Lots of theories have been developed to explain what motivates people to change. Some theories provided a good insight into the methods that can motivate people, while many others gave a very superficial explanation of motivation dynamics.
For example, one of the famous theories that explain how to motivate employees at work stated that people would be motivated if they were allowed to earn more money due to their work. While money can motivate lots of us, still giving 1 million dollars to a billionaire for doing something that he doesn’t want to do will never motivate him to do it.
The problem with the question of What motivates people to change is that it’s asked wrongly. People are different, and each one of them has its own needs, wants, and triggers. The right way to ask that question would be, “what motivates a certain person to change.”
If there is a need, there is a motivation
If someone is truly in need of money, then surely money can motivate him, but if he has piles of it, it will never affect him. Every one of us has grown up without meeting some of his needs.
Some people failed to become successful and would do anything to find success; others failed to collect money and become motivated whenever they get paid. A third group failed to become recognized and so will do anything to acquire fame.
If you want to motivate someone to change or do something, you must first understand his needs and then tie the change to these needs.
For example, motivating someone to quit a bad habit must be done based on his unmet needs. If the person has financial problems, then explaining to him how smoking wastes his money can be a good method to change him, while if he has health concerns, then talking about money will never do any good.
Many people mistake trying to motivate people with disregard to their needs; for example, the health warnings that appear on cigarette packs only motivate those obsessed about their health and no one else!!
Motivation is like happiness.
Just as happiness is one of the most misunderstood concepts to most people, motivation is the same. What makes Sam happy is never the same thing that will make Sarah happy, nor it’s by any means the thing that will make Mark happy.
It all depends on their unmet needs, which are rarely unique among groups of people.
How to motivate a group of people to change?
If you want to motivate few people to change, then digging into their unmet needs and understanding what motivates them will be the best way, but what if you want to motivate a big group of people?
What if you want to motivate hundreds to like you, thousands to visit your blog, or millions to accept your new Tax policy? We all have different unmet needs, but when a big group of people experiences some common life events, they become motivated by the same things.
For example, if a whole country is living under the rule of a tyrant king, they will surely all be motivated to vote for someone else or at least to change the situation for the better.
So you can motivate a whole group of people by understanding the common drive that they all have, then motivate them to achieve their needs using that drive.
Positive and negative motivation
Both pain avoidance and the desire for a reward should be tied to the person’s unmet needs. For example, when a parent wants to motivate his child to change, he must understand what the child needs and what he doesn’t need. If the child doesn’t care about money, then surely telling him that he would not be given any money if he didn’t do the homework won’t do any good.
To summarize this all, we are all different, and to motivate someone to change, you must understand his unmet needs first then use them to motivate him.