What Is Achievement Motivation and How Does It Work?

I could hardly see as I fought to complete one of the most difficult exercises I’d ever done. Everyone else in the class had finished (including a very pregnant woman), and all eyes were on me.

It was early in my CrossFit journey, and I was still learning things out. I had no idea that everyone waited and watched until the last individual finished. It was part of the community’s support system for one another during difficult times.

Others’ cheers motivated me as I hammered out rep after rep, knowing that each one counted toward my overall score. Weight, duration, reps, and other metrics are used in CrossFit, as they are in many other sports, to determine success.

These barometers serve as a benchmark for sportsmen to live or die by. As I would soon discover, many of them take it quite seriously.

Related: Different Types of Motivation for Achieving Your Goals

What Is Achievement Motivation?

Given that you may be new to the concept of achievement motivation, here is a simple definition to assist you.

When an individual thinks that his performance will be judged against some standard of perfection, accomplishment motivation is a major predictor of desire, effort, and persistence.[1]

In the instance of my workout, I was pushing myself to achieve the highest possible score, knowing that it would be compared to the scores of all other competitors and displayed on the board for all to see.

While the dictionary description may give you a better idea of what achievement motivation is and how to utilize it, you may still be wondering what it is and how to use it.

Let’s take a closer look to not only better comprehend it, but also to give you an edge in your workouts and other areas of your life.

Related: What Is Motivation And How To Get Motivated (Your Ultimate Guide)

Atkinson’s Achievement Motivation Theory

Various forces are at work in all circumstances. The presence of internal and external elements that influence motivation is an important factor to consider.

These elements, according to the notion, have a strong influence on one’s motivation to achieve something in life.

Here are a few examples:

  • Internal: personal drive, willingness, determination, punctuality
  • Pressures, expectations, and targets are examples of external variables (also known as environmental factors). (All of them are determined by relevant organizations, family members, or society.)

The conditions of a time and reps measurement were specified at the start of class in my CrossFit workout. I recall the workout with fondness.

Do You Know Your Motivation Style?

The concept of achievement motivation dates back to the 1940s, when various studies on success and failure, as well as ego-involvement, established the foundation for John W. Atkinson’s Achievement Motivation Theory (AMT), published in 1966.

AMT shows how a person’s personality qualities are closely tied to their drive to achieve something in life.

It also takes into account a person’s drive to succeed and set goals in a competitive setting. This gave me the push I needed to get in some quality workout time.

You might also consider your performance at work, school, or even in a local bowling league.

First and foremost, I was both eager and determined to do the task. Given that I had committed to finishing from the beginning and was not going to stop, this internal drive was immensely motivating for me in the situation. 

Second, all of the other athletes had completed their races, and having everyone waiting on me was an uncomfortable situation. This gave me the extra push I needed to keep moving. 

Overall, both internal and external circumstances provided the “kick in the buttocks” I needed to complete the project.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Goal Achievement

Other Influential Factors

Apart from the characteristics described above, a variety of other factors can influence and interact with your accomplishment drive, particularly in a group context like CrossFit.

Some are internal, while others are external, yet they all interweave and can play a role.

Your values, educational background, cultural background, external support from the organization you work for, awards, the celebration of accomplishments, recognizing success, providing constructive feedback, and assisting one in growing by providing the appropriate support mechanism are all equally important and play vital roles in achieving the required motivation.

When it comes to achieving motivation, the old adage “we are products of our surroundings” holds true.

As I read this list, another idea that comes to me is that I can see why CrossFit is so popular. It provides practically all of these influential characteristics in a friendly setting. This example demonstrates the importance of external components. 

Related: Is Incentive Motivation Effective?

Achievement Motivation Success Depends on You—Or Does It?

You might be thinking to yourself at this point, “Sure, the outside world has an impact on me, but I make my own decisions.” “I get my inspiration from within.” This is correct. We all make our own decisions and are guided by our own feelings. 

Not the other way around, we are emotional beings that occasionally think. This is when you must step back and analyze your regular motivators in a certain situation.

Is it more common for you to be motivated by intrinsic or extrinsic factors? If you’re unfamiliar with those two puzzle pieces, here’s a refresher. 

Extrinsic motivation is defined as an external incentive to participate in a particular activity, particularly motivation based on the threat of punishment or reward.

“I really want that promotion to generate more money,” it sounds like. Money serves as an external motivator for you.

Intrinsic motivation is an incentive to engage in a given activity that stems from the enjoyment of the action rather than any potential external advantages.

“I’m going to work really hard to achieve that promotion so I can be more fulfilled at work,” it sounds like. Your consistent hard work motivates you to achieve a promotion

The picture becomes a little clearer when these are added to the mix. Although your experience will vary depending on the situation, you will usually prefer one over the other. 

Success Vs. Failure

Another important consideration is that achievement motivation derives from two distinct demands. The first is motivation to succeed, which is linked to a desire to reach successful goals, and the second is the drive to avoid failure. [2]

Because they are terrified of failing, some people are unwilling to take on the responsibility of having to achieve goals or engage in activities.

Worries about the consequences of failure, self-criticism, and diversion of focus, as well as an elevated heart rate or anxiousness, can all lead to poor performance.

Those who feel compelled to attain successful goals, on the other hand, are more motivated to stick to goals they know they can achieve, implying that your achievement-oriented conduct is influenced by the degree of your desire to succeed.

From your local CrossFit gym to the Olympic events, the success vs. failure motivator can be seen in competitive contexts all over the world.

Simply listening to the athlete’s post-event comments will reveal the clues as to which force propelled them to victory.

I appreciate listening to the music that is played in conjunction with the event, such as DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” and Beck’s “Loser.”

These are especially prevalent in areas where performance is evaluated as attention is drawn to the determinative role of extrinsic motivational tendencies on what appear to be achievement-oriented activities.

This means that it may be difficult to tell whether the driving force is extrinsic motivation or achievement motivation.

Related: Successful Business Leaders’ Habits

Is It Really Achievement Motivation?

You could be a little perplexed at this point, wondering if achievement motivation actually exists or if it’s just another sort of motivation disguised as achievement motivation.

Believe me when I say that while some of these elements may muddle the waters a little, there is one overarching theme that will alter your belief in accomplishment motivation.

According to Achievement Motivation Theory, a person’s desire to achieve something, as well as the source of his or her overall motivation to attain a certain goal, originates from within and is closely linked to the individual’s need for power and affiliation.[3]

To put it another way, you do make your own decisions, and your desire for control is what motivates you to do so.

I’m sure you’re as pleased as I was to hear that. It’s important to remember that achievement motivation is based on emotions.

My emotion was the driving force behind my actions in the preceding scenario. My competitive drive, macho pride, and desire to avoid humiliation all drove me to success, no matter how small, and trust me, it was small.

I’m not sure which sticks with me more: the hardship of the workout or seeing my four rounds listed at the bottom of the whiteboard as the day’s lowest score.

However, I put my accomplishment motivation to good use. It wasn’t long before I was beating everyone and coming in first—or almost first.

The very pregnant lady continued to kick my buttocks till the day before she gave birth. You won’t be able to win them all, but you can be inspired to try!

Related: Factors That Affect Team Motivation (Without You Even Noticing)


  1. Encyclopedia.com: Achievement Motivation

2. Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development: Achievement Motivation

3. Marketing91: Achievement motivation theory

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *