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Thursday, January 20, 2011

T3 - Character Motivations, Part 3

This week we're covering the Need for Achievement (N-Ach), the third motivating need as identified by psychologist David McClelland. If you missed the Need for Power or the Need for Affiliation, click on the names to read the previous posts.

People with High N-Ach want to excel at what they do and succeed at what they plan. They will go-go-go until they reach the top. They are driven by the challenge of success and the fear of failure. They want to win, master skill sets, be in control, and set new records. They want to "boldly go where no one had gone before."

They don't need praise or recognition of a job well done. Most likely they prefer to work alone or with other high N-Ach people, with a high degree of independence. (They absolutely do not like micromanagers!)

They need constant, specific feedback for them to judge where they are in their progress of meeting their own goals. This feedback ultimately should include advancing up the corporate ladder, with appropriate raises and bonuses. But let me be clear: it's not about the money. It's the achievement of making more money, where the money becomes a symbol of their progress.

They usually set realistic goals that are challenging and always--always--taking them in a forward direction. They are a big believer in calculated risks, preferring neither low-risk situations or high-risk situations. Here's why: a low-risk situation where success is easily achieved is not genuine achievement. If anyone could do it, that would nullify their sense of gain. A high-risk situation could mean success is more a game of chance (low internal locus of control) than the result of the N-Ach's own effort (high internal locus of control). It also carries a chance of failure, which N-Ach's avoid at all costs.

They might have too high of expectations of others, expecting them to be high N-Ach, as well, which could be problematic for them. They might think of people with low N-Ach as being slackers, content to get by with the bare minimum, or reckless cavaliers, choosing high-risk situations where failure would be not only unembarrassing, but also expected.

People with high N-Ach might have parents who encouraged independence in childhood and gave out praise and rewards for success. Positive feelings were associated with achievement (as well as the reverse), so that might help you with backstories.

Next week I'll wrap up this series with some suggestions of how you might best be able to determine what your character's deepest motivating factor is, and how to slam them up against their unstoppable force to create great tension in your novels!

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Raquel Byrnes said...

Nice to know theres an actual diagnosis for what drove Captain Kirk. =)

Kidding aside, I'd like to send you a character sketch but don't have outlook. Your email won't appear.

Edge of Your Seat Romance

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

hey raquel. my email is charactertherapist (at) hotmail (dot) com. i'll be looking forward to it....again, if i'm not mistaken. :)

Raquel Byrnes said...

Cool and yes, I return to the expert. =)

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.