Be on the level...

Levels of Development Helps

Understand Motivation

I created The Levels of Development (originally, the Hierarchy of Social Development) to help people of all ages understand the difference between external motivation and internal motivation. Technically all motivation is internal, but often external factors also prompt us to take action. This is the case for both adults and children. However, Knowing the reason that we do something is important for decision making, acting responsibly, and also reducing stress. 

So let’s quickly review The Levels of Development. As with any hierarchy of levels, the most advanced or highest level is placed at the top.

The two higher levels deal with MOTIVATION.

LEVEL D – Democracy (highest level)

Develops self-discipline

Demonstrates initiative

Displays responsibility

Does good because it is the right thing to do

The motivation is INTERNAL.


LEVEL C – Cooperation/Conformity





The motivation is EXTERNAL.


The two lower levels refer to BEHAVIOR and are NOT acceptable.

LEVEL B – Bullying/Bossing

Bosses others

Bothers others

Bullies others

Breaks laws and makes own standards

Must be bossed to behave


LEVEL A – Anarchy (lowest level)

Absence of order

Aimless and chaotic

Absence of government

This level is characterized by chaos, being out of control, or unsafe.

The Difference Between Level C and D

At this point, a common question is “What is the difference between Level C and D? They both seems like good ways to operate.” Generally, they are and are usually both necessary ways to live in civilized societies.

But there are exceptions. When someone influences others to do some mischief or irresponsible act, a “herd” mentality is in play. You can witness this today in many societies around the world by the destructive activities of mobs.

Level C is expected behavior. Level D is voluntary behavior. In other words, the feeling you get when operating on each level is very different. Here is an exercise to help illustrate my point.

Read the two scenarios and then reflect on how you FEEL after each.

Scenario one:
You walk into a meeting room and see a chair is on its side. I tell you to pick it up and place it under the table. You do it. But how did you FEEL after being told to do the task?

Scenario two:
You walk into a meeting room and see a chair is on its side. My back is to you as I am writing something on the whiteboard. You see the chair on its side and take the INITIATIVE to pick it up and place it under the table where it belongs. Now, how did you FEEL after taking the initiative to be responsible?

Tip: People will never get the feeling of satisfaction from Level C (cooperation/obedience—first scenario) that they will get from the second scenario, Level D (Democracy, which is inseparable from being responsible.)

So use the Levels of Development to understand and share the difference between internal and external motivation.

The good feelings emanating from Level D motivation—taking the initiative to do the right thing just because it is the righting to do—will always be more satisfying than motivation at Level C.

Strive to act on Level D and model that behavior for others. The poem illustrates the point to the young.

Reach Out to Dr. Marvin Marshall:



Learn More:

Google Dr. Marvin Marshall