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The Concept Of Motivation

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George Herbert, a British poet, orator, and priest said: “Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.” This quote motivates us a lot, it can be associated with several matters in our daily life. Just like what Wei said about his life mottos: “Others can do it, I can do it too”. Although we having different life, but different roads lead to the same goal, we are need motivation to push us move forward.

Motivation for us

The definition for motivation is “a set of energetic forces that originate within and outside an employee that initiates work-related effort and determines its direction, intensity, and persistence”. We also have our own definition for motivation. Motivation is not only related to work, it could be from an elderly person’s encouragement, this is a verbal motivation, or it could be something visible, such as a bowl of some that your mother cooked for you when you are feeling down. Motivation can also be sensational, like if there were something happened around you makes you feel motivated. All of those different kinds of motivation all end up with one essential component, which is setting up a goal, no matter it id for your life, work or your studies. If a person lost his goal then he will not need motivation any more.

Desire is one of the synonyms for motivation. Form our observation of this society, use China as an example, in recent year, there is something called the Buddhist culture suddenly raised among Chinese young generation. Buddhist culture sounds like a religion related topic, but it doesn’t have anything to do with religion, it is all about an attitude. Let’s use Weibo as a prototype, there is an interesting life motto got popular with in this user group, people say that this motto can help you solve most of the problems in your life. Which is: “It’s not your business, it’s not my business.” Can you feel any positive thing going on here? I can’t. But this is where this generation of people is heading. Both happiness and negative emotions are epidemical. Not to mention motivation. If you are being around with motivational people, you are going to be motivated, and vice versa. Another important thing to be aware is to have resolving powers, you need to be able to distinguish whether it’s positive or negative. And then you can decide who you want to be with and where you want to stay. Therefore, motivational environment is really important.

Interviews We Had

For the assignment we did some interview to each other. The interview was more focused on the questions we mentioned in our Lab section. The question including introducing the one or some of the motivating experiences in our life; the reason we found these experiences are motivating and what we found helping or what we missed that didn’t helped. Also, in the assignment, me, Rui Zhang, will write in first person while Jingchen will write in third person.

1. Interviews about Jingchen

Firstly, Jingchen introduced his story in life that be believed helped him realizing the importance of a sense of positive motivation. Jingchen had join in a community, in that community, people are from all around the world, they are all international students, just like himself. There is a group of people who run this program, we call them organizers. They are not like us, their job is to help people in this program to have a better life in Nova Scotia. Some of them are international some of them are native. What Jingchen had realized within this program is, people who work there are always passionate and positive, they give presentations about how to get rid of anxiety, or any other negative emotions. They invite people who had already been through this stage to talk about their personal experiences. Unlike when we are staying alone, we don’t have anyone to talk to, we don’t have the environment to get motivated, to get back to the right direction. They encourage you and give you recognition when you lost your confidence. This is why being in a motivational environment is essential.

The power of words plays a huge role in motivation. Recognition from your friends, coworkers, family and people around you is essential. By referring to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory, this is at a level of love and belonging, which includes: intimate relationships and friends. The experience of Jingchen above is a great example of love and belonging within the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory.

2. Interviews about me

When talking about work experience, I shared a lot because I use to work for a restaurant as a waiter, and we are going to talk about what stoped me to keep working there. At the beginning, everything went fine, though I have to prepare my owe shirt as uniform because I was oversized. However, the good start didn’t last long enough. After 3 weeks of hard working I found the restaurant was not a charming place to stay. The working environment is not comfortable, there is not enough space for more than two people to pass by and the floor is always slippery, there is no comfortable seating area. Also, the boss took all of the tips we received and only gave us less than 10% of the share. From another perspective, not all my co-workers speak English well so I need to do most of the conversation and answer most of the phone calls. Though I understand that most of them are nice people but it was hard to being with them for a long time.

After interviewing me, Jingchen found that most of my dissatisfaction from work are working environment problems and working relationships problem. This situation could be explained by the Hygiene Theory. He asked me if I will be satisfied when I do have a comfortable working environment and relationships with my coworkers. Frankly speaking the answer was that, I could not be dissatisfied. The core idea of hygiene need is meeting these needs does not make us satisfied, it merely prevents us from becoming dissatisfied. And one the opposite side, motivator needs are when problems are solved, people are satisfied. Learning to differentiate hygiene needs and motivator need is a task that a leader should complete, this way, you could keep your employees happy and willing to work.

