I love learning; what motivates me? Exploring 8 core drives

I’m exploring what motivates learning, for me, looking at the eight core drives (CD) of motivation of the Octalysis framework

It feels like really good timing to be reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari at the same time as I’m on my Octalysis Prime learning journey. Because Sapiens looks at what motivates humans too, from an evolutionary perspective.

In the middle of the night, last night, I started studying the Octalysis framework, because I absolutely had to know what the other three Core Drives are that I hadn’t learned yet, and how they all fit together. When I first encountered this framework it felt like I would never be able to remember all the elements and where they sit, but now I do. Hurray!

8 Core Drives of motivation (Octalysis)

  1. Epic meaning & calling
  2. Development & accomplishment
  3. Empowerment of creativity & feedback
  4. Ownership & possession
  5. Social influence & relatedness
  6. Scarcity & impatience
  7. Unpredictability & curiosity
  8. Loss & avoidance

What motivates learning for me?

Considering these motivators in the early hours, I started wondering about what motivates me to study each of the 3 courses I’m on. Since it was night, I recorded some quick audio to remind myself of the scattered thoughts I had, and then went back to sleep.

My usual motivations for learning

My first thoughts were that the main things motivating me with learning are:

  • CD 2: Development & accomplishment
  • CD 3: Empowerment of creativity & feedback
  • CD 7: Unpredictability & curiosity
  • CD 5: Social influence & relatedness

Overall, accomplishment and development are big motivators (CD 2), but on their own that’s not enough.

I think it’s interesting, because ever since I first learned about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation I’ve understood that I’m not very motivated by extrinsic motivation. Of this list of 4 core drives, Development & Accomplishment and is the only extrinsic motivator and yet simultaneously it’s hugely motivating for me. I’m looking forward to learning more about it, because actually I was surprised to learn it’s extrinsic. It feels like an internal motivator for me, and I wonder if that’s socialisation. (I definitely enjoy the praise that often comes with being good at things or getting better at things, and I know that part is extrinsic…)

When I explored character strengths last year, I learned that my signature strength is curiosity, closely followed by love of learning. I feel that looking at the core drives is helping me to get a better understanding of why these are strengths for me.

What’s motivating learning with my current courses?


  • CD 1: Epic meaning & Calling
    • For all of the courses together, but for Amplify in particular because it’s about creativity and I’m a creative. I’m doing what I’m ‘meant’ to do


  • CD 1: Epic meaning & Calling
    • Entrepreneurship feels like a calling, and Earnable is helping me to fulfil that. Yay!
  • CD 8: Loss & Avoidance + CD 6: Scarcity & Impatience
    • What got me to sign up at the last moment was the deadline expiring, and then being offered a last change to sign up. So, a combination of Fear of Missing Out (CD8) and Scarcity (CD6)

Octalysis Prime

  • CD 6: Scarcity & Impatience + CD 8: Loss & Avoidance
    • Similarly to Earnable, what got me to sign up was not wanting to miss out on a special offer, in this case it was being invited to sign up for $1 because of the result I got when I did a quiz. (Now that I think about it, the last chance to sign up offer with Earnable was after I did a quiz too.)
    • Also, it felt like not the right time to sign up – already doing 2 courses – but I was impatient to get started, so I did anyway
    • I could feel that I was ‘being gamed’ but it still worked

ALL of the above

  • CD 1: Epic meaning & Calling
    • When I’m synthesising stuff and smashing things together to make new things, and increase my understanding, there’s an element of calling
    • I feel called to learn in order to share what I synthesise
    • Like, I’m a learner, that’s who I am, I’m driven by curiosity.
    • Learning more helps me to help other people
    • Getting better and more effective at studying helps me to help other people (CD1 + CD2 + CD5)
  • CD 2: Development & accomplishment
    • Progress in learning just means a lot to me
  • CD 3: Empowerment of creativity & feedback
    • Something about synthesising what I’m learning, and testing out the usefulness of what I learn in different contexts
  • CD 7: Unpredictability & curiosity
    • I need a lot of variety in my life, I always have. I think this is one reason I enjoyed school so much: Loads of subjects, different teachers with different styles.
  • CD 5: Social influence & relatedness
    • When social learning is present, it helps me so much
    • I’m craving more social connection with all of these courses
    • I know that social learning is important to me, and I know that often what’s helpful for me is synchronous connections, not async, for example:
      • I find the weekly live calls for Amplify so valuable.
      • Almost didn’t sign up for Earnable because live calls weren’t offered. It felt like a huge risk to sign up for something so asynchronous. The forums feel overwhelming.
      • I was delighted to learn that Octalysis Prime has regular live calls. They currently clash with Amplify’s calls, which is a shame, but also means I’m no longer dreading Amplify calls ending, because I’ll be able to just switch to the Octalysis calls. 😀 also, it took me a couple of weeks to join the Slack
    • Why do forums and Slack feel so unnatural for me?
      • The exception is that I love Slack at workplaces when I’m employed
      • I think it’s the sync-ish nature of Slack in those environments that I like
      • Whereas Slack in other contexts is mostly async
      • The 3 month retreat I’m on has a forum, and that feels like a lot to engage with too, whereas I was go to live meditation calls roughly 3 hours per week and that feels great
      • Might explore this further in a future post

What next?

I wonder if there’s black hat stuff I can do that will help me to get stuff done. Black hat core drives are ones that drive urgency, which is great in the shrt-term; but they don’t feel good, so not good for long-term motivation:

  • CD 6: Scarcity & Impatience
  • CD 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity
  • CD 8: Loss & Avoidance

Soundtrack for blogging

Pure nostalgia, love it.

Storytime to wind down for sleep

I find it really helpful to listen to stories to sleep, these are some great ones.

Recently, and briefly, my bedtime routine was start winding down at 8 pm with a book or podcast, and sleep by 10 pm. That hasn’t been working out lately because I’m often blogging in the evening now. But, studying in the evening worked So Well last night. When I got sleepy, I went to sleep. Love studying as a wind down routine. Like, that’s win-win. (I’ve been wondering how to fit more studying into my schedule.) Yay!

I listened to all these already, sadly. Waiting for them to be less familiar before I listen again.
These are pretty much perfect for me right now
So much variety here. Some stories I love, some not so much. Many of these are way too long for winding down, so I prefer to listen to them in the daytime lately.