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My colleagues and I have spent years providing scientific evidence that these 16 deeply rooted life motives are fundamental to all of us, and we have published various articles and three books illustrating our findings. To date, we have tested more than 60,000 people from a wide range of social backgrounds and on four continents (North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia).

The scientific studies on the reliability and validity of our claims have been peerreviewed by experts and published in prestigious journals, such as those of the American Psychological Association. Now, what makes the list of 16 life motives so unique is its scientific standing.


We did not set out to create a list of life motives and then prove their validity after the fact. Instead, we found 16 life motives through empirical research - based on countless responses from people in various countries and continents who gave us insight into their personal motives. Each of the 16 life motives is based on goals, aspirations, and intentions. Honor, for example, is the need for character of integrity; independence is the need for self-reliance; tranquility is the need for security; revenge is the need to win and confront others.

I do not agree with McDougall‘s view that emotions are the essence of universal goals. Curiosity, for example, can be temporarily satisfied by learning and knowledge, not by the emotionally felt pleasure of discovery. The need for Eros can be temporarily satisfied by sexuality, not by the feeling of ecstasy.

Why do goals and not emotions determine life motives? I believe goals are a kind of precursor to future behavior, while emotions are the consequences of present or past behavior. Goals tell us what the individual wants and consequently have implications for what that person is likely to do in the future. If I know that a newlywed does not want children, I can predict that he or she would be best suited to a like-minded partner, or he/she would frequently argue with the partner who wants children. If I know that an individual is happily married and childless, I cannot predict whether or not he or she will have children in a year or two. People who plan to have children may be happy without children in the present, and people who plan to remain childless may be equally happy without children in the here and now.

The 16 life motives may have a genetic origin. They are based on valid calculations using samples from four different continents (North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia) and various cultures. Furthermore, a number of these needs can also be observed in animals. Animals raise their young (indicates a need for family), defend themselves (indicates a need for revenge), have sex (means a need for Eros), show fear (indicates a need for quiet), display dominance (indicates a need for power), eat (indicates a need for food), and exercise (indicates a need for physical activity). Culture and upbringing do not influence the strength of the expression of needs; certain needs may be encouraged in some cultures or families but suppressed in others. Two teachers, for example, may encourage their children to begin reading at a very early age, while two athletes are probably more likely to encourage early participation in athletic activities.

Parents who live in a very small apartment may not be as likely to encourage wild running around. Such differences in upbringing, especially in early childhood, may promote or weaken the natural needs with which a child is born. Culture and upbringing are likely to have a major influence on the ways in which people act out their motives in life. People of all backgrounds are motivated by hunger, power, curiosity, etc., but they differ greatly in what they eat, how they achieve ambitious goals, and how they learn.

Because our life motives have a genetic origin, we tend to have the same needs throughout our lives. People rarely change in terms of what they fundamentally want and, therefore, intrinsically motivate them. Curious children tend to become curious adolescents, who, in turn, tend to develop into curious adults. People with strong appetites tend to struggle with their weight throughout their lives. People who like to be organized and plan things as adolescents will most likely still like to organize and plan as adults. I suspect that the underlying genes that influence these needs do not change as we grow older.

Because our life motives have a genetic origin, we tend to have the same basic needs throughout our lives.

Although life motives usually change little as we grow into adulthood, people sometimes change the way they act them out. For example, a romantic person might change partners, a curious person might change areas of interest, or an athlete might change his/her preferred sport. Occasionally, someone reports changing their priorities after finding God. Nothing in my theory of the 16 motives in life casts doubt on such statements. I acknowledge the possibility that conversion to God, or even the experience of losing a loved one, can change a person‘s priorities.

The 16 life motives motivate our behavior, thoughts, values, and desires.

The 16 life motives motivate our behavior, thoughts, values, and desires. A person whose life motive of family is strong is likely to think about family members while traveling or on the road. And at work, she may look at family photos now and then and already have the next family vacation in mind in her daydreams.

People who are strongly driven by the life motive of power do more than just fulfill their career ambitions. They also think about work on their weekends and evenings, and they indulge in daydreams of becoming directors, great musicians, or famous artists. Idealistic goals cause some people to give generously to their favorite charities, to dream of a better society, and to campaign for political candidates they hope will make more of a difference than just passing laws.

Life motives can only ever be satisfied temporarily, never permanently. They motivate us from time to time, over and over again again and again throughout our lives..

Perhaps the most significant characteristic of a life motive is its recurring nature. Motives can only be satisfied temporarily, never permanently. We are hungry, so we eat, and then we get hungry again. Everyone has the need to eat, not just for a day or two, or for a month or two, not even merely for a year or two. Food is a recurring need for every human being, from the cradle to the grave.

Similarly, our life motives drive us - from time to time, over and over again, throughout our lives. We never satisfy any of them permanently. Each of them reappears in our lives regularly, if not daily, over and over again. The life motive of curiosity, for example, has a recurring nature: we become curious about something; we study

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