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What Motivates Us: Understanding This Is The Key To Your Success

Ever heard of the phrase, “Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes“?  Once you’ve grabbed the idea behind this ancient Native American phrase, you’ll have a better understanding about what motivates us.


You’ll be more way more successful in your approach to blogging, have shiner hair, and whiter teeth.  By the way, I’m kidding about the last two.


From Moccasins to Space Boots


To get the original Native American phrase, replace “mile” (they had no such measurement before the English arrived) with “two moons” (the time between each full moon) and “shoes” with “moccasins” (their traditional, soft-leather shoe).  The meaning remains unchanged until today.


In some distant future, I bet the phrase will survive as “Don’t judge someone until you’ve traveled a light-year in their space boots.


The phrase means that it’s difficult to understand someone unless you know where they’re coming from.  Their actions arise from their own experiences in life, thoughts, and motivations.


Why is this information important?  Because when you “get” where someone is coming from, what motivates them, it will be much easier to form a relationship with that person.


Why What Motivates Others Should Matter to You


Have you ever stopped to think what exactly motivates your audience?


Why they bother to go out of their way to continually visit, even though there are probably 50 other blogs covering the same topic?


I’ll tell you why.


People do things because there is “something” in it for them.

That “something” is not always tangible in form.


Because, whether by design, or maybe totally by chance, you’re addressing an underlying motivation.  Something they want or need from you.


When you fail to offer your audience what they want, they simply go somewhere else to find it.


Personally, I would much rather address their motivation by design so that the process is repeatable.


To use an analogy, imagine your blog as a radio station.  When you fine-tune your broadcast signal (address your audience’s underlying motivations), you’ve got them locked in to your station (your main message).


This implies that you:


a)  Know what motivates your audience (know your “who”)*


b)  You have a consistent message (know your “what”)*


*Note: I address the “Who“, “What“, and other factors here.


To continue with the radio analogy, imagine that your station (blog) changes its frequency often (the underlying motivation it’s addressing), making it hard for the listener to consistently “tune in.”  Not only that, your station also switches the programming (the message), from hip-hop, to polka, to latin music every other week.


How effective you think such a station will be at retaining an audience?


What Motivates Us Is Hardwired Into Our Brain


The brainiacs at the Harvard Business Review conducted not one, but TWO studies to determine what motivates humans to be engaged, productive, and focused to do work (if interested in reading the original source, read the report here).


This study can be easily applied to the blogging world, because the same motivators apply to how others engage with our brand or online platform.


For briefness sake, I’ll summarize four underlying motivators determined to be universal to all of us.


Drive to Acquire


We all want things, whether material, or immaterial.  Most people want their basic needs met: a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear, etc.


Once our basic needs are covered, we move on to the “wants.”  iPhones, iPads, gadgets… a flashier car, bigger house, better clothes, etc.


Until a curious thing happens.


Once we acquire those things, we place more emphasis in the intangibles.  Travel, meaningful and unique experiences become more important to us.


Abstract concepts like “happiness” and “peace” also become more valuable than accumulating the very same things that were supposed to bring us “happiness” and “peace” in the first place.


Think about your online business platform, or blog.  How are you addressing the “Drive to Acquire“?


What thing or things are you ultimately helping others obtain?


Drive to Bond


We’re all social creatures.  We all want to feel “connected” to other people.  Not necessarily “be” connected, but enjoy the feeling that we are.  Hence the success and explosion of “social” networks on the Internet.


We join groups, online and off, have friends, and bond with other people solely because they like the same things we do, or have the same goals.


Your platform and associated social outlets (Facebook, Twitter, etc) should address the drive to bond and interact.


Are you effectively using your online platform and social outlets to address this “Drive to Bond“??


Drive to Comprehend


Ever heard someone say “If I could just find purpose in my life“, or “I wish I knew what I was meant to do in life“?  This is the “Drive to Comprehend.”


Same when you hear questions such as “I wonder what would it mean for me if President X won the upcoming election” or as trivial as “Why did Kim Kardashian dump that basketball player?


We’re driven to want to understand things around us…

…those things that matter most to us.


I’m not going to suggest you even begin to try answering the “life’s purpose” question.


What you can do though, is help your audience try to make sense of a specific part of their life.


Let’s say your business is hobby-related.  When you provide a solution, or product, that helps that person master their hobby, you’ve just helped them “make sense” of a part of their life they need help with.


The satisfaction of mastering a skill or solving a problem, gives us “meaning” or “purpose.”


Is your online platform helping your audience’s life be easier, more productive, or enriched in any way?


How are you addressing this “Drive to Comprehend“?


Drive to Defend


Fourth is our desire to defend what we have.  We want to take care of ourselves, property, and family.  Protect our reputations, opinions, and our way of life.


For example, if your product offers a productivity-related solution, you can stress the fact that it will allow the customer to get things done faster.  With that newly found time, they can now spend  more time with their family and have a better quality of life.


How does your service or product help their “Drive to Defend” the life they’ve created?


And That’s a Wrap


Actually, there’s one more thing.


The studies revealed that in order for engagement efforts to be effective, all four motivators need to be consistently addressed.  Ignoring one drive diminishes the efforts to address the other three.


Once you learn how to correctly tap into and address your audience’s motivations, the sky is the limit for your success.



Now it’s your turn.


Do you agree or disagree with the premise above?


I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments below.


About Rich Polanco

Fan of dogs + all things tech. Love a great pizza. My goal is not to travel to every country in the world. I only want to get to know my favorite ones REALLY well. Check out the big bio here. Follow @RichPolanco and connect on Facebook.
Currently exploring: Guatemala.


  1. Great tips about what to do to attract readers, keep them coming back and to be able to make a business from the blog!
    Now to put into practice :)

    Love the idea of understanding the motivation to being the key to success.

    • Rich says:

      Hi Lisa! Thanks for stopping by!

      What attracted me to look into the topic was the notion that we often focus on what we want, rather on what we can give to others. To give correctly, one has to know what why someone wants it.

      Knowing “what” is the first part. Success comes when we understand the “why”.


  2. Great post! I think a lot of us forget that we need to focus on who our readers are to keep their interest. I know I have been guilty at times of posting information that I want to post without considering my readers. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Rich Polanco says:

      Hi Teressa! Very true what you said. Thanks for the comment :)


  3. Hi Rich,

    I do agree that someone should find their motivation and take into action, with many people they lose it very quickly.

    Some people apply very fast and others don’t, myself I find that when I workout my motivation is very high. Also staying focus is another factor for myself I try to put that engery towards my business.

    So Rich thanks again.

    Have a nice day.



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