Achievement Motivation: Theory & Definition

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  • 0:01 What Is Achievement…
  • 0:50 Motivation Theory
  • 1:26 Characteristics
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Deborah Teasley

Deborah has 4 years of teaching experience and a master's degree in program development & management.

What motivates you in life? In this lesson, we will focus on achievement as the prime factor of motivation and how it influences some to set and accomplish goals.

What is Achievement Motivation?

What motivates you to succeed? Some people are motivated by continually reaching higher standards.

Motivation is the driving force behind a person's actions. There are many different types of motivation, and everyone is inspired by something different. Does setting and accomplishing challenging goals excite you? Is taking a calculated risk an easy decision if you know it will help you succeed? Do you thrive in a setting where you receive both positive and negative feedback because you know it will help you progress and reach new heights? For some people, these are essential components of motivation. If you answered yes to these questions, you most likely are motivated by achievement. Achievement Motivation is defined as behaviors dedicated to developing and demonstrating higher abilities.

Motivation Theory

Achievement motivation is one of the three components that make up McClelland's Human Motivation Theory. This theory was proposed by social psychologist David McClelland, who studied workplace motivation. His approach aimed to explain how different types of motivation affect people's performance within a business setting. McClelland proposed that there are three types of motivation that drive us all no matter what our background is. This includes achievement, affiliation, and power. In this lesson, we will only be focusing on achievement.


A person motivated by achievement is very careful about setting challenging but achievable goals.

Those who are motivated by achievement tend to have a particular set of features. The first is that they choose their battles wisely. They are not gamblers when it comes to setting goals and will not set one that is impossible. That being said, they won't be as motivated by a task that can be easily accomplished either. A good example of this would be a seasoned runner who is interested in becoming a long distance runner. Since this person runs already, a 5K race would probably be too easy. On the other hand, a full marathon that is only a month away would be thought of as too difficult. A person motivated by achievement would probably choose something of moderate difficulty, like a 10K or half-marathon assuming he had the time to train.

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