Forum Exercise: What Motivates Us

Listening to the lifelines presented at a Forum orientation, one is struck both by the differences – and similarities – in our lives so far. In this exercise, we explore what our individual histories suggest about our different fundamental motivations.

Steps in the exercise:

  1. (Optional before the meeting) Ask members to think in advance about why people do things important to them and what are important drivers for how you live your life today.
  2. The moderator or a member of the Forum facilitates a discussion, identifying possible “motivations” that could drive how we and others live and make choices in our lives. (See the list below of possible “Seeking Motivations” and “Constraining Motivations” which the Forum can use to jumpstart its discussion.)
  3. One member of the Forum serves as the focal point/presenter, discussing their motivations and how that relates to their life so far.
  4. Other members take turns sharing what they believe have been their motivations and how they are reflected in their life so far.

Possible motivations

We may be seeking…

  • Autonomy – Be My Own Boss/Work Alone
  • Lifestyle Freedom (defined as time to pursue other important activities)
  • Altruism – Feeling I am Giving
  • A Supportive Family
  • Be the Boss
  • Affiliation – Part of a Team/Community
  • Directing/Managing People
  • Create and Raise My Children
  • Working/Being with Other People
  • Power & Influence
  • Intellectual Challenge/Stimulation
  • Want to be a Star
  • Creating Something New
  • Security
  • Support My Spouse
  • Financial Gain
  • Want to Keep Doing Different Things
  • Positioning for Big Thing Later
  • Doing Something Important
  • Prestige
  • Want to Win
  • Parents’ Expectations

We may be constrained by…

  • Risk Aversion
  • Shame of Who We Are
  • Fear of Loosing
  • Wanting to Work/Be Alone
  • Fear of Rejection by Others
  • Family/Community Expectations

Adapted from an exercise suggested by
Rick Williams, Member
Harvard Business School Club of Boston Alumni Forum

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