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Fuel Four: Your Motivation

What is Fuel Four: Your Motivation?

What fuels your motivation? This blog provides in-depth insights into the FUEL FOUR: identity, meaning, belonging & achievement. Understand the FUEL FOUR and you'll optimise your motivation and that of your teams.

Good Life Work Project Fuel for your motivation

The number, four, plays a big part in human existence. The ancient Greeks believed everything on Earth to be made up of four basic elements: earth, water, air and fire. Modern science has identified four states of matter: solid, gas, liquid and plasma. There are the four basic elements for life, at least one of which are found in all biochemical molecules: carbon, oxygen hydrogen and nitrogen.

We have one more group of four, which will help hone your focus as you discover the motivations that fuel your life: identity, meaning, belonging, achievement.


Even I don’t know myself... In fact, I don’t know if I really have a self at all, as I’m constantly playing different roles and pretending – not so much on stage as in real life.” ―Simona Panova

If you don’t know who you are, how can you know where you have come from, and if you don’t know where you have come from, how can you know where you are going?

And the Oscar goes to…

You have one mind and one body, the same as everyone else, but you take on multiple roles, probably making you probably the best actor you know. The alarm wakes you, and for a few precious moments, you are alone with yourself before slipping into a role as a significant other, parent or carer. You find yourself again on the morning commute, but lose yourself again as you move into your work role. From tiger to a mouse, at work, you give and take cues, improvising to make a given scene work. You might find a few more moments with yourself on the commute home before becoming friend, significant other, child, sibling, parent, significant other or carer. You are finally alone with yourself again as you lie in bed before sleeping and starting the cycle all over again. On any given day, you are experiencing three versions of you:

  • Individual You: the beliefs, attitudes, skills, knowledge experiences and talent that are unique to you.

  • Relationship You: the version of you that those closest to you see.

  • Community You: the characteristics and traits that attract you to others and others to you in order to form groups and communities.

Like an actor choosing their next part, you are continually trying to match your beliefs, values and talent to the roles available to you. The challenge is to find harmony, where, regardless of the role, you are true to your core beliefs, values and standards.

Question: Think of a past life or work experience where you have not enjoyed the part you are expected to take, how did it make you feel?

What you probably experienced was an energy drain and discomfort where you took on a role that did not fit your true self.

Your identity grows through trial and error. As you experience more of life, you discover what you do better than others, your personal potentials In a work environment, these personal potentials inform your comparative advantage, the product, service or experience that you are least worst at delivering in comparison to others.

Think of the job you do, through trial and error you have settled on a role that you are least worst at in life. It makes no sense that you would, therefore, choose to compete for the position of Captain of a cruise ship, because many others are better at the role. In other words, because of their personal potentials, these people can deliver the service and experience at a lower opportunity cost. But there is more to who you are than just comparative advantage.

The sense of intrinsic satisfaction you get from a given activity, as well as the feedback you get from others, provide the cues for roles that best fit your true self. That sense of inner satisfaction is something we will return to later; think of it as your true North, the thing that keeps you on course regardless of the distractions life throws at you. If there is one certainty, it is this: if you take on a role that does not fit your beliefs, values and talent, it will create disharmony and a sense of failure. Like a tuning fork resonating at the core of your being, to enjoy more of life, you have the drive to seek out experiences that align with your sense of self.

However, you cannot know your true self without understanding what brings you meaning in life. Also, you need to be aware of how you adapt your identity to feel a sense of belonging, where “I” becomes “we”.


How strong is your resolve to be you? Because, in today's always-on world, do not underestimate what is needed to find and live your life according to your inner compass. The energy, determination, resilience, and courage required to push back against the influence of technology and social media algorithms, and those that manipulate them, is draining. Every day, invisible hands swell the views of the few. A storm surge of influence crashes through your phone or watch, attempting to terraform your life in their image. Will you find your meaning, or will you be subsumed to live your life according to the views of the few?

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.” ―Alan Wilson Watts

Question: What brings you a sense of deeper meaning or purpose in life?

In answering the question, the things that drive you forward in life are personal to you and your beliefs, values and standards. Understanding your life-drive is essential. Because, if you want to experience a prolonged sense of happiness and wellbeing, you need to move beyond the artificial highs that come with an impulsive purchase of shoes or unhealthy binge drinking.

