Understanding the Three Motivational Levels


Most psychometric, personality, survey or self-perception inventory tests have a fatal flaw that is almost impossible to erase, and that is the problem of honesty. An employee who is afraid of being made redundant is unlikely, for example, to answer a question that measures their abilities as a “team player” honestly if they think that the truthful answer will lead to them being gotten rid of. Most questions used in psychometric tests are woefully obvious, rather like the tests that you see when applying for a travel-visa: “Do you have any affiliation with terrorist groups?” Has anyone in the history of the world ever answered that question with a “yes”? If you were, you would never be honest about that fact.

Naturally, this is an extreme example, but we see time and again that employees are very easily able to work out what’s really being asked of them beneath the corporate language of a psychometric or personality test, and therefore neatly customise their answers to provide the picture that they think their employer wants to see, rather than what really is.

Motivational Maps, on the other hand, neatly circumnavigates this problem, because rather than asking employees to “grade” themselves, as for example on the Likert or some other scale, it instead asks them to express preference between two equally valid options. In other words, there is no moral judgement being made upon the employee, simply one of preference and want.

However, solving this problem does create another one, and even the Motivational Maps can sometimes – though rarely - give a “false” result.

In other words, a result that does not really represent what the motivators of the person really are, or perhaps more exactly, it may represent them, but the reality has been overlaid by some other factor in the psyche of the individual. Now, we know what to look for in spotting false results: patterns in the numbers which clearly suggest a representational intention to miscommunicate what the real motivational profile is. I do not intend to examine how we identify these false results here, as I have dealt with the issue elsewhere, but I am interested in exploring why this happens; and this leads us directly on to the question of the three levels of motivation.

When we think of motivation, we think about what the word really means: motor + action, or motive-to-action, or movement-to-action. And what is the motor that makes the movement to action? Clearly, it is e-motion, or emotion. Our emotions are the powerhouses that produce our energy and so drive us forward. But these emotions can be healthy, which lead to a useful and accurate map; or less than healthy. In other words, negative emotions, and these can lead to false results.

My discovery of this phenomenon occurred whilst I was doing pro bono work for The Prince’s Trust some years ago, and my job was to mentor ex-offenders who has been released from prison. The intention was to help them get back on the straight and narrow by being enabled to develop entrepreneurial skills and through setting up small, self-employed businesses. So far as this went, it was a good idea, and I mentored a number of them. But I noticed in each case that although they all did a Motivational Map and agreed their Map was accurate, none of them actually behaved in a way which corresponded with their so-called motivators. The distinction I made then was between their needs and their wants, and I reckoned, extrapolating from my experience in corporates and other businesses, that what I was talking about applied, probably, to some 10-15% of the population. Namely, that no matter what the Motivational Map revealed, if the self-esteem was at a certain low point, then the motivators were replaced by survival needs: and we could see this clearly charted on the Maslow Hierarchy. See Fig 1.


Motivational maps and maslow

Fig 1: From Mapping Motivation: James Sale, Routledge 2016

In the area ‘beneath’ the safety needs, we find the Biological and Physiological needs, (notice they are ‘greyed’ out) and these are essentially what I am calling ‘survival’ needs - they go way beyond ‘safety’ needs, for safety needs are essentially ‘wants’: wants are psychologically healthy, but needs, whilst necessary, are not so blessed for reasons we will see.

So, in reflecting on this further, I would like to make a three-fold distinction here that I think coaches will find useful. Driving our behaviours are, first, our true ‘wants’ that we call our motivators; but also driving them are our needs and, I think, these fall into two classifications.

At the lowest level, which is to say the most impairing, negative and dysfunctional, we have the needs which are based on the primary emotion of fear. Fear has often been said to be the root negative emotion. We have expressions like ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ in order to try to give us confidence to counteract its effects. James Hollis writes perceptively of it when he says, ‘… the power of the mother experience, for men and women, is, generally speaking, the single greatest psychological influence in our lives… her fears, unlived life, and projected desires become part of the internal mythology of the child … from which he must escape in order to fully actualise himself.’ Notice he says ‘her fears’, first and foremost, which shape the child – and that we all have to escape from if we are to fully self-actualise. But how do we spot this fear?

