What motivates someone to run a marathon, to go to university or even to become Prime Minister? These are not simple questions to answer, as there is no basic physiological need driving these behaviours. But there are many factors that motivate us to achieve, which vary with each individual. .
In 1938 Henry Murray defined achievement motivation as the need for success, for doing better than others and mastering challenging tasks. We all have achievement motivation, as we all want to succeed at something, whether it is to be the best athlete in the world or to be a good mother. The individual assesses the importance of a goal, and therefore the motivation to achieve the goal. .
However, in general, some people have a greater need to achieve than others. We"ll now do a little class survey to see how great your need to achieve is. So if we have a ring toss game and each of you will have to try and throw 5 rings onto the stand and there is no prize for getting them on. But you have 3 options, so think which one you would choose. You can either stand 1 metre, 3 metres or 10 metres in front of the game to throw your rings? Who would stand 1 metre? 3 metres? 10 metres? Well, those who said 3 metres have the greatest need to achieve because if standing 1 metre away you have extremely high chances of succeeding at the task but the sense of achievement you feel will be fairly low because the task was so easy. If you are playing from 10 metres if you do succeed, the feeling of achievement will be great but it is very unlikely you will achieve your goals because the task is so difficult. If you are playing from 3 metres the task is still challenging but the chances of succeeding are still quite good. The need for achievement is highest in these people as they pursue tasks which will them allow them to succeed at the task and feel a significant level of achievement. .
Some characteristics of people with a high need for achievement are that they prefer moderately difficult tasks, are attracted to careers with competition and the opportunity to excel, chose tasks with a clear outcome and prefer being personally responsible for tasks.