The Formula of Motivation | Motivation Series Part 4

Predict Your Motivation
Predict Your Motivation

In this last installment on motivation, we’ll be looking into the formula of motivation.  As we familiarized ourselves with a theory of motivation, internal and external motivators and 8 ways we can boost our motivations in the previous posts, we will now look at 3 factors that predict individual motivation.

The motivation formula I’ll be sharing with you today is based on the work of Victor Vroom, a professor at the Yale School of Management.  Vroom explains that our motivation is based on three factors, 1) how much you want a reward, 2) your estimate of successful performance based on your efforts and 3) your estimate that performance will result in receiving the reward. Thus the formula is: Valence x Expectancy x Instrumentality = Motivation.  But rather than repeating the terms used by Vroom, I’ll use straightforward terms to help us understand the formula better.

RP x EP x PR = Motivation

RP = Reward Preference: An example of reward preference is if you really wanted a promotion at work, you’d score high for reward preference. This is a reflection unique to each individual.  Since we have positive or negative preferences for an outcome, RP can be negative or positive.  When you do not prefer an outcome, for example if being promoted at work will require you to work another 5 hours a week which you do not prefer, the RP is scored negatively.

EP = Probability that Effort will yield Performance: An example of this may be a child selling lemonade on a summer day. She might know that a hot day results in more sales than a mild day, so although it is much more physically demanding, she understands the degree to which performance will be determined by the amount of effort she puts in.  Do you think that the effort you put into your work will equate to performance?  If you strongly believe so, you would score highly while you would score low if you see no chance that effort will lead you to appropriate performance.

PR = Probability that Performance will yield Rewards: PR represents the belief you have for a reward by completing a task. The reward can be something physical, such as money, a promotion at your workplace, or the satisfaction of completion (an internal reward). If you believe that you’ll get satisfaction by completing a certain task, you will score higher than a person who does not feel that their work will result in adequate reward, whether it be external or internal.

This formula is a valuable tool to get us thinking about how our motivations are produced. We can see through this formula that we are not motivated simply because of intrinsic urge, unmet needs or solely for rewards. Instead, we are individuals with differing beliefs, perceptions and estimates of our own selves which in turn influence our own behaviors.

Although this formula does not thoroughly take into account both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, by combining our knowledge of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations discussed in the previous post, we now have a well rounded understanding of how we are motivated.

photo by Hermés

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10 thoughts on “The Formula of Motivation | Motivation Series Part 4”

    1. @Oscar: I hope this formula helps you out. It’s a great way to start understanding your motivations and how they are strengthened.

    1. @Diggy: I learned this in school while I studied human relations. Looking forward to hearing about your trip!

  1. Interesting. I like equations for these kind of things. Somehow, I understand them a lot better than a long description. Plus, they make knowing how to improve a lot easier. Just work on the numbers 🙂


    1. @Eduard: Formulas really do make things easier to understand. In the formula above, RP (Reward Preference) is based on a 0-1 scale.
      EP (Probability that Effort will yield Performance) is based on a -1-1 scale because one may perceive that even placing effort on a task will yield bad/negative performance.
      PR (Probability that Performance will yield Rewards) is based on a 0-1 scale.
      Thanks for helping me clarify that.

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