Article - Intermediate

What’s so Motivating about ‘Motivation’?

By Megan Biffi | 25 July 2019 |
thumbnail what motivates you


Whether browsing a bookstore or the internet it might seem like every Tom, Dick, and Harriet is promoting a book about motivation - or becoming a motivational speaker. But why the sudden interest? Is it because we are not fully aware of what motivates us? Or others?

Motivation energises us; it gives us purpose, and guides and directs our behaviour towards a goal or specific need. Motivation fuels our desire to achieve goals. If we are motivated, we are driven to be successful and to fulfil our true potential.

Something that is motivational is (1) energising and activates behaviour; (2) directive as it guides you towards satisfying a goal or a specific need (for example, being afraid motivates you to run away from danger or being hungry motivates you to eat); (3) helpful in guiding us to persist in our behaviour until we reach our goal or meet our need; and (4) variable in strength as some things can be highly motivating, others less so.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

There are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is when you are motivated towards taking action that might not be rewarding in itself but lead to a reward or goal . As an example, working overtime and showing initiative at work in an attempt to earn an increase in pay, earn a bonus, earn time off from work, or even earn a promotion. Intrinsic motivation is when you are motivated towards taking action or engaging in activities that are themselves rewarding. In other words, it is internal . It refers to being personally motivated or having a personal desire towards a particular goal . For example, producing high-quality work, overcoming a challenge, or interacting with members of a team that you trust and like. Another example of intrinsic motivation would be helping others because it makes you feel good. When extrinsic and intrinsic motivators clash – i.e. when a job rewards someone for working against their personal values, individuals typically experience higher levels of stress, discomfort, and anxiety.

Why is motivation so important?

We may not always be able to control the extrinsic motivators in our environment. Therefore, we may be better off striving to understand and work with intrinsic motivations - both our own and other people’s. What makes us get out of bed in the morning? What is our ‘why’? People who are intrinsically motivated gain a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction from what they do, and also tend to work harder and more creatively.

How, then, do we go about understanding our own and others’ intrinsic motivations?

The Enneagram and motivation

The Enneagram very directly references the idea of intrinsic motivation, revealing our inner motivations and addressing what motivates and drives human behaviour.

As a framework, the Enneagram points to and brings into sharp, clear focus nine different ways of looking at the world. It allows us to see how each worldview impacts the way we bring our unique thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to any situation. This framework goes beyond the superficial aspects of behaviour and delves into the often-secret, unconscious, or underlying motivations that give us a look at ‘why’ people do what they do.

The Enneagram emphasises that we are all different and have different motivators. If this is the case, it becomes crucial to understand ourselves and others better. To discover what motivates them and us, and find the right balance between extrinsic and intrinsic motivators so we can motivate and energise ourselves (and others) successfully.

What motivates and energises the Nine Enneagram Types? Let us take a look:

1Enneagram 1 - Strict Perfectionist

Enneagram Ones value principles and integrity and are driven by the motivational need to be good and right. Their name comes from their striving for perfection and self-control, integrity, and quality. Ones appreciate standards, principles, and structure. They are motivated towards being organised and getting things right, as well as perfecting and improving themselves and others. To motivate Ones, goals should be clear, practical, task-oriented, and achievable.

2Enneagram 2 - Considerate Helper

Enneagram Twos have a motivational need to be liked and appreciated. Twos value relationships and kindness; generosity and self-sacrifice are essential to them. They are motivated towards helping others, giving love and feeling appreciated, as well as being relevant to others. Twos strive to make the world a more loving place, primarily by offering support and attention to those they care for. To motivate Twos, their goals should be purposeful, service-focused, and likely to enhance relationships.

3Enneagram 3 - Competitive Achiever

Enneagram Threes are likely to value achievement and want to be the best; efficiency, results, recognition, and image are very important to them. They are motivated towards working hard, getting things done, being and appearing successful, as well as being recognised as achievers. Threes strive for success in their chosen field and tend to be highly flexible and willing to adapt to achieve their goals. To motivate Threes, their goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Oriented and Time-Bound), more task- than people-oriented, not vague or ambiguous, and challenging but achievable.

