What Motivates You In Life? – Interview Question Answered

One of the most common interview questions you’ll face is, “What motivates you in life?” While it’s a pretty standard question, it’s important not to provide a generic answer.

Answering the question of what motivates you in life can be tricky, especially when you don’t have a defined purpose or goal. If you have several things that inspire you, figuring out which one to mention can also be challenging.

Today, I’ll be giving you various example answers to this question. You can use one of these examples or simply use them as inspiration.

If you use them, however, try to tweak them to your personal life story. One of the reasons interviewers ask this question is to see how your answer sets you apart from other candidates, so make it individual to you.

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Why Interviewers Ask This Question?

Why Interviewers Ask This Question?

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The question, “What motivates you in life?” is open-ended. Interviewers use open-ended questions to gain insight into each candidate.

An open-ended question doesn’t have a simple yes or no answer, nor is there any one specific correct answer. They require the candidate to be creative in their thoughts, speak from their hearts, and improvise.

Thus, open-ended questions are harder to prepare for, as you never know what your potential employer will ask. You also can’t memorize the answer to the question like you could with a technical question.

However, some open-ended questions are pretty standard, and you can expect the vast majority of interviewers to ask them or variations of them. For example, other than “What motivates you in life?”, your interviewer might ask:

  • What inspires you?
  • Where do you see yourself in the future?
  • What is your driving force?
  • What brings you here?
  • How would you describe yourself?

Today, though, we’ll focus primarily on the question of what motivates you. A similar question is, “What inspires you?” – it’s basically the same question.

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Tips for Answering This Question

Tips for Answering This Question

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Because it’s an open-ended question, we’ll start with some tips on answering the question by figuring out what your interviewer wants to hear. While we will also provide some examples later, these tips will help you tremendously.

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Discover Your Motivation

Discover Your Motivation

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You can’t answer this question without knowing what truly motivates you. Many people don’t actually know the answer to this question, so some soul-searching may be in order.

What drives you? Which experiences in your life shaped you?

What vision do you have for yourself, and what are you doing to get there? If you’re applying to a law firm that deals in criminal law, your motivation might be to help defend the wrongfully accused.

I recommend taking a pen and paper and sitting down for some quiet time to figure out what gives you your drive in life and what pushes you to do the things you do.

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Talk About Why You Chose the Industry

It’s a good idea to mention why you chose your specific industry. For example, if it’s teaching, you can talk about wanting to give back to the community and help children.

If it’s a job at a gym, whether as a personal trainer or receptionist, discuss your passion for fitness.

The interviewer wants to see that you have a passion for the industry, which means you will work hard, educate yourself, and bring your very best to the company.

Discuss Your Respect and Admiration for the Company

Discuss Your Respect and Admiration for the Company

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You should also tie that into why you chose that specific company to apply to. Let’s go back to the case of a teacher applying for a job at a school, because there are many lessons to draw from it.

You might say that you love the school’s approach to education and how it gives each student individualized attention. Perhaps the extracurricular activities are great, or maybe the school is well-known for using innovative techniques and modern technology to help its students succeed.

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Mention Your Future Career Plans

It’s also a good idea to tie all of the above into your career plans, but make sure you do so in such a way that makes it clear the company will benefit as well.

For example, you might say that you’ve always been excited at the opportunity to create a new software product that will help clients in the industry if you are interviewing for the role of a software developer.

Discuss Experiences, Roles, and People Who Inspired You

A great way to provide a satisfactory answer to the question of what motivates you is to point to a specific event, experience, person, or previous job position that inspired you.

Again, let’s go back to the example of a teacher. Perhaps as a child, you had a teacher who helped you while you were struggling and was there to provide the support you needed.

The person in question could be a parent, relative, role model, mentor, or boss. It could be someone you don’t even know personally– perhaps it’s a famous celebrity, and you want to follow in their footsteps because you admire them so much.

You could also discuss a life experience that shaped you. For example, if you are interviewing for the position of personal trainer, you might discuss your own fitness journey and how it helped you.

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Talk About Wanting to Make a Difference

Talk About Wanting to Make a Difference

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The motivational force driving you to succeed shouldn’t be all about you. Instead, you should also talk about wanting to make a difference.

Whether you’re designing a product that will help customers or coming up with services and solutions to make people’s lives easier, mention how you want to make a difference in the world. If you are applying for a job in customer service, talk about wanting to ensure that customers feel listened to and find solutions to their problems.

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Be Honest

Be Honest

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Finally, be honest. Your interviewer will be able to tell if you are lying because there will be a crucial factor missing – passion.

Interviewers can tell when someone is regurgitating something they saw on some website, and they won’t like it. They have interviewed enough candidates to differentiate a passionate one from someone simply trying to get through the interview.

