Understand the underlying motivation


One of the key blind spots of many approaches to assisting individuals and organisations overcome problem behaviours is the hyper-focus on strategies before properly understanding what the underlying motivations are for human behaviour.

It’s much easier to diagnose a problem at a surface or symptom level (what is happening) but it takes a higher degree of sophistication to work out the underlying motivation for a behaviour (why it’s happening).

A simple way to think about human motivation is in terms of core fears

Human beings essentially have a limited number of core fears that motivate their behaviour. Understand the core fear and you understand the core motivation. Understand the core motivation and then you have a much better chance at applying effective remedial strategies.

Additionally, once you understand the underlying motivation for why someone does what they do it becomes much easier to take a dispassionate view of the problem.

Take the example of an individual who finds themselves in conflict with significant others, whether romantic partners, friends, family or work colleagues. A one-size fits all approach using strategies such as ‘conflict resolution’, ‘anger management’ or ‘assertion training’ will not lead to lasting change in most cases and may even backfire and make the problem worse.

Why? Because the behaviour needs to be understood in the context of the specific motivations and core fears that underpin it.

If you want to learn more, take a look at my approach to understanding human motivation and behaviour at http://vitalmind.com.au/services/optimal-personality-functioning/.

I also offer a workshop which can be a great team building exercise focused on understanding underlying human motivation which will take your understanding of why others do what they do to the next level.


Phone: 02 8387 8839
Suite 304 A, 12-14 Ormonde Pde
Hurstville NSW 2220