What brings you meaning or purpose, the things that drive you forward in life, are personal to you and your beliefs, values and standards. Understanding your life-drive is essential. Because, if you want to experience a prolonged sense of happiness and wellbeing, you need to move beyond the artificial highs that come with an impulsive purchase of shoes or unhealthy binge drinking.

A life guided by meaning is one where people experience growth. In experiencing a more meaningful life, you need to move beyond basic needs and set sail on a discovery of growth.

Such a journey requires a thirst for knowledge brought about by trust, empathy, curiosity, a feeling of gratefulness, a sense of control over your choices, freely giving your time, experiences or skills to others in need, and an ability to listen to and value the views of others, their opinions on you and the world in their time and place.

Question: reflect on and write down the times when what you were doing caused time to evaporate on you - you were in a state of flow; what patterns do you discover?


“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” ―Brené Brown

Whether following a football team, attending a party, following people on social media, attending church or taking walks, you find solace in connecting in meaningful ways, physically, virtually, spiritually and in nature. You find happiness and wellbeing through interactions where others can understand, validate and share your experiences.

Do you know: Research by Kahneman et al. (2006) found that spending time socialising after work has a high positive affect on people’s sense of happiness; socialising at work was not that far behind, in terms of an impact on positive feelings.

Having a greater sense of belonging, a feeling of connectedness with people and the world around you is a wellspring for your esteem. In belonging, you are no longer a solitary “I”, drifting alone in the world; you are connected, part of a “we” or “us”. The need for belonging will bring you to seek inclusion over exclusion. If you reflect on your social interactions, you will find you have mimicked the traits and character of others or opened your mind to differing values or beliefs. You do this to accentuate your similarity to people you desire to be associated with and accepted by because inclusion brings you happiness and exclusion brings pain.

Connectedness with both people and the world around you can positively affect your sense of happiness and wellbeing. You are motivated by feeling as though you are part of something bigger than yourself, something where your contribution to life can endure. Where that sense of connectedness is absent, you can feel pain as much as if you were thirsty or starved.

Question: how can you know yourself without understanding what others feel and think about you?

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will cause just as much pain. Social connectedness and recognition stimulate a strong positive reward reaction in your brain. However, think of a relationship break-up, and you will know that words can create pain that impacts our brains as much as the physical pain of a broken bone.

To improve your ability to connect with others, you need trust, to be both trusting and trustworthy - see our information on Trust Waves.

Achievement or Accomplishment

I declare that no accomplishment has substance nearly as great as the road used to achieve it. We are not creatures of destinations. It is the journey that shapes us. Our callused feet, our backs strong from carrying the weight of our travels, our eyes open with the fresh delight of experiences lived.” Brandon Sanderson

Today, your life’s work is the product of yesterday’s you; the goals you set, accomplished and achieved and the goals you never set or missed. Achievement is the attainment of an external standard; for example, passing an exam. Accomplishment is the inner-feeling you get when you attain a self-motivated goal.

Question: what have you accomplished in four weeks, and what did you do to reward yourself?

Since you first came into this world, you have sought out positive feedback from those around you. Stern words from your parents brought rejection, a feeling that you were doing something wrong, praise brought smiles and a feeling of achievement and a boost to your esteem. Has anything changed, where today, you might find that same sense of satisfaction in gaining likes for a social media post, and a similar sense of rejection at a lack of likes.

Accomplishment is a powerful feeling that comes from setting and attaining your goals. Goals are particularly valuable if they are self-directed and challenging enough to stretch your abilities comfortably.

For some, achievement can become an addiction, where they continuously strive for success to feel accepted or valued. In such cases, goal-setting is a means to an end, where attainment fails to bring satisfaction because it lacks a feeling of accomplishment. For everyone, from high-profile celebrities to people like us, self-doubt brings a feeling of inadequacy that erodes our self-esteem. If this is you, you achieve goals. However, the sense of achievement is brief, leaving you feeling lonely, dissatisfied, empty and unhappy.


Insights: be aware of the opportuities created by your limitations

As a leader or manager, you need to be aware of the skills you need to motivate and develop a high-performing team.

To help, we have designed an Insight Space to help discover and develop opportunities in your skillset.

We also show you how to use awareness and understanding of who you are, and how you respond to change, to improve engagement, productivity, engagement, wellbeing and creativity as part of our Good Workshops programme.

Get in touch if you would like to know more.

Good Life Work Project
Dr David Griffiths & Julie Hayward

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