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Motivation Cycle – 4 Stages of Motivation Cycle | General Psychology

Motivation Cycle

Motivation comes from the Latin word “movere”, which means “to move”. The concept of motivation emphasizes the internal and external forces that lead us to take action. Activation, urge, and internal craving are all internal processes that actively guide and maintain behavior.

Causes of behavior can be explained by it. Behavioral patterns are driven by it, which makes us pursue some things while avoiding others.

An individual’s motivation can be characterized as something that prompts, compels or energizes them to act or behave in a particular way in order to accomplish some specific goal or purpose.

The motivation cycle is a transition of states within an organism that propels the organism toward the satisfaction of a particular need, where motivation itself is considered a hypothesized state.

The psychology of motivation is concerned with the ‘why’ of behavior. Questions such as: why do we eat, drink, and make love? Why do we strive to get ahead? Why do we try new things?” can be answered through the study of motivation. Motivation is a hypothesized state within an organism that propels the organism toward a goal.

Purpose of the Motivation Cycle

An individual’s motivation cycle describes the various psychological processes and stages he or she goes through in order to achieve their goals or desires.

Human behavior is driven by motivation, and motivation plays an important role in both personal and professional success. Understanding the purpose of the motivation cycle is crucial.

Here are the key purposes of the motivation cycle:

Initiation of Action:

An individual becomes aware of a goal or desire at the start of the motivation cycle, which serves as the initiation phase of the cycle.

It ignites interest or inspiration, which motivates them to take action towards their goals. The achievement of many goals would not be possible without initiation.

Goal Setting:

People set specific goals after being motivated. This phase defines what is important to them and sets clear objectives. Setting goals provides direction and purpose, focusing their efforts.

Sustaining Effort:

Motivation is one of the primary purposes of the motivation cycle. It takes consistent and prolonged effort to achieve meaningful goals. Motivating individuals keeps them engaged and determined despite obstacles and setbacks.

Overcoming Challenges:

A person’s motivation cycle provides the mental and emotional strength to overcome obstacles and challenges as they work towards their goals. Adaptability, resilience, and problem-solving are encouraged in the face of adversity.


Self-regulation and self-control are also impacted by motivation. A person’s motivation involves making choices that align with long-term goals, regardless of short-term distractions or temptations.

Achievement and Satisfaction:

A person’s motivation cycle ultimately leads to the achievement of their goals. When they achieve their goals, they feel satisfied and accomplished. As a result, individuals are motivated by a positive feedback loop, encouraging them to set new goals and pursue them.

Personal Growth and Development:

Besides achieving external goals, motivation serves the purpose of personal growth as well. Personal fulfillment and success require a continuous cycle of self-improvement. Through this cycle, individuals can push their boundaries, acquire new skills, and become better versions of themselves.

Adaptation and Flexibility:

Motivating individuals allows them to adapt as their circumstances change. It encourages flexibility in goal setting, and the ability to pivot when needed. Adaptability is vital in a dynamic world.

Motivating individuals toward their goals, overcoming challenges, fostering personal growth, and ultimately leading to satisfaction and accomplishment are the objectives of the motivation cycle. A dynamic process, it influences human behavior and achievement in many different ways.

Stages of the Motivation Cycle

The motivation cycle begins with a need. A need is the absence of some necessity. The next state is drive, which is arousal and energizing. The activity is a goal-directed behavior that continues until the person reaches that goal.

Arousal is then reduced as a result of the cycle. After a person’s next need arises, the cycle repeats itself, and the same pathway is followed. Broadly, there are four aspects of the motivation cycle.

  1. Need
  2. Drive, and
  3. Incentive
  4. Goal/Reward 

a) Need  


A need is a state of physical deprivation that causes tension within an organism, which tends to organize the field of an organism with respect to certain incentives or goals and to incite activity towards their attainment.

When an organism has been deprived of such basic necessities of life as food, water, and sleep, the internal environment is imbalanced and the need develops tissue needs, which are the biochemical requirements of the body. The need is the first condition for goal-directed behavior. 

The need is the absence or lack of some essentials that cause tension within an organism. Life is based on basic needs such as food, water, sleep, sex, etc. The needs can be simple or complex. Regardless of motivation or goal-directed behavior, needs are the starting point.

While some people may have simple psychological needs, such as clothing, food, shelter, and sex, others may have secondary needs, such as affiliation, power, and achievement.

Key Points:

Definition of Need:

  • State of physical deprivation causing tension within an organism.
  • Organizes the organism’s field towards specific incentives or goals.

Basic Necessities of Life:

  • Deprivation of essentials like food, water, and sleep.
  • Imbalances internal environment, leading to tissue needs (biochemical requirements).

Role of Need in Behavior:

  • First condition for goal-directed behavior.
  • Absence or lack of essentials creates tension within an organism.

Fundamental Life Needs:

  • Life is based on basic needs: food, water, sleep, sex, etc.
  • Regardless of motivation, needs serve as the starting point.

