The 4 Types of Motivation

January 31, 2018 Ali No comments exist

How I learned about them...

As some of you know, in 2017 I went to several Tony Robbins events, which taught me SO much. One of the perks of signing up for these events is you get a Tony Robbins coach. My coach, Tanner, is excellent, I can think of almost any question from a broad range of topics and he always has an idea of a new thing to try.

In October, I was finding myself having a hard time getting motivated to do the less exciting things at work, i.e. going through mail, spreadsheets, accounting etc. Mostly, things that didn’t include my favorite part of my job which is working with patients. So I asked Tanner, “How Can I Be More Motivated?”

He asked me if I had heard of the 4 types of motivation, which are as follows…

The 4 Types of Motivation

  1. Fear
  2. Obligation
  3. Perfection
  4. Choice

Tanner told me only one of these is sustainable. Let’s get into these a bit more and I’ll give you an example of each from my own life


Once you justify the fear or it subsides, the motivation goes away. I think someone who does a GREAT job explaining this type of motivation is Tim Urban, listen to his TED talk (Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator) on this here.

Also, somewhat unrelated, one of my VERY favorite podcast episodes is this one with Tim Ferris and Tim Urban, seriously entertaining, funny (I laughed out loud several times, in a room by myself, haha), and gets into some topics that are very relevant to today. Listen on YouTube: OR, on the Tim Ferriss podcast, it’s Episode 283.

My example of this one: TAXES. I am very aware that if I worked on this a little bit every day, it would be SO much easier when it’s time to put my taxes together and send them in to my accountant. However, I find that I am very unmotivated to do it when I know I don’t have to turn them in for a long time (lack of fear). So, I end up procrastinating until the end of the year when I then KNOW I have to work on them, and suddenly I find I have the motivation to put in hours at a time, because I have a deadline LOOMING over my head and I know I HAVE to get it done.


I “should” do this, again, once you justify the obligation, motivation goes away.

My example of this: GOING TO THE GYM/WORKING OUT. When I teach yoga, I always tell my students, the hardest part of a workout is getting to the gym or getting to the yoga studio. Once you’re there, you know you’re going to do the workout, it’s getting there that’s the issue. Why? Because it’s an obligation motivation, an I SHOULD.

Have you ever noticed, things that you “should” do, never seem to happen as often as the things you “need” to do?

Even as a yoga teacher, and a person that enjoys exercise, I find that if I’m using obligation motivation, it’s not often that I get a workout in.

Just in case you want another example… and because it fits this time of year… NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS, I find many of these are “I should,” or obligation motivations for people, i.e. “I should lose weight,” “I should eat healthier,” “I should workout more,” etc.

More on this here: Why New Years Resolutions Fail, Article


The feeling of needing to do things the “right” way, i.e. you’re doing a program i.e. learning Spanish, if you don’t do the homework, you don’t move on to day 2 and keep learning because you haven’t done it “perfectly.” Therefore, instead of making progress, you get stalled out.


I have a growth personality, which is part of why I can write this blog, I LOVE to learn new things and try them out. However, I tend to use perfection motivation for this, which can halt my progress. For a specific example, I just read Tony Robbins’ book: Unshakeable, an excellent financial book, I highly recommend it. But I didn’t just read the book, I wanted to do it perfectly so that I learned the most that I possibly could. (This is my typical process when learning almost anything new). So, while reading the book, I had my highlighters out, each color represents something different, i.e. Pink  is a vocab thing, or something new I need to look into more, Blue is for major points, and Yellow is a description.

As I go through the book, I am highlighting, but that’s not all. Then, I go through and write out by hand anything I’ve highlighted, WHY? Because your brain has better recall for the things you write out by hand, remembers better than if you type it and especially more than when you read it. I know this, so I feel I have to write out anything I think I should remember.

Well you can imagine how long this process takes, much longer than reading a book.

Then 2nd part of this type of motivation is, if you feel you aren’t doing something perfectly, you STOP your progress until you can do it perfectly, and then sometimes you stop all together and NEVER FINISH WHAT YOU STARTED!!

I wouldn’t allow myself to simply continue reading this book without doing my whole highlighting and writing process, which >> therefore, significantly slowed my progress for finishing reading the book.

GREAT example of this here:  TEDx TALK: Perfection is the Wrong Direction: Isabella Fons (adorable young girl explains this so well).

“People always try to be perfect. That’s why they don’t start anything. Perfection is the lowest standard in the world. Because if you’re trying to be perfect, you know you can’t be. So what you really have is a standard you can never achieve. You want to be OUTSTANDING, not perfect.”
Tony Robbins
Life and Business Strategist


My example: VACATION! You are motivated the whole time while planning, motivated during the vacation and the minute you get home, you are motivated to start planning the next one.

This is the motivation ideally, we would like to use most often, this is the sustainable one.

More on this here: TED Talk: Dan Pink on Motivation 

  • This talk goes into intrinsic motivation, how it is more effective than extrinsic & how to use it in BUSINESS!

Sooooo… how do you use choice motivation more often? A couple things…

  1. Now that you know about the different types of motivation, for the next week, pay attention. Check in once in a while when you’re doing something and think… what motivation am I using right now? And maybe choose to change your motivation type.
  2. You can leverage the other types of motivation to also make them choice motivation.
    • i.e. Make FEAR a CHOICE motivation…
      • For example: I will choose to do this and be scared
        • At one of the Tony Robbins events we climbed up telephone poles and jumped off them to grab a trapeze… I REALLY dislike the falling feeling and was NOT looking forward to this, my whole body was shaking, but I choose to do it and be scared. And afterwards.. I was REALLY happy I had chosen to climb & jump!
  • e. SHOULD: First of all WHO says you should? Whose rules are you comparing yourself to?
    • I like to completely change these SHOULD ones to CHOICE
      • e. instead of thinking I SHOULD work out. I think “Man, I really feel GREAT when I workout, I have more energy after, eating after is much more fun and I sleep great, I WANT to work out.
        • Think of the benefits or how it makes you feel!
      • PERFECTION: Make a CHOICE for at what level you take action
        • e. if reading and highlighting and writing is a 10 for completing that goal, maybe reading and highlighting is a 7, and just reading is a 5.
          • DECIDE which level you are going to do today, maybe a 5 is what you need today, it’ll move you forward and is a level you can handle.

Comment Below: Which motivation have you been using most often?

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