Two Factor Theory: An Approach to Life Satisfaction

During my conversations, a subject I often need to address is overall life satisfaction. Having more possessions or luxury in life is supposed to bring satisfaction; but in fact, they often reduce life satisfaction instead.

In this article, I will explain this phenomenon with the help of Herzberg’s “Two Factor Theory”, and discuss why you would want to have motivators for a balanced life satisfaction.

Two Factor Theory

In the academic world of motivation, Herzberg came up with a theory called “Two Factor Theory”. According to his approach; a workplace has two sets of factors.

Hygiene factors cover the materialistic elements; such as job security, salary, benefits, laptop quality, vacations, etc. Those factors can carry an employee from the point of dissatisfaction to a neutral point, but they won’t really satisfy and motivate.

Motivators cover internal factors; such as recognition, responsibility, meaningfulness, decisiveness, initiative, sense of importance, etc. Those factors can carry an employee from the neutral point to the point of satisfaction and motivation.

Every work position will fulfill a certain degree of hygiene factors & motivators. Some positions will bring high hygiene + high motivation, which is the ideal situation. Some will bring high hygiene + low motivation, where employees will have few complaints but no motivation. Some will bring low hygiene + high motivation, where employees will be engaged but will complain a lot. Some will bring low hygiene + low motivation, where employees will seek their way out of the company.

The basic idea is; hygiene factors won’t satisfy and motivate. Motivators do. But motivators won’t work if your hygiene factors lack dramatically.

Implementation To Life

Now, let’s project this idea to our lives.

Life, in general, has hygiene factors as well. Car brands, smartphone, pretty clothes, physical appearance, a house, restaurants, luxury vacations, fashion hair styles are all hygiene factors. Projecting Herzberg’s idea, those factors can carry you from the point of life dissatisfaction to a neutral point, but they won’t really satisfy and motivate.

On the other hand, life has motivators as well. Good health, clean conscience, usefulness, selflessness, success, personal development, helping others are some of the significant motivators in life. Projecting Herzberg’s idea, those factors can carry you from the neutral point to the point of life satisfaction.

This idea leans toward Maslow. If you dramatically lack hygiene factors, you would be disssatisfied with life. If you decently fulfill hygiene factors, you come to a neutral point but you aren’t satisfied. When you add up motivators on top of decent hygiene factors, you will be satisfied with life.

Therefore, fulfillment of hygiene factors is a prerequisite for satisfaction, but it is only the first step to bring you to point zero. Motivators will add up satisfaction.

Balancing Factors

Many people share a common illusion: “If I boost my hygiene factors as much as possible, my satisfaction will maximize”. However; this is often not the case.

To a certain degree, hygiene factors correspond to needs. After that point, they start corresponding to desires. Like all kinds of desires, the happiness provided by excess hygiene factors is temporary; and you need to possess more and more to feel the same level of happiness.

In other words, boosting hygiene factors makes it harder to enjoy anything; and gives no real satisfaction at all. That might be a reason why some people unsuccessfully seek pleasure in luxury possessions, high fashion, aesthetic enhancements, drugs, adrenaline sports, alcohol, peculiar sexual relations, etc. In fact, this is an infinite loop.

The way out of this loop is to introduce motivators into your life.

Do you keep improving yourself over the course of your life? How many people did you help improve in the last year? What do you do to contribute to the society and be a useful member of the world? What is the latest thing you learned from your mistakes? How much effort do you put into your clean conscience? Do you keep learning? Have you found your domains of success?

Motivators will vary from person to person; but one thing remains common: They are not external factors; instead, they are internal compensations. When you discover and place motivators on top of your hygiene factors, life satisfaction will follow.

The balance point between hygiene factors and motivators is defined by the boundary between your needs and desires.

Ideally; hygenie factors should fulfill your needs, and the remaining resources (such as time) can be allocated to motivators. If hygenie factors leak towards your desires, life imbalances might emerge.

Personal Example

In my life; I fulfill my hygenie factors using the money I make from SAP software architecture. I limit the quantity of items I possess; whenever I buy something new, I definitely give something else away – leading me to Possessional Minimalism . If I make a relatively expanse purchase, it is probably due to a quality factor I “need” – not something shallow that I “want”. This way, I intend to keep the hygenie factors at bay without leaking towards desires. I also try my best to stay within my budget by constantly asking Is That Too Expensive?

In terms of motivators, I write books and articles to share my knowledge on areas of my expertise. I also teach occasionally. Personal development via research and yoga is another central aspect of my life. Overall; I feel like I’m improving my being constantly, and helping others grow meanwhile.

Those are small highlights from my own life. I’m sure everyone can find or build their own.

Conclusion

As in many other subjects, “balance” is the key concept of the two factors. If you can’t fulfill your basic needs, you can’t really get any satisfaction from motivators; but  without any motivators, hygiene factors won’t satisfy you either.

Everyone is unique, and everyone can find a personal balance point of two factors.

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3 thoughts on “Two Factor Theory: An Approach to Life Satisfaction

  1. Possessional Minimalism – Dr. Kerem Koseoglu

  2. Is That Too Expensive? – Dr. Kerem Koseoglu

  3. Is Fodera Too Expensive? – Dr. Kerem Koseoglu

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