That’s why knowing what truly motivates you is so important. Otherwise, there’s no way to be honest in your response.

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Wrong Answers to This Question

While it’s true that there’s no specific one answer that is correct for this question, there are some answers that are just wrong. Before giving you some good examples of how to answer the question of what motivates you, let’s start with some ways not to answer it.



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The job in question might pay good money, and the cash you’ll earn might be a big part of what motivates you, but it’s probably not what your interviewer wants to hear. It’s a pretty shallow reason.

People who are only interested in money tend to take shortcuts to get cash with as little work as possible. They have no genuine passion for what they do and can just as quickly give up the job for another if they get a higher-paying opportunity.

Similarly, saying that you’re motivated by the company’s perks, bonuses, or promotional opportunities is a bad idea.

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Money 2

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Another poor reason to stay motivated is prestige. Perhaps the company you’re applying for a job at is well-known and respected in the industry, and working there will earn you the respect of others in the industry.

However, that won’t impress your interviewer. Someone only interested in prestige, like someone only interested in money, will take shortcuts.

They will let their ego get the better of them and make bad decisions that can affect the company poorly. A well-known firm, in particular, will be looking to weed out unmotivated candidates who only want the prestige that comes with a position there.

For example, if you’re interviewing at a prestigious law firm, don’t talk about how famous the law firm is and what going there will do for your career. You’re just showing them how this job is a stepping stone for you to advance your personal interests– it’s not a sign of someone who will contribute to the firm in any significant way.

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No Real Answer

No Real Answer

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Many people are unprepared for this answer because nothing genuinely motivates them in life. They simply cruise through life, taking things one day at a time, with no real plan or goals.

They might work hard, but they won’t give something their 100 percent simply because they don’t care enough to do so.

Typical non-answers might include:

  • “I’m in between jobs right now, so I really need something to keep me occupied.”
  • “I don’t have anything specific, but I’m a hard worker who always tries to deliver.”
  • “I am motivated by many things!”
  • “Life is a journey; I’m always happy and motivated.”

Those don’t really answer the question. The interviewer wants to see that you have life planned out and are not just floating down the river of life, seeing where the current takes you.

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Quick Ways to Answer, “What Motivates You?”

Here are some quick ways to answer the question of what motivates you in life. Use these phrases as bases that you can expound upon using your own words.

  • Achieving new goals
  • Learning new things
  • Helping others
  • Being innovative
  • Solving complex problems
  • Conquering my limits
  • Going out of my comfort zone
  • Working together with others toward a shared goal
  • Acquiring new skills

You should talk about things that make you happy and keep you going, even during tough days. The satisfaction of helping others or achieving the goals you have set for yourself may, for example, give you the motivation to push yourself when you’re not feeling it.

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Sample Answers to “What Motivates You?”

Here are some more thought-out answers to the question of what motivates you in life. Use these as inspiration for your own answers.

1. Personal Trainer/Martial Arts Teacher

Personal Trainer/Martial Arts Teacher

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“Fitness is now part and parcel of my life. However, it wasn’t always that way.

I used to get sick often, spending many days in bed, especially during the winter. I never had a healthy appetite, and I would look skinny and malnourished.

Furthermore, I also had frequent back problems that never seemed to go away, regardless of which mattress I used. It would make it harder for me to sleep at night, exacerbating my insomnia.

Although I tried yoga, meditation, herbal medicines, and vitamins, nothing seemed to help. One day, my friend recommended I start going to the gym.

While I often took walks for exercise, I never really pushed myself to do strenuous cardio, lift weights, or do martial arts. So, when my friend suggested I join him for a gym session, I was skeptical.

I tried it once, and I was hooked. Exercising gave me energy and helped heal my chronic fatigue.

Lifting weights and doing back exercises helped heal my chronic back pain, and my appetite came back. I started gaining weight, and the times I had to spend the day in bed became less and less frequent.

My confidence improved as well, together with my physique. I started being more assertive, and I felt more comfortable going out and meeting people in social situations that would previously intimidate me.

Knowing how positively working out has changed my life has motivated me to help others turn their own lives around. Whether they are looking to gain more confidence, feel more attractive to members of the opposite sex, or simply be healthier and feel better, I want to help them.

Working out makes me happy, and it has helped me get through the most challenging times of my life, such as my most recent breakup. I would never trade gym life for anything in the world.”

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Personal Trainer 2

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2. Occupational Therapist for Children With Special Needs

Occupational Therapist for Children With Special Needs

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If you’re interviewing for a position involving children with disabilities or special needs, talk about the things that caused you to get into this field.