How can employers make the employees to be satisfied? Equity form every aspects is essential. Use salary as an example. If the salary got paid fairly to your employees, they will be satisfied, and then they will be encouraged and motivated to behave with in their best condition. We have to find a way to eliminate people’s anxiety from every aspects. When talking about satisfaction. We found that even those theories all have their own name, they are still very closely related. Equity Theory as I have mentioned above with the motivator need in Hygiene Theory is a good example.

3. The positive experience I shared

However, the examples we discussed was more about the failures we had. For the experience of motivating, we talked about my experience of preparing IELTS test. To have a chance to be in Dalhousie, I studied for 6 months and in the end, the grade was not perfect but it was good enough to apply a wonderful university like Dalhousie. The process was undelightful that, I was not a fan of language-learning. However, I did find a way to encourage myself that lead me to success. The goal of staying in Canada was the only pusher of my studying. I convinced myself that I could not be eligible to get the offer from Canadian universities unless the daily goal of practice is achieved. However, though the process was hard, the outcomes was valuable.

Conclusion to the Interview

In the end of the interview, we had our conclusion that, both of us had few failures in motivating ourselves. However, we also found both of us going through a motivational experience or a self-awareness of trying to motivating. I was unsatisfied with my work experience so I could not cheer myself up and it putted an end to my part-time job, that I “fired” my boss. Also, Jingchen realized the need of encourage from others are one of the key elements of motivation after he found the reason of how the members of his group are motivated and confident.

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On the other hand, I realized the importance of being in Dalhousie and realized what effort I need to pay to have my ideal life. Therefore, I set my goals to push me and motivate myself. The process was undelightful but the daily goals and my dreams of having better life in Canada did helped me go through the hard time of study.

In conclusion, the experience we share can be related to the motivational theories like need theory and process theory. Therefore, we’ll try to bring a better understanding to the motivation by combining our experiences to the theory and find out the key factor of making a good or bad effort on self-motivating.

Relationship Between Cases and Theories

The process theories of motivation refer to the process of motivating and encourage people to achieve the way we want in the methods of both psychological and behavioral. In this section we’ll explain how our cases can be related to the theories and how certain theory effect our behavior in the way of good or bad.

Equity Theory

The first theory came to my mind was the Equity Theory that, inequity might be the biggest reason why I decide to quit my job at the restaurant. Think about the job you had was nice and you were not disagreeing with the salary. However, after months of hard working you found that even you have better ability of English conversation that you had to do more work than your co-worker. However, after all the effort you spent, you earned as much as your co-workers did. Under this case I believe most people would be unsatisfied, even they would act like they are unhappy. Furthermore, unsatisfaction could lead to bad performance of people, even the work they had to do was exactly as same as the work they had before. The poor performance is caused by awareness of the inequity between their effort and outcomes, and such inequity is the basis of the Equity Theory.

In my case, I shared my story of a unmotivating job experience, and the reason I found that I could not motivate myself. As my English-speaking level is higher than my co-worker, I was asked to take most of the phone calls, as well as did most of the conversation with the customers (the restaurant owner speaks poor English). Therefore, it was reasonable that I should expect more outcomes because of my extra effort. In Adams’ equity theory model, Op/Ip=Oc/Ic, refers to the fair condition that might achieves the satisfaction of the employees. However, as I have the same Op as my co-worker because we are paid equally, my Ip (refers to my feeling about self-input) was higher. Also, low share of our tips, that should belong to ourselves, is another reason of the inequality. While the employees of other restaurants having the ability to keep their tips, me and my co-workers can only have less than 10% of our tips, the inequity had increased. Therefore, after realizing the unlikely hope of salary increasing or less work, I made my decision of quitting my job.

On the other hand, the decision that treating all employees with the same standard was one of the mistakes that the restaurant made. There was a time I heard something surprising from one of the waiters who has worked there for years. He told me that our attitude to the customers are not important, since we keep little on our tips and there won’t be any bonus for hard-working. Such words were shocking for me but also reasonable. The restaurant should not create the work environment that employees recognize hard-working makes no differences. The difference is the key to create positive and motivated employees, that they believe better performance will be evaluated.

