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Motivation & Learning

Motivation is multi-layered and complex in each one of us. We are born with certain propensities for motivation but the rest is learned and situational.

Early in my career, I encountered new information that could greatly help my personal and professional life. Yet, the person I was in the beginning did not see a competence need in Wlodkowski and Ginsberg’s Motivational Framework on motivation. I was having “success” already. I didn’t see how learning something new would make me more successful than I already was. That affected my attitude. The new learning was not relevant to me personally. It did not align with my personal values and give more meaning to my life by adding engagement or challenge. I was a busy executive in a company and did not have the time to learn a new skill that I didn’t see the relevance of to my job or life.

Applying the Neuroscience of Motivation Theory here, I already felt a bond and had a plethora of dopamine on the brain from temporary success and my career trajectory (Schaufenbuel, 2015). I had no drive to acquire this content. That drive was being used up in technical knowledge to do my job better in the way I thought I should spend my time. I did not see the relevance in this emotional intelligence and leadership training.

There were two things that happened in the next five years that moved me to a highly motivated state in learning this assessment. One, situations in my personal life began to fall apart. Two, I had two small children and wanted to do the best job I could to raise them. They were both completely different people and the techniques I needed to use to raise them needed to be unique to each one. Parenting them both was a challenge for me. We had a handful of health risks and I had begun to work from home. This created more stress on me and I began to feel ill equipped to parent well. I was highly motivated to find competence in parenting like I felt in my job.

In Wlodkowski and Gindberg’s Motivational Framework, my motivation shifted because I was no longer a success and needed competence. All of a sudden, I saw the personal relevance of the material and how it could help me. Using the knowledge successfully showed me immediately an alignment with my values and created more engagement with my kids which enhanced meaning (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 2017).

From the lens of Neuroscience of Motivation, eventually the drive to acquire and take back control of my values and experiences instead of leave them framed in a failure was an important factor that reignited motivation for learning and using this knowledge. The Drive to Learn and Drive to Bond was also present because I missed the collaboration and group learning I had been doing and helped me make sense of my world (Schaufenbuel, 2015).

The next corporate job I started was using the tool in training and hiring practices. It immediately heightened my motivation because I saw the tool again through the success lens of competence and meaning. My attitude improved and I found a new trainer to help me finish my certification in the tool.

This knowledge aligns well with Self Determination Theory because of Competence, Autonomy and Relatedness. If I can use my gifts and talents and be competent through autonomy and connect with others in my emotional language, then I feel psychologically safe and have my needs met (Deci & Ryan,1985, 1991).

Understanding these various theories on motivation can help you be more introspective for yourself in certain work related situations and with your direct reports. Be curious and ask questions about these specific areas to identify what is their highest motivation at the time and specific to a certain situation.


Schaufenfuel, K. (2015). Motivation on the Brain: Applying the Neuroscience of Motivation in the Workplace. UNC Executive Development.

Wlodkowski, R., Ginsberg, M. (2017) Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn. Jossey-Bass.

Kahler, T. (2008) The Process Therapy Model: The Six Personality Types with Adaptations. Taibi Kahler Associates, Inc.

Regier, N., Kahler, T. (2020) Seeing People Through: Unleash Your Leadership Potential with the Process Communication Model. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York, NY: Plenum.

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