Motivation VS Drive

At the most basic level, a need is something indispensable for living organisms to live a healthy life. Needs are distinguished from wants since a deficiency in needs would cause a negative outcome such as dysfunction or death. Needs can be objective and physical, such as water and food, or they can be subjective and psychological, such as the need for comfort or significance. Drive is the force that urges the organism to satisfy our needs.

Motivation, on the other hand, is the willingness to do something or something that causes willingness. Sometimes, motivation comes as a personal desire. Other times, you may want to do it for the good of someone else. Either way, it’s the starting point for wanting to accomplish a goal. 

Needs are something you fulfill because you have to. They can often be instinctive. And your drive is what makes you continue satisfying that need. It is more individual in the sense that some people are more driven than others. Drive, essentially, is what will keep moving you forward when there’s a dip in motivation. Although both motivation and drive are goal-oriented, one is a thought, and the other is action.

One common trait every inspiring individual has is a drive. Take a moment to think of someone who inspires you, and then think of why they inspire you. Most likely, it’s because they have accomplished serious feats or overcame something out of the ordinary. The secret is that they are in that situation because they were driven.

Steve Jobs was driven “to build an enduring company that prioritized people.” Nelson Mandela was driven to promote human rights, democracy, reconciliation, and peace. Gandhi was driven to fight for freedom using non-violence. Albert Einstein was driven to describe all physical phenomena—from the smallest subatomic particles to the entire universe. While he failed to complete his goal, his work laid the foundation for much of the research into the evolution of the universe as well as modern technology, including lasers and computer chips.

Everyone who is considered remarkable has a drive. Using just motivation, they wouldn’t have been able to even accomplish half of what they did. Drive enabled them to work tirelessly every day towards their goal. And to them, work felt effortless because drive allows an easier ingress into a flow state. Thanks to their drive, their enduring legacy will continue to inspire generations of great thinkers like you.

In business, there are two basic types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is closely related to personal drive. This motivation produces personal satisfaction or fulfillment when achieving goals. Extrinsic motivation focuses on the outside factors or influences that help individuals stay focused on achieving goals. Common extrinsic motivators include business reputation, wealth, and prestige.

Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation

Drive and motivation must work hand-in-hand for someone to stay focused on their goal. Motivation without drive will give you a few days of intense and effective work, but will eventually diminish alongside the momentum. Also, drive without motivation can leave you feeling overworked and unfulfilled.

If you have the drive to finish a goal but aren’t motivated to do it, you can end up feeling angry, disappointed, or even indifferent to the end result. This would feel like you must achieve your goal despite you loathing every day that you work towards it.

Drive and motivation are especially important for founders running a startup. During a startup’s journey, phases of stress and frustration are inevitable. It can cause founders to ask “should I even continue?” and “is this even worth it?” Even though extrinsic motivational factors exist in the business environment, these factors may not be enough to motivate the founder through times of despair. This is where drive is absolutely vital.

Drive is the reason you started in the first place. It is constant and purpose-centric. While motivation is the microburst of energy you get to take action, drive is a macro state of being, a characteristic, or a mindset that is harder to attain or squander.

I would like to share an area in my life where I am driven and experience bouts of inconsistent motivation. It pertains to my relationship with weightlifting. I started seriously lifting in 2017, yet haven’t experienced a full year of uninterrupted lifting due to significant injuries to my hips, wrist, foot, shoulder, knee, and ankle over the years. Each of these injuries reset my fitness progress loosing over 25lbs of muscle and 4-12 months recovering each injury.

When I am healthy I have a fiery drive to be fit and disciplined. In my previous bout of being healthy, I went almost a year where I spent six and sometimes 7 days a week in the gym and only took days off for my body to recover. I remember going to the gym with a fever on two different occasions that year. I went when I was lethargic and exhausted which was a handful of days each month. I recall two particular nights where I was so busy I could only make it to the gym at midnight, and I still committed.

For those of you who know about building muscle, you know that most of the work comes from proper diet and eating rather than the gym. So whatever determination I had for the gym, I had to double that in the kitchen and persistently fight all other cravings I had.

Before/After my year of driven consistency in the gym

Although achieving good physical fitness is an endless pursuit, I am trying to affirm to myself (intrinsic) that I am a disciplined hard worker, and it also makes me feel really good. By being fit, I also want to prove the same to others (extrinsic), and it gives me confidence to have large defined muscles. More importantly, I’m driven to be extraordinary and to be my best possible self in all aspects.

Motivation determined how energized I would be for that particular workout, but drive is what gave me the unshakable discipline to attend every single planned day in the gym, regardless of the excuse I tried to give myself. Motivation is volatile and short-lived. No matter how intense your motivation feels at one moment, there will be days where it is vacant.

This is an area that I am highly driven, however, there are areas where I lack drive. In grade-school for example, I had moments of motivation to study and to put effort into my assignments, but I lacked drive for the majority of my schooling years. I personally didn’t see a purpose in school and preferred learning in other ways. Many can relate to lacking drive in one aspect of their life and it leads to a lot of procrastination, wasted time, and just not feeling good. In this case, we often result to staying in our comfort zone and avoiding the unpleasant feeling.

When you are driven to accomplish something, that goal becomes more important than comfort. Drive is difficult to explain but when you have it, it is extremely powerful. It feels like you are being compelled by a force and you need to work towards your goal to be at peace. It can be so powerful that if you are driven with no motivation whatsoever, it can lead to guilt or unfulfillment.

Boy reading in his bed at night.

In my own experiences, drive becomes a lot easier to manage and reinforce when you establish a routine. Since drive is unavoidable when you have it, you can work with it by establishing big or small routines to work towards your goal. This way self-conflict of interest and stress about not working hard enough or not effective enough is avoided.

When you’re driven, laziness is no longer a consideration. You’re no longer fueled by the ephemeral whims of motivation. You are now compelled by something as powerful and primal as the desire to procreate, seek sustenance, and survive. For boundless energy and enthusiasm, focus on building your drive, but also understand the role motivation plays in your jubilation.


If you need a motivation boost for your day, listen to David Goggins speak. David has one of the most inspiring stories from a rough bringing to being known as the toughest man alive.