What moves you?–Walking with Heroes Part 9

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Hello again! As promised, having looked at the first four Heroes over the last few episodes, we’re going to take time out to look at what motivates us on the journey.

Just to recap, we’ve looked so far at the Innocent, the Orphan, the Warrior and the Caregiver – all characters we encounter as we’re getting ready to step out on the journey. But what creates the motivation for us to move through life?

I’ve spent some time thinking about this – there’s a whole load of different theories about what drives us forward, what motivates us to action – Abraham Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs is one model, as is Manfred Max-Neef’s Human Scale Development. The model I like, partly because it’s simple (always good for me), and partly because it seems complete, is one that American uber-coach Tony Robbins uses to explain human motivation. I’ve taken that model and extended it to cover some of my own discoveries on the subject.

So let’s get started . .

An overview

Here’s the overall model laid out for you… we’re going to dive deeper into each one of these but just to give you a feel for how it fits together:


Generally we need to make sure that the lower levels of the model are complete before the others start to become important. So without some level of free will, for example, we can’t make choices about security or adventure. When our world is falling apart, we don’t have the time to worry about our identity – and so on.

So let’s have a look at the different layers…


I believe that freedom lies at the core of our motivation. Without freedom we are unable to decide for ourselves, or to make choices. Without freedom we are controlled, limited, dependent on others. We may find our freedom limited by the political regime, or by circumstances. We may find ourselves locked into a relationship that is controlling – and of course prison takes freedom away. But illness can also make us totally reliant on others, either at a physical or a mental level.

Whatever is happening, our primary drive is going to be to choose freedom first. Now, we may sublimate that drive in order to meet another need (for example, choosing a crushingly dull job in order to pay the rent) – but we do that by choice rather than because we are driven to.

The shadow side of freedom is aimlessness and a rejection of being part of anything – a desire to live a totally independent life without cause to help – or to be helped by – others.

Security (subsistence and protection)

Until we have our core security needs met, we’re not going to be able to move forward into any other part of our life. This is the position of the Innocent – who is naturally secure – and the Orphan – who has just realised that the world is a scary place.

Our security needs are basic safety needs (knowing the ground isn’t going to give way and that our lives are not in danger) through to survival needs like food and water. In modern life, security can also extend to things like job security, concerns about the state of the economy or political map, or relationship issues.

We never get ourselves to completely secure. It’s odd, but often those who have the most are more insecure – largely because they know that they could lose everything. Conversely, a man who has little may feel very very secure because what he doesn’t have cannot be taken away! Change is also a huge factor in security issues – some people can get freaked out at the amount of change happening around them – and certainly if they feel out of control in a situation that’s changing all the time then their perception of their personal security will plummet.

It’s good to get these basic needs out of the way.. so we can move on with the bigger questions without needing to revisit these issues. It’s good, for example to get the money thing out of the way so we can concentrate on more important issues.

The shadow side of Security is of course the need to provide this at all costs – to become selfish and potentially breaking the law in pursuit of security – or to become unable to function in the bigger world.


One of the features of Security is the need for constancy – to limit change and control our lives. However, counterbalancing this is the drive for Adventure. We crave excitement and thrill, and we become uncomfortable if things stay the same. This is the place of the Warrior – stepping out to conquer new worlds.

Adventure can take many forms – for some it will be exploration – genuine adventure through travel and journeying. For others, that adventure might be exploring the human psyche and journeying within. Others will find their adventure in the world of romance or sensuality, or in hobbies and interests. Still others will seek their variety vicariously through TV programming and reality shows, or in sports. What we’re looking for here is variety – keeping ourselves interested in life.

And of course the shadow is the thrill seeking hedonist, living only for pleasure, or the wanderer, moving from place to place, unable to settle due to the restless drive for change.

