What Drives You?

Learning about our traits can help us understand why we behave the way we do.   Learning about our drives, our motivations, and strivings toward a goal can help us understand what we want.   Although we don’t always recognize our drives, they are potent forces behind our everyday behavior.

It is believed by many psychologists that our drives can be assigned to a few groups, such as achievement, power, and intimacy which can apply to all people.   However, drives vary from person to person in their potency and in how they are expressed.  These differences can help predict life outcomes such as professional success and/or positive relationships.

We can also distinguish between autonomous motives, which are those we genuinely want for ourselves, and external or controlled motives, which are goals we strive for in order to please others or to ease our shame or guilt.  People are more likely to stick to the task if their goals are their own rather than ones are pursuing out of guilt or fear.

Achievements and Power Personality Traits

The achievement motive is easy to recognize.   People with a high need to achieve want to master challenging tasks; they compete against a standard of excellence set by themselves or by others.  They like to win games, get good grades, and succeed visibly at work.    They are curious, interested, and exploratory.    They also hate to fail, so their preferred tasks are moderately challenging but not too hard.  They pick their projects based on how well they think they can do them, and they don’t want others to pick tasks for them.   These motivated people tend to do well in school and at jobs.  However, their high standards can work against them.   A study of US presidents with high achievements motives showed they were less effective than others, possibly because they were unwilling to compromise.

The Power Pull People also tend to strive for power.   This is the desire to have an impact on others – to be the leader in a group and to be noticed as dominant.   People with a high desire for power are more likely to have arguments, to be elected to office, and to acquire prestigious possessions i.e. expensive sports cars.   At its most destructive, the power motive can make a person controlling or abusive.  But this approach often backfires, so those with a high-power need more often are persuasive and assertive without being openly aggressive.

Fun Facts to Know
Power motivated people experience higher blood pressure and increased muscle tone when they are challenged for dominance.

Our Personalities Explained - Competing Desires
You may tell yourself that you truly want that promotion, or that you crave closer to your family – but do you really?   Striving for a goal out of guilt or out of obedience to others is a recipe for stress and failure.   Studies show that people who are conflicted between their strivings and their true values have higher levels of depression and more psychosomatic complaints.   They are less likely to achieve the goals and more likely to spend time worrying about them.   Ambivalence tends to lead to stagnation.

As a coach, I recommend that you ask yourself whether you really feel ownership of your own goals and then act accordingly.  Be aware, though, that if you fail to get the things you truly want, you will be more strongly disappointed than if you fail to reach the goals that others have set for you.