What Motivates You to Change? Top 4 Ways to Know

Some people would say that change is for good. It is for the improvement of others’ lives, and the betterment of society. Others would say that change is for the betterment of the individual, to make them a better person. Each of us has a different motivation to change. Let’s take a look at the Matrix of Motivation by Jim Taylor, Ph.D. It is from his article on Psychology Today to see what is motivating you.

Finding a Sense of Meaning

Motivation is meaningful. It starts with the desire for a change because the situation has lost or changed its meaning. There are a variety of factors that can go into a situation changing in this way. Most often, we change as individuals. Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development shows our personality development from infant to adulthood. As we grow, we gain a new awareness of our situation and have different needs, which motivates us to change.

Part of the factors that can contribute to our desire for change comes from outside or inside. In Taylor’s Motivation Matrix, four quadrants represent a motivational influence. The influences are either inside or outside of us. According to Taylor, each quadrant and experience also show different outcomes.

The Motivation Matrix includes:

  • Internal-positive
  • External-positive
  • Internal-negative
  • External-negative


Internal-positive motivation comes from a desire to get better results. Taylor lists it as a passion or feeling of validation that you can achieve a result. An example would be a challenge or a marathon to walk five miles. It is a positive, motivating experience. Internal-positive motivation helps bring lasting results and change. It begins by a desire to do or be better at something. The result is lasting change and fulfillment.


External-positive motivation includes praise from other people, awards, and recognition. An example includes finishing in the top 100 of the five-mile race. The top winners could receive recognition rewards like a trophy or a medal. The outcome is fulfilled by the reward. It can also grow a habit of relying on other people or other external factors for that fulfillment.


Internal-negative motivation can include fears and feelings of inadequacy or embarrassment. It comes from insecurity. Experiences that contribute to insecurity include parental upbringing or other past experiences. An example can include one-time events such as overcoming a fear of water by taking a swimming class. The outcome is some change but also can include relapse.


The external-negative motivation can include fear based on the environment you are in. Examples include fear of job or relationship loss. It can also include pressure from financial situations, or other people. This type of motivation has some people who thrive on changing it into success. It can also have a higher risk of relapse into giving in to the pressure of the environment and people in it.

What is Your Motivation?

Look at the four motivational types listed above. Which quadrant does your motivation fit? What contributes to your internal or outer environment that contributes to your motivation?

By discovering the underlying reasons for motivation, you will understand your motivation. By uncovering negative motivations, you can understand connections from past experiences. Doing this will help you overcome any limits in reaching your goals.

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