deprivation and higher level needs as a human being to grow psychologically.

In developing the theory, otherwise known as hygiene-motivation theory, Frederick Herzberg was able to collate the factors for satisfaction and factors for dissatisfaction.  While factors for job satisfaction or growth/motivation factors are achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, advancement and growth, the factors for job dissatisfaction or hygiene factors are company policies, supervision, relationship with supervisor and peers, work conditions, salary, status and security. The onus lies in individuals and organisations to increase the growth factors and make the hygiene factors humane.

Based on this theory, everyone must seek to graduate from the animal level to the human level. If you are contented with just eating, drinking, sleeping and catching fun, you are not better than animals. You just have to find your purpose and fulfill it to attain satisfaction as a human being.

Then, there is Adam’s Equity Theory which explains how people expect balance between their rewards and others’. In his “Towards an understanding of inequity” paper published in 1963, John Stacey Adams posited that people become de-motivated in relation to their job and employers if their inputs are greater than the outputs they receive.  This theory explains the grouse of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Also, if people do the same work but are paid different wages, the less paid person would feel less motivated and get psychologically disturbed.  

Finally, there is Robert House’s Path-Goal Theory that states that a leader motivates people by clarifying goals and providing a path to achieving them. It is a version of the contingency theory of leadership which House introduced in 1971 to describe how a leader’s behaviour is contingent upon the satisfaction, motivation and performance of their staff or group members.

The theory advocates servant leadership where leadership is not seen as a position of power but an opportunity to serve the interest of others and the goal of the organisation. Leaders serve as coaches, facilitators and guides by the side of their employees or subordinates. Therefore, everyone is a leader and your responsibility is to serve those you lead, either at the micro or macro level, not serve your own personal interest.

Your satisfaction is often reflected in your motivation. Be motivated and attain satisfaction.