“My younger sister has been paralyzed since she was a baby. She also has learning disabilities.

As I was growing up, taking care of her was a big part of my life. My parents were my role models in this regard, never tiring of spending money and effort on ensuring she could live the best life possible.

I chose this field because I wanted to give other kids the opportunity to enjoy life as my younger sister did. I know that she was lucky to have such a wonderful family, and not everyone is as fortunate as her, but I want to make a difference in as many lives as possible.”

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3. Cybersecurity Professional

Cybersecurity Professional

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“Computers have always fascinated me. Ever since I was a kid, I have been curious about computers, how they worked, and how they exchanged data with other computers over the internet.

Even when I was a kid, I was a “computer geek.” I would help my parents when they experienced technical issues, and I became pretty good at it.

Eventually, I decided to study cybersecurity. Fighting cybercrime has also been a pet peeve of mine, and I was curious how hackers managed to get into supposedly secure systems.

As I continued my studies in cybersecurity, I realized just how vulnerable most businesses are to attacks, including devastating ransomware attacks.

Ever since then, I’ve dedicated myself to finding security flaws and fixing them. I’ve contributed to many bug bounty programs, but I also really enjoy finding security faults for private businesses, rectifying them, and securing their systems.

I know what a big difference it makes in the lives of many people. Many of your clients are people who struggle to make ends meet, and a hacker getting hold of their credit card details could easily ruin them financially.

I love waking up every day knowing I am helping people protect their financial assets and stay safe from malicious hackers.”

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4. Librarian


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“I learned to read at a young age, and I never stopped. Literature is my life; when I’m out and about, I listen to audiobooks or read ebooks on my phone.

As a child, reading was a way for me to escape reality and lose myself in another world, whether I was reading a nonfiction biography or a novel. I know how critical reading is for the development of young minds, and I also want to make sure books are available to young students and adults alike.

That’s why I’ve decided to work in a library. Not only will it give me ample opportunity to read more books, but I will also be helping others take out books and enrich their knowledge.

It’s a small way of saying thank you to the libraries I frequented when I was younger and giving back to the community.”

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5. Marketing Strategist

Marketing Strategist

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“Human psychology and the role it plays in marketing has always fascinated me. The way we respond to advertisements and how advertisers know which buttons to press, so to speak, has always been something that intrigued me.

Learning how to figure out what people want and entice them is something I really enjoy. I love optimizing campaigns by touching upon acute pain and pleasure points to improve ROI.

Besides, I love helping small businesses get more out of their money. I enjoy growing a small business into a larger one using targeted marketing techniques.

I know how much of a difference it makes in the lives of small business owners. Furthermore, I enjoy challenging myself to see just how high I can take a company’s ROI.”

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Answers to Specific Questions Regarding Motivation

I thought it would also be a good idea to give sample answers to more specific questions an interviewer might ask you, such as, “What motivates you to apply for this position?”

What Motivates You to Apply for This Position?

“When I was reading your job listing, I noticed that you mentioned how important your company culture is. Yes, I’m searching for a job, but more than that, I’m searching for a community of like-minded people who can help each other grow.

I think your company is perfect for that. From everything I’ve seen on your website, LinkedIn, and YouTube channel, I believe this is the best place for me. “

What Motivates You to Work Hard?

“I’ve always been a workaholic. While I understand the importance of taking time off to prevent burnout, I can’t imagine myself not working for more than one or two days at a time.

I love having a sense of duty. I need something to accomplish to feel motivated about the day.

Even if I’m not working on a particular project, I’ll create a to-do list of tasks that I must complete that day. I’m very organized in my schedule, as I love being productive and making the most out of each minute.”

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What Motivates You to Succeed in Life?

What Motivates You to Succeed in Life?

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“I love mastering new things. Most of all, I love mastering myself, and I do that by pushing myself to overcome self-imposed limitations.

Recognizing that most people are capable of a lot more than they think they are has changed the way I view life. When I face new challenges and opportunities, I don’t hesitate and wonder whether I can do them.

Instead, I jump right in. Granted, I’m not always successful in every venture I take on – nobody is.

However, I feel satisfied knowing I have given it my best.”

Here’s an alternative answer:

“Self-growth is one of the most important things to me. There’s nothing I hate more than being stagnant.

I know many people are content to do the same thing every day for years on end, but that’s not me. My mind will always be coming up with innovative and new solutions to try.”

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Wrapping It Up

One of the most indispensable things to do when answering this question is to talk with excitement and passion. If something truly motivates and excites you, it will show in the way you talk about it.

Once you know what motivates you, you will enjoy speaking about it, so don’t feel the need to stick to a script.

About Author

Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.