In a recent debate with an acquaintance, I was asked a very interesting question: “what is more effective, motivation or drive?” It had started as the old debate about motivational writings and the old accusations of how ineffective they are. Before I could answer that question, I had to refresh my understanding of both terms.
According to the English dictionary, to motivate is ‘to provide someone with the incentive to accomplish a particular activity.’ In other words, to motivate someone is to encourage them. On the other hand, drive is defined as “motivation to do something, coupled with ability and ambition.”
From the definition alone, a few major differences emerge. When it comes to applications, these discrepancies become even bigger.
Motivation is extrinsic, drive is intrinsic
All the power associated with motivation comes from outside sources. It is what happens when someone else tries to push you towards doing something. Motivated people can be just as enthusiastic about the goals they set for themselves as everyone else, and this is what drives them to excel. The problem comes when you have to get your motivation from an external force – which is what most people do.
Even motivational writers sometimes recognize the futility of what they do. In the end, the only person who can move you to action is you. And until you are ready and equipped to do something, it is very hard to get by on motivation alone.
Drive is better equated with words like ambition, determination, and spirit. In this plane of motivation, the focus shifts to intrinsic factors that influence our actions. Theoretically, it is much easier to muster your inner motivations than it is to internalize motivational encouragements from someone else.
Motivation is a feeling, drive is a mind-set
As someone who reads a lot of motivational material, I can attest to the emotive nature of motivational content. It follows the same three steps. First, you read something super-encouraging. Even as you do, you think to yourself – “I can do this!” The second step is when you start trying to apply the advice. It comes with varying degrees of success and determines step 3. If it works out, then you are home safe. You did it, congratulations. The third step comes a few minutes, hours, or days after reading that trick, idea, hack, or proposal. I call it motivation pain because it’s when you realize all the ways that some piece of advice does not apply to you.
On the other hand, drive is a product of your mindset. If you have the right attitude towards something, you don’t need an awful amount of encouragement to do it. You just do it. A more relatable word for drive is ambition, which can be defined as having the mindset of a winner and doing everything it takes to accomplish something.
Motivation is limitless, but drive is limited by vision
You can get all the motivation you need to do something. In fact, if motivation works for you, there’s nothing you can’t do. From books to YouTube videos, there will never be a shortage of motivation to get you around. Even though motivation lasts a shorter time, you can use ideas like vision boards to keep yourself motivated for a very long time.
So, don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that motivational literature is bad or less effective. I just know enough to know that it doesn’t work for everyone. And I happen to be surrounded by too many of these motivation naysayers to ignore this fact.
Visionary people are more driven than motivated to achieve their goals. Because when it comes to being driven, it’s your vision that dictates your level of drive. If your vision is not strong enough, you would find yourself struggling even with the best motivational speakers whispering sweet secrets in your ears.
Motivation is being pushed, drive is pushing yourself
To think of it a different way, motivation is what the cheerleaders, the coach, and the fans do. If the team is not well-trained, all the cheering in the world will not stop the defeat that will come. But if the team is better-prepared and evenly matched with the opposite team, doing it for the fans might make all the difference.
To return to the game day example, drive is what the players in the field must have in order to win, regardless of prevailing conditions. The coach might be red-carded, the fans and cheerleaders may be absent because it’s Corona time. In this kind of game, it all boils down to who wants it more. If you can reach the level of being your own biggest cheerleader, if you can learn to do things without extrinsic motivation, you are said to be self-driven.
Being self-driven means that you and only you are responsible for your own outcomes. If you fail, it’s because of something you did. And if you win, you can probably explain how you defeated limitations to get there.
Does this mean that being driven is better than being motivated at the end of the day? Well, that’s an unfair comparison, to begin with. From the definition of terms, motivation is a part of drive. In motivational literature, all the author tries to do is activate your drive. At the end of the day, it will still be up to you to do what needs to be done.
Also read: 4 Things That Happen When You Actually Apply Self-Improvement Advice to Your Life