I like being in the natural world and watching wildlife. Behaviour (human and animal) fascinates me. We can sometimes use animal characteristics to understand human behaviour. Here are four animals – and their behaviours – that illuminate our understanding of ourselves and others.

The Beaver Motivation – Stabiliser

Do you have strong sense of duty? Are you described by others as reliable and responsible? If so, you may have the Stabiliser motivation pattern. Your top motivator could be the need to belong to a group.

While we all share the need to belong, people with the Stabiliser motivation pattern are especially motivated by belonging. They have a strong drive to do their duty to the groups to which they belong.

The animal metaphor for this pattern is the beaver. They are hard-working animals who cut down vegetation to construct dams and build lodges for their families.

These characteristics of working hard to protect your family, to create firm foundations, acting to reduce risk and wanting to belong to a community, are typical of people with the Stabiliser motivation pattern. Is this you?

The Fox Motivation – Improviser

Do you like to be noticed and make an impact? Are you described by others as adaptable and lively? If so, you may have the Improviser motivation pattern. Your top motivator could be the need for freedom to act.

While we all share the need for freedom, people with the Improviser motivation pattern are especially motivated by autonomy. They have a strong drive to get impressive quick results.

The animal metaphor for this pattern is the fox. They are resourceful and adaptable, quick thinking and fast acting. They are very attuned to their environment, able to spot and take any opportunities that arise. They look sleek and well-groomed.

These characteristics represent the Improviser’s desire to have an impact and be impressive in the moment. Is this you?

The Owl Motivation – Theorist

Do you like to learn and be an expert? Are you described by others as analytical and innovative? If so, you may have the Theorist motivation pattern. Your top motivator could be the need for competence.

While we all share the need to be competent, people with the Theorist motivation pattern are especially motivated by competence. They have a strong drive to contribute to progress.

The animal metaphor for this pattern is the owl. They traditionally symbolise wisdom. Owls can turn their heads almost to 360 degrees and so are able to take in a wide perspective. They have excellent night vision and can pinpoint their prey and zoom in on them.

These characteristics of owls represent the ability of Theorists to take in the big picture and to home in on the salient points or principles, to get to the core of the topic and the most important points. Is this you?

The Dolphin Motivation – Catalyst

Do you like to make a difference for people? Are you described by others as imaginative and empathetic? If so, you may have the Catalyst motivation pattern. Your top motivator could be the need to fulfil potential.

While we all share the need to fulfil potential, people with the Catalyst motivation pattern are especially motivated by helping others to aspire. They have a strong drive for purpose and meaning.

The animal metaphor for this pattern is the dolphin. They are sociable and playful and have advanced forms of communication. They look after each other when one is injured, and they have also been known to help humans. Dolphins appear in Greek myths as a benevolent animal, a good omen for sailors.

These characteristics of dolphins represent the Catalysts’ desire to connect with others, to communicate and collaborate for the greater good and to show empathy towards others. Is this you?

So What?

Knowing your motivation means you can manage your life to do more of what energises you and less of what drains you. You can make choices about your life and career that fit with who you really are. Read more about the top motivators and their impact on your life here.

You can find detailed personalised tips in my book (Motivation: the Ultimate Guide) on what inspires you with a sense of purpose, and helps you persist and be resilient. Buy it now from Routledge with discount code MTCS25 for 25% off, valid until the end of June.