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Achievement motivation



Motivation is the driving force of human action. Individual needs, ambitions, desires have a strong influence on the direction of our behavior. We meet our needs in different ways and strive for success for different reasons – both personal and general. There are different forms of motivation such as external, internal, physiological and achievement.

The motivation for achievement can be defined as the need for improvement, with the basis for the triumph of all our aspirations in life. Goals influence how we perform tasks and reflect motivations to demonstrate our skills. These basic physiological aspects affect the natural behavior of a person in different conditions.

Motivation can range from biological needs to satisfying creative desires or achieving success in competitive endeavors. That's why it's so important because it affects lives every day. All our behavior, actions, thoughts and beliefs are influenced by the inner desire for success, the desire to feel the pleasant weight of the Laurel wreath on his head.

Achievement motivation

History and research

The study of achievement motivation has a long and distinguished history. In fact, scientists have focused on this issue since the birth of psychology as a scientific discipline – when William James made an assumption about how the propensity for skills is related to self-esteem.

Currently, this topic is a field of active research, especially in the field of pedagogical psychology, sports and exercise psychology, industrial psychology, social psychology of personality and development. Research is conducted both in experimental laboratories (where variables are commonly used) and in real-world environments such as classrooms, workplaces or sports fields.

The challenge is to explain and predict any behavior related in one way or another to the principle of ability. Examples of goal-seeking are ubiquitous in life and are present in a wide variety of situations. For example, a gardener seeking to grow a perfect Orchid, a teenager who wants to be a good companion, or an elderly person concerned about the gradual loss of their abilities.

For a long time, many steps have been taken to try to understand what achievement motivation is. Among them, it should be noted:

  • Striving for success. The level of effectiveness that we want or do not want to achieve. The study of Kurt Lewin and Ferdinand Hoppe
  • Needs and motives. General, emotional predisposition to success and failure. Research by David McClelland and John Atkinson
  • Anxiety testing. Anxiety and nervousness as a possible impact on the quality of work. A study by Charles Spielberger and Martin Covington
  • Functionality in the implementation of goals. Ideas about the causes of positive and negative results. Research Bernard Weiner and Heinz Heckhausen
  • Goals to achieve. Ideas about successes or failures that people seek to achieve or avoid. The research of Carol Dweck and John Nicholls
  • Implicit theories of ability. Study of the nature of competence and abilities. Research by Carol Dweck and Robert Sternberg
  • The intended awareness. Understanding what can and cannot be achieved. A study by Albert Bandura and Susan Harter.
  • Evaluating the importance of success or avoiding failure. Research Jacqueline Eccles, Judy Harkevich

Many scientists have focused on one of the above factors in their work, and some seek to integrate two or more of these parameters into the overall conceptual framework.

Achievement motivation

Studying the need by McClelland

The theory of achievement (or the need to achieve) was primarily promoted by the American psychologist David McClelland. He spent most of his life developing the idea that three key needs are acquired through learning or experience. They can not be studied at any seminar, but you can still learn them if you practice for a few months or a year. What are these three needs:

  • The need for achievement. Choosing situations where success depends on performance
  • The need for accessories. In fact to be with someone. Such a person enjoys a mutual friendship with others
  • The need for strength. Those who have such a need really need to manage events and things or influence others

Five characteristics of a high need for achievement

1. Trekking for a personal record

Edmund Hilary, who together with his guide, Nepalese Sherpa Tenzig Norgei, became the first man to climb Everest – the highest mountain peak on earth. Few of us are really capable of doing this, but those who do have an undeniable desire for success. And the point is not to increase financial earnings. It is about achieving the goal, and then – even more, difficult goal, in the pursuit of perfection, without turning into an obsessive perfectionist.

2. Setting moderate goals, understanding and calculating possible risks

This is not calculating probabilities using cold mathematics. It is a compromise between easy and too difficult. Let's imagine that you are going to throw a ring on a stick. You can choose how far or how close you stand from this ring. Some people will stand very close to success every time. Others will risk getting too far, so they manage to throw the ring only on rare occasions, and mostly because they are lucky. And someone to achieve satisfaction will choose the distance at which he will use exactly the skill necessary to succeed. On the condition that there will be no problems, but it will not be too easy.

3. Personal responsibility in finding a solution to problems

Such a person enjoys the feeling of their own readiness to solve complex situations. In some cases, he goes for it completely voluntarily.

4. Striving for unique achievements, tirelessness, and innovativeness

At first glance, it may seem that in the nature of these people there is an element of inconsistency, non-conformism. They are not good candidates to work in a Bank where operations have to be performed exactly the same as day after day, without change. Do you remember the name of the person who served you during your last visit to the Bank?

For example, Steve Jobs, in his early years was a little non-conformist. The story goes that he was able to get his first job just by asking a person who could hire him. At the same time, he did not cut his hair and did not bother to put on shoes for the meeting. He simply found someone who could hire him and asked for a job.

How different is this from our usual understanding of the interview, where we have to fully comply with the dress code and carry a resume, which will envy Superman?

Of course, this disparity is both a blessing and a curse for a standardized organization with defined and well-organized processes. Therefore, it is desirable that each employee with the same job title has approximately the same behavior. And a person with a high need and desire to innovate should follow the rules or leave.

5. Finding negative feedback

There is such an expression – a true friend is the one who tells you about your weaknesses, not praises for the strengths. The average person is afraid of negative reviews. We don't want to hear about our mistakes, our failures and what could have been done better.

People who are inherent in the above characteristics, really to some extent special. They see negative rather than positive feedback as more valuable. The reason is the desire to make yourself more perfect. And to understand how to achieve this, you should know what to improve or upgrade.


Motivation and commitment to the goal are considered one of the basic needs, so necessary to meet each of us. And it is important to remember that understanding the different principles of achievement motivation will help to explain and predict behavior (both own and others), without creating a complex psychological profile.


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