Individuals who are racked by fear find themselves always using this sort of expression: I must do … this or that. I must do my homework, I must get this report completed, I must go to the club, I must get married/have a partner, I must earn a six-figure sum, I must travel the world and see everything, I must help people, I must go to church/synagogue/mosque … You get the drift. They are under a dreadful compulsion, and one much like that described in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem, The Ancient Mariner. Interestingly, the Ancient Mariner had committed a crime – he has killed the albatross – and so he has to (has to = must) regale one in three persons he meets with his story. It’s a kind of confession, based upon an atavistic sense of guilt. Does this ring a bell? It should when you read all the LinkedIn posts from those going on about Imposter Syndrome: guilt, not good enough, and confessing it (albeit with the view of attempting to remedy the problem). The point is, though: they must do this confession!

But the second level of needs, which is also negative, but not so strongly as fear, is duty. Duty, too, is linked with guilt, only this time not the total dread or fear of absolute wrong-doing, but more the guilt that comes from a moral perfectionism. We spot duty when we see the words shift from ‘I must …’ to ‘I should … or, I ought to’. I should visit my mother. I should be kind. I ought to be patient. I should be punctual / reliable / helpful. I should pay my fair share. I ought to give more to charity. I should let somebody else have a turn … and so on. And we clearly see this kind of duty resulting largely from parental/carer inputs when we are very young. Take my last example: ‘James, [you should] let your brother/sister have turn.’ Ring a bell?

The thing in the West is that we have a much-diminished view of duty than do some Eastern cultures where it assumes a much more positive aspect. For instance, in the Tao Te Ching, we learn ‘Therefore: whosoever has Life adheres to his duty; whosoever does not have Life adheres to his right.’ Adhering to one’s right is very Western: all rights, and very few responsibilities! According to James Swartz in his book, How to Attain Enlightenment, ‘The Vedic model, which is responsible for the relative stability of marriage in India, is a duty-based approach; the idea being that happiness lies in fulfilling one’s duties and obligations to the family, caste, occupation and religion first and to one’s personal needs second. Not only is such a view conducive to social harmony, it neutralises likes and dislikes and makes it possible to eventually fulfil the primary duty to one’s self – freedom through self-realisation.’ I have little doubt this true, but we in the West do not experience it in that liberating way. As Dr Susan Rhodes noted, ‘What is missing here is the idea that duty is something we do not only do to comply with outer standards but to bring about some sort of inner alignment, healing or balance.’ Somehow our sense of duty misses out on that ‘sort of inner alignment’. And yet, those who keep saying, ‘I should…’ obviously believe that if they do do what they ‘should’ do, it will bring them happiness!

And so, we come to where we need to be – with our wants - not so much our needs - and thereby with our true motivators. What is the key emotion that expresses our wants? That emotion is love; and what is its expression? Not I must or I should, but I want to … And here, of course, is perfect freedom; for if we do what we really want to do, then we are not aware of any constraint or constriction on us. It just feels great – we can work all day because we love working … when the wants, the motivators, are being fulfilled. Another way of putting this would be to say that enjoying our motivators is undoing the effects of low self-esteem, fatalism and failure.

Interestingly, what we love is also the great antidote to what we fear, psychologically as well as spiritually. Surely, those in states of Fear or Duty are much more likely to produce false Motivational Map results and as coaches we need – no! we want – to move them on to that higher plane of freedom and release where they can realise what they truly want. Let’s love on then, for love always produces freedom!

For more information about Motivational Maps and how to access them - please contact one of our Licensed Practitioners

3 Motivational Book Recommendations

Reading a book

As the great writer Alan Moore once said, “Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.” Therefore, there are few things more inspiring and motivational than a truly good book. We asked some of our experienced Motivational Map practitioners to select their “most motivational book” and explain to us why they made their choice. So, here are three book recommendations by deep experts in motivation!

