People often have multiple motives for engaging in any one behavior. Motivation might be extrinsic, whereby a person is inspired by outside forces—other people or rewards. Motivation can also be intrinsic, whereby the inspiration comes from within—the desire to improve at a certain activity. Intrinsic motivation tends to push people more forcefully, and the accomplishments are more fulfilling.
One framework used for understanding motivation is the hierarchy of needs proposed by American psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943. According to Maslow, humans are inherently motivated to better themselves and move toward expressing their full potential—self-actualization—by progressively encountering and satisfying several levels of need from the most fundamental, such as for food and safety, to higher-order needs for love, belonging, and self-esteem.
Eventually, Maslow extended the theory to include a need for self-transcendence: People reach the pinnacle of growth and find the highest meaning in life by attending to things beyond the self. Although the universality of Maslow’s theory has been challenged, many believe it captures fundamental truths about human motivation.