Goal-setting Theory

In the case of my English-learning, I found myself motivated because I focused on my goal of applying for a school like Dalhousie. And to achieve this dream I had my daily tasks that claims the practice and memorizing I need to achieve in my daily studying.

However, to apply goal-setting theory, the first basis is that the goal is needed or desired to be achieved by people. Such as my passion of living in Canada. The effort without a specific goal could be less than needed, or massive without right direction. The people without their goals are unlikely to be judged that they are lacking motivation. However, goals do bring more motivation to their owners, and they also give direction that people should focus on. For example, a student with a clear plan of reviewing for his test could study better than the students who don’t have any goals and plans of where and how to review. And as the result, the well-prepared student should have a better mark, or a more satisfied mark, than others.

However, goal-setting could be a difficult process, that failing in making and managing goals could lead to a bad and inefficient work performance. To help people having a better understanding of goal-setting, George T. Doran came up with the idea of SMART criteria in the November 1981. SMART criteria was the tool that helps to manage the goals. Applying goal-management benefits employees that not only provides them with a specific direction, but also gives a standard of performance assessment. The term of “SMART” is an acronym that each letter stands for a word of standard we should be aware while making our decision. First of all, the goal should be “Specific”, that is the common factor of the successful teams. A clear target could simplified the process of what strategy and data should be considered. For example, instead of giving a goal like “improving customers’ satisfaction”, a goal like “lower customers’ complaint rate by 2%” is more understandable and easier to follow. Second, the goal needs to be Measurable that a standard of achievement should be included to measure if the goal is finished. “A” stands for achievable, that goal should be based on the principle of being possible to achieve. The unrealistic goals can only cause the resistance and decreasing of motivation. Also, Relevant keeps the goal achievement meaningful that, the meaning of goal achieving could be lost if it is not related to the over-all goal. Last but not the least, Time-based goal could motivate people by keeping them hyper with the pressure.

In my case of English-Study, I was motivated because my target followed parts of the SMART goal-setting. The Specific target was passing IELTS test with a grade of 7.0 or passing TOFEL test with a grade of 85. The daily limit of practicing and minimum word memorizing helped me tracking my process. The daily goals were hard to achieve but they were possible to achieve. And for the time-based aspect, the goal of passing tests are required to be finished in 3 months. In this way, I can find the relationship of efficient and specific goal-setting could give the direction and proper pressure that keeps people motivated.

Other Related Theories and Conclusion

While the equity and goal-setting theory was the most proper theories that I can link to out cases, other theories we learned can be presented in our stories. Such as the hierarchy of needs. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory that ranks the human needs with a pyramid. From the bottom Physiological, Safety, Love/belonging, Esteem, and Self-actualization. However, the behavior of seeking more knowledge and self-challenging that I had could be the example of Esteem and Self-actualization, which also presented in the self-awareness of needs in motivation that Jingchen had. The awareness of Jingchen also showed the desire of self-development, which refers to a desire of growth, that could be an example of Clayton Alderfer’s ERG Theory. Furthermore, the inequity that made me quitted my job was representing my unsatisfaction of the payment, work environment and the co-worker relationship. These factors of unmotivaing could be recognized as the hygiene factors based on the Two Factor Theory.

After analyzing the cases of me and Jingchen, it was not hard to find that both of us had a hard time motivating ourselves. However, the needs and desires drove and, will drive us to different tasks. The proper application of motivating is a long-term goal waiting us to achieve.


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  2. Doran, G. T. (1981). ‘There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives’. Management Review. AMA FORUM. 70 (11): 35–36.
  3. Herzberg, F. (2005). Motivation-hygiene theory. Organizational behavior one: Essential theories of motivation and leadership, eds JB Miner, ME Sharpe Inc, New York, 61-74
  4. Van De Ven, A., & Poole, M. (1995). Explaining Development and Change in Organizations. The Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 510-540.
  5. Siegert, R., & Taylor, W. (2004). Theoretical aspects of goal-setting and motivation in rehabilitation. Disability and Rehabilitation, 26(1), 1-8.

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