- Acceptance, the need for approval
- Curiosity, the need to learn
- Eating, the need for food
- Family, the need to raise children
- Honor, the need to be loyal to the traditional values of one's clan/ethnic group
- Idealism, the need for social justice
- Independence, the need for individuality
- Order, the need for organized, stable, predictable environments
- Physical activity, the need for exercise
- Power, the need for influence of will
- Romance, the need for sex and for beauty
- Saving, the need to collect
- Social contact, the need for friends (peer relationships)
- Social status, the need for social standing/importance
- Tranquility, the need to be safe
- Vengeance, the need to strike back and to compete
So to motivate someone, you need to tap into one of their existing desires, right? Yes, but think about what this implies...
No two people experience each desire with the same intensity. Some people have a burning desire for power or social status, for example, and other people don't. That difference is due to small genetic variations among us, that wire our brains differently. While it's true that the role of the higher brain is to reduce the dissonance between our competing desires - for example, vengeance vs. tranquility - it doesn't change the fact that individuals have different underlying set-levels and thresholds for each desire.
To motivate someone, you need to tailor your motivational strategy to suit the person - in other words, tailor it to their unique genes.
If you put it this way, people often recoil at the implications. We are loath to accept the fact that people innately differ on average. This affronts our sense of free will and equality. So we make up false explanations, and simply cover it up. Desires come and go, interacting with each other, so it can't be genetic! And since the level of one desire may alter the level of another desire (for example, if you desire acceptance by a group that only accepts members with intellectual curiousity, you might fake the latter to receive the former) doesn't that demonstrate that desires are not destiny?
Sorry. Innate differences do exist, despite our rationalizations. Anyone who advocates that it's best to tailor motivational strategies to individuals based on their unique desires is tacitly accepting this fact, and exploiting the innate difference.
No two people are motivated by the same things. There's a genetic inequality in society, that should be acknowledged and rectified, not covered up.