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Personality and motivation

To understand motivation we need to take into account personality. While we all share the same basic needs, we all have unique personalities which lead us to follow different pathways to meet our needs.

Our personality reads our needs and tries to meet them appropriately in the social context. Most people want to do their best but for some their goals become restricted, distorted or overwhelmed usually by a combination of their own problems, their peer relationships and how they are treated.

Personality integrates our emotions, motives, beliefs, self-esteem, social competence and attitudes. It is our tendency to think, feel and act in certain ways. Personality determines our unique adjustment to the environment and individual differences in motivation can be traced to our dispositional tendencies.

Personality traits are neither adaptive nor maladaptive. Neuroticism, for example, can be beneficial in helping detect threats; introversion helps individuals adapt well and get the best out of situations others might find monotonous; extraversion relates to positive mood and social engagement, but also to narcissism and difficulties in sustaining performance; agreeableness leads to popularity but also to submissiveness while disagreeableness is useful in a conflict; low conscientiousness is linked to creativity and spontaneity; high conscientiousness helps achievement but limits creativity and spontaneity. Our personality traits help us specialise in certain environments at the sacrifice of others.  They can be regarded as representing the optimal environments for which the person is best suited.  Neurotics may need for example secure environments, extraverts prefer demanding environments whereas introverts are better suited to solitary reflection.  

Copyright: Alan McLean, 2006

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