Complexity of Needs:

  • Needs can be simple (clothing, food, shelter) or complex (affiliation, power, achievement).
  • Individuals may have varying psychological needs.

b) Drive  


Need gives rise to drive. The concept of drive is used to mean that the organism is particularly sensitive to certain stimulations and usually is driven to activity. The activity persists until the need is satisfied or until weakness or death occurs.

Therefore, drive, a physiological state, is an original source of energy that activates the human organism. It arouse person to action. It is a strong persistent stimulus that demands an active response. Drive is the result of need.

Key Points:

  • Drive Origin: Need gives rise to drive.
  • Drive Definition: It refers to the organism’s sensitivity to specific stimuli, leading to activity.
  • Persistence: The activity continues until the need is satisfied or weakness/death occurs.
  • Physiological State: Drive is a physiological state, serving as an energy source for the organism.
  • Activation: Drive activates the human organism, prompting action.
  • Stimulus: It is a strong and persistent stimulus that demands an active response.
  • Relationship with Need: Drive is the result of a need, linking the concept to the fulfillment of requirements.

Try FAQs

According to drive theorists, the foremost motivation for all organisms is to

a) achieve self-actualization
b) maintain homeostasis
c) ensure their own survival and the survival of their species
d) experience as much pleasant stimulation as possible

Drive theories of motivation are classified as ____ theories, while incentive theories of motivation are classified as ____ theories.

a) external; internal
b) socio-biological; sociological
c) constrained; unconstrained
d) push; pull

Why do drive-reduction approaches fail to offer a complete account of human motivation?

A) People are sometimes motivated to increase rather than decrease their level of stimulation.
B) Homeostasis doesn’t accurately describe the mechanism by which primary drives operate.
C) Drive-reduction approaches offer much better explanations of behaviors motivated by secondary drives than of behaviors motivated by primary drives.
D) Drive-reduction approaches are vague about what, or even how many, primary drives exist.

Which of the following behaviors is consistent with a drive theory of motivation?

a) eating dessert after a large meal
b) looking up information in the encyclopedia
c) eating an apple when hungry
d) studying hard to earn an A on the test

Which of the following is explained by the drive-reduction theory of motivation?

a) Jafar decides to stay in the pool even after he has cooled down.
b) Joshua is thirsty and chooses lemonade rather than soda to drink.
c) Jeffrey keeps running in the marathon even though every muscle in his body aches and all his vital signs are working overtime.
d) Jim played in the game because he did not want to let his teammates down.

The main implication of the four-drive theory of motivation is that

A) employers should offer employees a choice of rewards and continuously initiate change in the workplace.
B) employees should be given generic goals with plenty of feedback.
C) employers should motivate employees to achieve challenging goals and give them egalitarian rewards.
D) employers should select people with the best qualifications for the job.
E) drives/needs-based theories have no relevance for managing people in organizational settings.

c) Incentive 


An incentive is an object, a situation of our activity, which excites, maintains, and directs behaviour. Incentive has the capability to satisfy a need. Without an incentive or reinforcer, motivation cannot be fulfilled. It is an object toward which motivated behavior is directed.

It can provide satisfaction of the aroused drive. Food is an incentive to hungry men. Need alone do not produce motivated behaviour and drive alone does not make a selective and rational behaviour. Incentive is necessary.

It channels the drive to specific behavior. In sum, it can be said that need is a physiological or psychological state which gives rise to drive, energy or force. The drive is a state of heightened tension leading to restless activity and preparatory behavior.

According to HiIgard, an incentive is something in the external environment that satisfies the need and thus reduces the drive through consummatory activity.

Key Points:

Definition of Incentive:

  • An incentive is a stimulus in our environment that excites, maintains, and directs behavior.
  • It has the capability to satisfy a need and is crucial for fulfilling motivation.

Role of Incentive:

  • Without an incentive or reinforcer, motivation cannot be fulfilled.
  • It is an object toward which motivated behavior is directed.

Satisfaction of Needs:

  • Incentives provide satisfaction for aroused drives.
  • For example, food serves as an incentive for hungry individuals.

Relation to Motivated Behavior:

  • Need alone does not produce motivated behavior; incentives are necessary.
  • Drive alone does not lead to selective and rational behavior; incentives play a crucial role.

Channeling Behavior:

  • Incentives channel the drive towards specific behavior.
  • They help in directing and focusing the energy or force associated with the drive.

Drive and Preparatory Behavior:

  • A drive is a state of heightened tension leading to restless activity and preparatory behavior.
  • Incentives play a role in reducing the drive through consummatory activity.

HiIgard’s Perspective:

  • According to HiIgard, an incentive is something in the external environment that satisfies the need, thereby reducing the drive through consummatory activity.

d) Goal/Reward  


The goal of energized activity is to reduce the tension created within the body. Here in the above example, consumption of food and reduction of tension is the goal.

When the goal is achieved the need is reduced, the body is in a balanced condition and tension is reduced. The person is again ready for other goal-directed activities.

The motivational cycle, therefore, means that behavior goes in a sequence. Since the sequence is cyclical and needs are never ending there is more than one motivated behavior that constantly influences the person to act and react. Many times motivated behavior fulfills more than one need.

