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Relationship Between Curiosity and Motivation

What motivates us? Learn more about the relationship between motivation and curiosity.

It is clear that survival is a key stimulant for curiosity and we’ve looked at how curiosity can change depending on age.

So what about motivation? What motivates us? And what is the correlation, if any, between motivation and curiosity? Assuming the two are connected, which happens first? Does motivation drive us to curiosity? Or does curiosity lead to motivation?

These are the types of questions I had to find answers to. Again, I was curious. For example, did my curiosity about the subject of curiosity motivate me to write this book? Or was I already motivated, and therefore became curious to learn more about the subject so I could write it?

An infographic showing the attributes of motivation and drive(Click to expand)

Let’s go back to the beginning.

Curiosity is described by behavioural scientists as a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning, as is evident from the observation of humans and other animals. Motivation is described by those same behavioral scientists as the reason for people’s actions, desires, and needs.

Motivation is why we do what we do. We can typically find motivation for taking a certain action or believing a certain way by filling in the blank: I do an action because_____. I exercise because I want to be healthy when I am older. I work at my current job because I need the benefits. A motive is what prompts us to act in a certain way, or at least to develop an inclination for a specific behavior.

Okay, so curiosity is the interest to learn more about a subject; motivation is the desire to do something with that information. From my own studies, from the scientific research, and from the stories of professionals and motivational speakers interviewed on my program, there’s agreement that..

Our motivation is driven by a combination of three factors:

  • Need: We need to sustain ourselves. We need to provide for ourselves and our families, and we need to have a place to live. Therefore, we are motivated.
  • Desire or want: We desire a certain type of house or car or a membership at the country club. We do not need these things, but we want them, so we are motivated.
  • Some missing element or void: We suffer some forms of shortcoming in our lives, whether mental, physical, or emotional. To varying degrees, we have a desire to overcome or attempt to mitigate those shortcomings. It’s that desire that motivates us.

Some individuals are motivated by the notion that something is missing in their lives. The most vivid examples can be found in individuals who have physical drawbacks. From blind musicians such as Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder to the extraordinary achievements of Helen Keller, there are millions of people whose motivation and curiosity have been enhanced by a void in their sensory abilities.

  • Robin Farmanfarmaian, was misdiagnosed with an autoimmune disease as a teenager. It resulted in countless hospitalisations and surgeries, not to mention the virtual loss of normalcy in her teen years. Her experience motivated her to become an expert in health care. This author, speaker, and serial entrepreneur was driven by the belief that technology can empower patients and create a positive impact in the health and medical fields.
  • Lance Collin Allred, grew to become a gangly near- seven-footer who was deaf. His deafness combined with his height motivated him to become the first legally deaf professional basketball player in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He later became a recognised inspirational speaker, author, and TEDx presenter with his talk “What Is Your Polygamy?”
  • Tanner Gers embarked on a similar path but for a very different reason. Tanner lost his sight at age twenty-one after losing control of his car in an auto accident. Since that day, despite being blind, Tanner graduated from college and became a 2011 Para Pan American gold medalist, 2012 U.S. Paralympic trials gold medalist, 2012 Paralympian, 2013 World Championship team member, two-time National Beep Baseball Association World Series Offensive MVP, and four-time Offensive All-Star. He is also a published author and motivational speaker.

These individuals are like many who have suffered similar mishaps or shortcomings, be they mental, emotional, or physical. Driven by those shortcomings, they illustrate the power of curiosity and motivation.


What motivates you?
Does our curiosity stimulate and provoke our drive and motivation? Or does our motivation and drive spur our curiosity?


Skinner B. Verbal behaviour. New York, NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts; 1957.

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Innovative Leadership: Developing Curiosity

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