4Enneagram 4 - Intense Creative

Enneagram Fours need to express their uniqueness and be authentic. They value individualism and, as a result, feelings, self-expression, and purpose are important to them. Fours are romantic at heart and appreciate beauty, and creating meaning for themselves and others. They need to feel different, special and unique, and seek the meaning of life, hoping to make a profound and lasting contribution. To motivate Fours, their goals should be meaningful rather than mundane or contrived. It should provide opportunities for self-expression, be broad in scope but able to be broken down into smaller, manageable goals or activities.

5Enneagram 5 - Quiet Specialist

Enneagram Fives value making sense of the world around them and, as a result, objectivity and knowledge are important to them. They are motivated towards knowing, understanding, looking, finding, and having the answers as well as being self-sufficient. Fives strive for independence, appreciate privacy, and tend to conserve their resources to ensure future independence. To motivate Fives, their goals should be task- rather than relationship-oriented, concrete, specific, manageable rather than overwhelming, central to their area of expertise, and expressly linked to useful outputs.

6Enneagram 6 - Loyal Sceptic

Enneagram Sixes value security and belonging, as this style stems from the motivational need to be safe and prepared. As a result, loyalty and trust are important to Sixes, who strive to be responsible and prepared at all times. They are motivated towards looking out for others and try to achieve certainty by being proactive and prepared. To motivate Sixes, their goals should be manageable at the level of perceived risk, conservative in time and output requirements, and create opportunities to over-deliver.

7Enneagram 7 - Enthusiastic Visionary

Enneagram Sevens have the motivational need to experience life to the fullest and avoid pain. Sevens value a sense of freedom and focus on optimism, being inspired, and taking opportunities as they present themselves. Sevens approach life as an adventure and appreciate being playful and spontaneous. They are motivated towards being happy, having fun, engaging in many different activities, and contributing to the world. To motivate Sevens, their goals should be varied or broad in scope, flexible, energising and exciting, action-oriented and stimulating, future-oriented, and aligned with their ideas.

Type icon ennea type 8 The Active Controller

Enneagram Eights have a need to be strong and avoid being controlled or hurt by others. They value having a sense of control and being direct and impactful. Eights love challenges and will embody a need for justice which enables them to protect others. They are motivated towards feeling strong, self-sufficient, free, and in charge, as well as making an impact on the world. To motivate Eights, their goals should be aligned to big-picture strategic priorities, set themselves rather than enforced by others. It should be impactful on what they see as critical, are not restrictive (allowing for the opportunity to make things happen) and clearly move them forward.

9Enneagram 9 - Adaptive Peacemaker

Enneagram Nines are motivated by a need to be settled and in harmony with the world and, as a result, being accommodating and accepting is important to them. They strive for a peaceful existence and appreciate stability, preferring to avoid conflict. They are motivated towards relaxing, keeping the peace, having harmony with others and in their environment. To motivate Nines, their goals should be clearly defined and communicated, developed through consensus and collaboration with all involved parties. It should be meaningful, practical, concrete, predictable and within the scope of previous goals.


Like the waves of an ocean, our motivation tends to rise and fall. There will be some mornings when we wake up feeling energised and rearing to go, and powering through the goals that we have set for ourselves . On other days, however, we might feel less inspired.

The Enneagram can help us identify the ‘why’ behind our actions . And knowing this makes us so more motivated - especially on those days when we feel less than inspired.

It is important to remember that it is entirely natural for motivational levels to fluctuate as the day progresses. The Enneagram helps us set goals that can keep us intrinsically motivated by revealing our inner drivers. Whatever our current level of motivation, it is always a good idea to reconnect to our primary source of motivation to enable us to get the job done.


Get your iEQ9 Enneagram Test