Susannah Brade-Waring – Senior Practitioner

My current favourite motivational book is NOT for everyone.  Indeed, I hope very few people need to read it.  But it’s my current favourite for 3 main reasons which all link to motivation.  It’s called, Somebody I Used to Know, by Wendy Mitchell. The first reason is that, unlike virtually every book and ‘helpful’ leaflet about dementia, this book offers hope. In my opinion, HOPE is the no. 1 driver of motivation.  When we have hope, we can believe and when we believe, we take action. When that action produces results, we gain a sense of achievement and confidence, and that reinforces and boosts our motivation.

The book is beautifully written by Wendy, who was diagnosed with early onset dementia aged just 58. She describes, in detail, the tactics she uses to maintain her independence. It touches the reader’s heart because it’s so relevant, real, and empowering. That’s the second and third reason. Motivation is emotional, and highly motivated people defy logic, statistics and naysayers. They relish the challenge, and have their ‘eyes on the prize’ because they believe it will be worth it.  And that’s why (unlike most other ‘helpful’ guides) it’s a book that I’ve given to my parents to give us all hope, to motivate us all to take action towards being the best we can be.

Queen Ramotsehoa – Business Practitioner

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz:

BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD - Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY - Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS - Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST - Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

These agreements remained a north-star for me especially during the pandemic and as we came out of the pandemic. Life happened, and I realised that when people kept saying ‘be resilient’, I could follow and practice these agreements to stay clear, creative, and on track.

It might sound crazy that I am even talking about staying on track, and with these agreements the following were possible for me:

  1. As soon as I appreciated that everyone was impacted, I pulled myself towards myself and started preparing for beyond the pandemic. Nothing was personal so I choose to take life in my stride.
  2. I went back to the drawing board and reviewed all my plans. I acknowledged everything that was derailed. I confirmed the damage. I recommitted to the goals that stayed relevant and discarded or tweaked those goals that I needed to attend to. This means I was sitting with revised goals. Once those were in place, I put together an implementation plan and stayed impeccable with my word. I spoke life into everything that I did. 2022 has provided evidence of the integrity that drove my execution.
  3. No matter how difficult those days were, especially the unpredictability and the heaviness of loss of lives around us, I demanded the best from myself. This carried me. The more I did my best, the more I generated hope that kept me going.
  4. I did not allow myself to assume anything. I stayed focused on what I saw and was very selective with what I listened to. I took precautions and thanked God I survived with what I did, because I acknowledge that others did not, despite doing their best. I focused on facts. I resisted nuances and stories that were added that impacted clarity. So at all cost I avoided assumptions.

The Four Agreements have become my formula for resilience. Simple yet impactful as a template to deal with curveballs in life.

Kate Turner – Senior Practitioner

I’ve been wracking my brain to think which of the scores of books I’ve read on motivation over the years is my favourite. When first asked the question, it triggered my ‘Expert’ Motivator into thinking which one I’ve learnt the most from; or which one, if others were inspired to read, would give them the 1-2-3 of motivation. Having sat with the question for some time, I realised, the book I am compelled to write about is the one which set me off on a different trajectory in life. The one which helped me see the choices I had at my fingertips, rather than accepting the hand I felt I had been dealt. It’s from an author which divides the audience for he is a ‘marmite’ character. Indeed, for years, it is he who I have had in my head when I’ve distanced myself from the ‘rah rah’, ‘walking on hot coals’ type of motivational training. And yet, it is this author who intrigues me enough to vote one of his books my favourite on motivation. Have you guessed who it is yet? Yes, Anthony Robbins and Awaken the Giant Within.

Having dusted the book down off my shelf, why am I so keen to read it again over 20 years later?  In a word – congruence. As I thumb through the pages today, I am struck by how many practices, ideas, quotes and theories align with who I am today and the life I am keen to lead. I recognise the influence the book has had on my own teachings, including my own book. It reminds me that the words it contains are easy to read yet take a life time to practice. I so wish I had taken notes on my first reading to compare my thinking now to then. How have I changed? How am I different today? In one part of the book it invites you to score yourself in ten critical areas – including one of spirituality. In the margin, I wrote ‘not sure what this even means’. How different to my perspective today!