  • Goal of energized activity: Reduce tension in the body.
  • Example: Consumption of food and tension reduction.
  • Achieving the goal reduces the need.
  • Balanced condition is reached, tension is reduced.
  • Individual is ready for other goal-directed activities.
  • Motivational cycle involves a sequential and cyclical process.
  • Needs are never-ending, leading to constant motivation.
  • Motivated behavior often fulfills multiple needs.

Common Challenges in the Motivational Cycle

Motivation plays a crucial role in achieving our goals and dreams. However, the journey to staying motivated can be riddled with challenges that often deter us from our path. In this article, we’ll explore five common challenges in the motivational cycle and discuss ways to overcome them.

A. Lack of Clarity in Goals

One of the primary hurdles in the motivational cycle is a lack of clarity in our goals. When we are uncertain about what we want to achieve, it becomes challenging to muster the motivation to pursue it.

To overcome this challenge, it’s essential to set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. SMART goals provide a clear roadmap, making it easier to stay motivated and track progress.

B. Self-Doubt and Fear of Failure

Self-doubt and the fear of failure are two formidable adversaries on our journey towards motivation. When we doubt our abilities or fear failing, it can be paralyzing.

To combat self-doubt, focus on building self-confidence through positive self-talk and acknowledging past successes. Embrace failure as a learning opportunity rather than a setback, recognizing that it’s a natural part of the journey to success.

C. Sustaining Motivation Over Time

Maintaining motivation over an extended period can be challenging. Initially, we may be fired up about our goals, but as time passes, our enthusiasm may wane.

To sustain motivation, it’s essential to break your goals into smaller, manageable tasks and celebrate your achievements along the way. Surrounding yourself with a support system, such as friends or mentors, can also help keep your motivation alive.

D. Dealing with Setbacks and Disappointments

Setbacks and disappointments are inevitable on the path to success. It’s easy to lose motivation when faced with obstacles. However, these setbacks are valuable learning experiences.

When setbacks occur, it’s crucial to remain resilient, adapt to the new situation, and remember that each setback brings you one step closer to your goals. Use setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow, and don’t let them deter your motivation.

E. Balancing Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Finding the right balance between intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) motivation can be a challenge. Intrinsic motivation comes from within and is driven by personal passion and satisfaction, while extrinsic motivation comes from external rewards or recognition.

To maintain motivation effectively, align your goals with your personal values and interests (intrinsic motivation) while also considering external rewards as additional incentives. Striking this balance can help you stay motivated and fulfilled.

Strategies for Navigating the Motivational Cycle

Staying motivated can sometimes feel like riding a roller coaster. We all experience highs and lows in our motivation levels, but the key to achieving our goals lies in our ability to navigate this motivational cycle effectively.

In this article, we will explore five strategies that can help you stay on track and maintain your motivation, even when faced with challenges.

A. Setting a Clear Vision

Setting a clear vision is like creating a roadmap for your journey. It involves defining your goals and understanding why they are important to you.

When you have a clear vision, you’re more likely to stay motivated because you have a compelling reason to work towards your goals.

To set a clear vision, ask yourself questions like: What do I want to achieve? Why is it important to me? How will it benefit my life in the long run? Once you have answers to these questions, you’ll have a strong foundation to build upon.

B. Building Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is the engine that keeps your motivation running smoothly. It involves developing the ability to stay focused on your goals, even when faced with distractions or temptations.

To build self-discipline, start by creating a daily routine that includes specific time blocks for working towards your goals. Break your tasks into smaller, manageable steps, and reward yourself when you accomplish them.

Over time, self-discipline will become a habit that helps you stay motivated consistently.

C. Seeking Support and Accountability

It’s easier to stay motivated when you have a support system in place. Share your goals with friends, family, or mentors who can provide encouragement and hold you accountable.

When you know that others are counting on you, it can be a powerful motivator to keep pushing forward. You can also join groups or communities related to your goals, where you can find like-minded individuals who share your aspirations and can provide valuable guidance and motivation.

D. Adaptation and Flexibility

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, and your motivation may waver when faced with setbacks or challenges. The key is to be adaptable and flexible in your approach.

Understand that setbacks are a natural part of any journey and view them as opportunities to learn and grow.

Adjust your strategies and goals when necessary, but never lose sight of your ultimate vision. Remember, it’s not about how many times you fall, but how many times you get back up.

E. Self-Care and Burnout Prevention

Taking care of yourself is essential for maintaining motivation in the long run. Burnout can quickly drain your enthusiasm and energy, making it difficult to stay motivated.

To prevent burnout, prioritize self-care activities such as exercise, proper nutrition, sufficient sleep, and relaxation.

Make time for activities that bring you joy and help you recharge. When you take care of your physical and mental well-being, you’ll be better equipped to stay motivated and focused on your goals.

People Also Ask

Who proposed the motivation cycle?

Who proposed the motivation cycle?

The motivation Cycle was proposed by Abraham Maslow. According to Maslow, motivation is the result of a person’s attempt to meet five basic needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization.

It has been suggested by Maslow that these needs can influence a person’s behavior by creating internal pressures.

What factors affect the motivation cycle?

  • Activation,
  • Persistence, and
  • Intensity.

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