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What drives you to succeed?

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Understanding harnesses motivation and will help take your success to the next level.

Image by NRThaele from Pixabay 

As women, we are motivated by a deep desire to help others succeed. 

The research supports the idea that to succeed at something you must have a motive or a deep desire. While successful people may not always know what they are doing, they have a driving motive that is developed from an emotional state. They do not take “no” for an answer. When things get difficult, they push through and make things happen, negotiate or influence others as needed, and do not quit until they succeed at reaching their goal(s). 

That is what motivation is all about. Motivation is regulated by a small region in the brain that controls the flow of neurotransmitters between the brain and different nerve cells in the body. This influences whether or not you have the desire to eat healthy, exercise, strive to achieve set goals etc. One of those neurotransmitters worth mentioning is dopamine. This brain chemical plays a major role in triggering motivation and reward-motivated behavior. Dopamine also influences memory, cognition, sleep, and mood. Behavioral neuroscientists and psychologists say that dopamine helps bridge the gap between inaction and action. 

Just as important as the hormonal and neurotransmitter factors that influence your motivation to succeed at something, are the social motives that drive behavior. Social motives are unique to humans, while physiological motives are present in both animals and human beings. They are called social motives because they are learned, and the strength of one type of social motive or another will vary from one individual to another, which explains why people are motivated to succeed differently. 

The three main social motives are power, affiliation, and achievement. These social motives are what compel you to go after your goals. If you do not understand the strength of each of these social motives, you will not know how to influence your emotional state, and your progress may be slower, or perhaps you may not reach your goal at all. The more you understand the power of social motives and which is dominant for you, the greater the potential to learn how to harness motivation and take success to the next level. 

It is important to know that dopamine spikes whenever something goes better than expected – like feeling better than you expected after a tough workout or when you exceed a set goal. Unfortunately, your brain will get used to that feeling quickly and after a few experiences you come to expect the same “high”. Your dopamine levels will no longer spike quite as high and you will begin to feel less excited about difficult work tasks or different workouts, as examples. In order to keep your motivation high and dopamine spiking, you need to take on new challenges (in pursuit of new goals) every couple of weeks or so. As a fitness professional and trainer and business entrepreneur, I know that to keep motivation high, I need to switch up exercises weekly, and my class routines about every four weeks. Remember if nothing changes, nothing changes. 

The three social motives:


People who are power motivated strive to exercise strong, influential action, generate strong emotions in others, and are concerned about reputation or position in the world. They seek positions of leadership, authority and status, and they are most often the leaders within their family, company and community. They make their life purpose to inspire others to achieve their best and to live a fulfilling life. This social motive is often called influence motivation. 


People who are affiliation motivated strive to establish, maintain, and restore close relationships with others and they characterize group activities as social, friendly, and collaborative. The need for being connected with others, for working cohesively with others, while creating participation is key. They seek out and succeed in coaching, consulting, and managerial roles that require relationship building. 


Achievement motivated people enjoy setting and achieving challenging goals, and they strive for innovative and unique accomplishments. They are very goal oriented and they perform best when they are given deadlines to achieve. 

To get to know which social motive predominantly drives your performance, you need to first tap into your emotions to really see what drives your behavior. Then you need to take daily action to keep your emotional state and motivational drive revving high. 

Visualization is an effective way to tap in. Think about and visualize in your mind a situation in which you are at the centre of attention, such as when you are giving a presentation. Focus on everything—from what you are wearing, what the room looks like, and how many people are sitting in front of you in the audience. Then ask yourself “how do I feel?” 

If you have a positive emotional response to this situation and you feel confident and strong, that is a sign you are driven by power. If you feel comfortable or somewhat anxious you are motivated by affiliation or achievement. If you were imagining how you could network with the people in your audience, your motive is likely affiliation. If you are driven by achievement, you envisioned getting over your fear of public speaking or imagined a standing ovation following your presentation. Which motive did you relate to the most in this scenario? 

To learn which of these three social motives drives you, I encourage you to take this quick 5-minute self-assessment that I created along with my co-authors, Nathalie Plamondon-Thomas and Tasha Hughes, for our book called Think YOURSELF™ Successful-The DNA System To Reprogram Your Brain

Once you have tapped into your primary social motive, you can use this knowledge as a powerful tool to feed your motivation on a daily basis. 

Discover More: Check out this great article on the 101 of body acceptance!


  • Maureen (Mo) Hagan is an award-winning fitness instructor and program director, the 2019 Canadian Fitness Industry Leader of the Year, and group fitness instructor with GoodLife Fitness. COO of canfitpro, Canada’s leading fitness education authority and the creator of Women Who Influence, she is a member of the board of the Women in Fitness Association.

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