Connection (affection and participation)

One of the highest drives is for connection – in particular, connection to other human beings (although some will fulfill this through connection to the animal world, through their pets and household animals. Each one of us seeks out a connection to others, and cannot be complete without it. This is the space of the Caregiver – although of course the Orphan is feeling the loss of connection keenly too. Potentially we explore this through our families, through our friends, through intimate relationships. We will also find it through clubs and societies, through shared purpose, whether that is charity work or holding a season ticket to a football club. And of course web sites like Twitter and Facebook play to this need for connection – and perhaps in our on line world our need for connection is even greater.

The shadow side is that of dependency and obsession, of making demands on others.


Just as Security was balanced by Adventure, so Connection is balanced by Identity. Whereas Connection seeks sameness and a sense of commonality, seeking to join and be part of, Identity seeks to be apart – to be different. This is often the drive for achievement – in sport, in science, in entertainment. We need to stand out, to say ‘This is who I am’. It’s the drive that causes us to want to be the best possible version of ourselves.

Identity causes us to stand out, to achieve – to cease to become ‘part of the herd’. It’s the drive for fame – or, at the very least, for uniqueness.

The shadow is an obsession with celebrity – or a need to have our own way at the expense of others. It may also cause us to deny the connection to others – or, potentially, to become members of organisations that stand against social norms.

Higher needs

Of course, all of these are high value drivers, if we choose to make them so. Connection and Love are closely related, as is Identity and Achievement. Adventure helps us discover ourselves, while Security keeps us grounded. Yet the next Human Drivers allow us to let go of our self centredness and move beyond into self actualization.

Learning and Growing

Each one of us has an inbuilt drive to become better. It’s that drive that allows us to recognise that we are not all we could be – to seek to be the highest possible demonstration of our greatest potential. This is the drive for evolution, to discover who we truly are. Again, it will support the need to be better – to push the boundaries of what we can achieve, whether that is in sport or in life. Learning also introduces curiosity – the chance to look at the world and wonder ‘why?’ ‘how?’ ‘what if?’.

And the shadow? Simply the desire for perfection, the drive to continually improve – and also the focus on one single area at the expense of the rest of our lives.


Connection is all about the desire to be part of something. Contribution causes us to want to make a difference – to recognise that we have an opportunity to create beyond ourselves. At this point we really are thinking outside of our own selfishness and our own little sphere and looking at the bigger picture. We may find Contribution through volunteer work or through raising children. We may find it through our work, through creation on behalf of others – something that raises our day to day employment above the mundane and into a new expression of who we truly are as we find ourselves expressing our love for others.

The shadow side of contribution is of course the role of martyr – pouring ourselves out for others while never truly deciding who we are and what we want.


I’m still searching for the right word for this – but it does seem to me that for each of us there is a drive for meaning in the universe. For some, this will take the form of a spiritual search, while others will seek a humanist response and look to the world of science for their answers. Each one of us recognises that we are a very small part of a very large universe – a tiny piece of stardust in a galaxy of stars. We can choose to recognise our place in that universe – to choose (as Einstein suggested) that the universe is a friendly place or we can decide that we are simply machines, alone in the vastness. Each is a spiritual response, by the way – for our spirituality and understanding of the metaphysics of life is an open choice.

Exercises and dreaming

Take some time out and look at each one of the human needs here. How are you seeking to meet each of them? Is there one that needs attention, where you’re not feeling fulfilled, where that need is simply not being met? Is there one of them that you are in thrall to – where that need is causing you problems, or where you are seeking to meet that need in a way that does not truly serve you?

And do you need to step into the space offered by higher drives – to yield to the need to learn and grow, to contribute, and to discover meaning and purpose?

Next time

So, we’ve taken time out to look at what motivates us on our journey through life. Each of us will be motivated differently, by the way – there is no ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ here. But the next step is the first step into the real journey . . . and we begin with the Seeker – the Explorer.

Until next time – enjoy the journey!


Find out more at www.timhodgson.org



PS – If you missed any of the preceding parts of the programme – then catch up here: PREVIOUS CHAPTERS

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