Links to purchase these books here:

Somebody I Used to Know, by Wendy Mitchell

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins

THE GENERATION GAP: Motivation & What Employees Want - part 4 - Generation Z

Gen z eye

Welcome back to our motivational analysis of the Generation Gap. In the previous article (3 of 4) we covered Millennials. Today, we’re looking at the youngest generation, Generation Z.

Generation Z: born after 1996


Whereas Millennials grew up as the technology continually evolved and changed, Generation Z have always had advanced technology, and are therefore digitally fluent. The difference here is subtle. Millennials are more about flexibility and adaptability (having had to continually adjust to changes), whereas Generation Z are about extreme proficiency with the current technological tools. A friend of mine entered university as an older-adult student studying film. He was surrounded by Gen Z students. He considered himself a good editor and cinematographer, but when one of the classmates managed to make and edit a video within just a few minutes—during the lecture and without interrupting it—he realised just how fast the new generation are able to comprehend and master new technology. The explosion of the social media platform TikTok is an embodiment of this principle. A whole generation are using TikTok, which empowers one to create and edit videos—some of which are more sophisticated than you would think—with just a phone. Of course, there are massive downsides to this type of social media platform, but it’s not within the scope of this article to address them. Moving on, like Boomers and Millennials, Generation Z are likely to have Expert motivator high on their list of motivators. However, they are also highly practical—they like to achieve results, whether that be TikTok views, YouTube subscribers, or some other metric. This correlates more with the Builder motivator, who is by nature competitive and focused on measurable gains. What’s interesting is whilst these are two motivators shared by the Boomer generation (Builder and Expert), they express themselves so differently because the technological, economic, and cultural landscape of today is so different. Whereas Builders might have been focused on the acquisition of wealth as a practical measure of success, Generation Z seem to be more interested in digital measures of progress. This taps into an important Maps lesson, that the motivators will always mean something different for each person. It’s all very well knowing that someone has Creator as their number one motivator, but what does creativity mean to them?

Lastly, Generation Z flourish in diverse workplaces. The workplace is only going to become more diverse as our societies become more globalised, therefore, creating an environment that is diverse not just in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender, but also in terms of age, experience, role-type, and personality will give Generation Z a stimulating environment more likely to catalyst collaboration and learning.


In exchange for their expertise and practicality, Gen Z want a culturally competent employer. In other words, they want someone who is up to date, who can keep up with trends, and who understands the world we live in today. Nobody wants to work for someone who is living in the past, or clueless about how their industry is evolving, but it’s particularly galling for Generation Z, who are so plugged in to the increasingly rapid shifts in culture. Gen Z like competitive wages—which correlates with their Builder drive. They value their expertise highly and therefore expect suitable reward for this. However, they are also open to being mentored. Like all Expert motivators, the relationship with knowledge is bi-directional. They like to acquire it as well as share it! Lastly, there is an interesting point of contrast between Generation Z, and Millennials and Generation X. Whereas Gen X and Millennials are characterised by their shared desire for independence and flexibility, Generation Z prefer stability—which corresponds with the Defender motivator—much like Boomers, which shows that history is indeed cyclical!

In conclusion:

Whilst no review of such a large and important topic can ever be complete, we hope this blog series has given you some interesting guidelines and action points on how to approach each generation. Of course, as we stated in the introduction, the best method is always to look at an individual’s motivational profile to get the best sense of who they are and what drives them—what they truly want. But hopefully identifying some of the broad trends correlating to each generation will give you a few ways to start meeting their motivational needs, and thereby retaining and nurturing top talent, whatever their age!

To find out more about Motivational Maps contact one of our licensed practitioners

You can also find more information in the book series - Mapping Motivation.