Motivation is the experience of desire or aversion (you want something, or want to avoid or escape something). As such, motivation has both an objective aspect (a goal or thing you aspire to) and an internal or subjective aspect (it is you that wants the thing or wants it to go away).
At minimum, motivation requires the biological substrate for physical sensations of pleasure and pain; animals can thus want or disdain specific objects based on sense perception and experience. Motivation goes on to include the capacity to form concepts and to reason, which allows humans to be able to surpass this minimum state, with a much greater possible range of desires and aversions. This much greater range is supported by the ability to choose one’s own goals and values, combined with “time horizons” for value achievement that can perhaps encompass years, decades, or longer, and the ability to re-experience past events. Some models treat as important the distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, and motivation is an important topic in work, organizational psychology, administrative organization, management, as well as education.
The definition of motivation as experienced desires and aversions highlights the association of motivation with emotion. It is believed that emotions are automatic appraisals based on subconsciously stored values and beliefs about the object. To the extent that distinct emotions relate to specific subconscious appraisals (e.g., anger—injustice; guilt—violation of a moral standard; sadness—loss of a value; pride—the achievement of a moral ideal; love—valuing an object or person; joy—the attainment of an important value; envy—wanting the attainments of another, admiration—valuing the attainments of another, etc.), motivation theory involves specifying “content theories”—values that people find motivating—along with mechanisms by which they might attain these values (mastery, setting challenging goals, attending to required tasks, persistence, etc).
Changing motivation—either one’s own or that of others (e.g., employees)—is another focus of motivation research (for example, altering how you choose to act on your emotions and re-programming them by modifying one’s beliefs and values).