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Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation – Why We Do What We Do

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation - Morning Motivation

This article looks at 2 types of motivation - intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation and suggests 3 ways to develop more intrinsic motivation in your life.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation: Why Do We Do What We Do?

This question puzzles many people. The answer is unique to everyone but in general, we do something because we are motivated to do it, and in turn this motivation is triggered by an appeal to our values.

Additionally, there are two modes or ways that we are motivated to do something.

The first is 'extrinsic' motivation, in that the motivation is triggered from a source outside of the individual. The second is 'intrinsic' motivation, or something inside the individual.

Extrinsic motivation is when you do something to receive a reward or to avoid punishment. For example, a boy wants to make the football team so he can be popular and get closer to the cheerleaders. He may or may not like to play football!

Intrinsic motivation is when doing an activity is rewarding in and of itself. A boy wants to be on the football team because he loves to play football. Or he’s fascinated with the idea of learning the game. The reward is internal.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation - Boy Playing Soccer

Consider some more examples:

  1. Many people don’t go to work because they love their job (intrinsic). They go because they receive money for it (extrinsic).
  2. A girl does her chores because she wants to receive a reward or to avoid punishment. (extrinsic)
  3. Some people start a business because the challenge excites them (intrinsic)

    Others dislike the idea of starting a business, but the potential financial reward is intriguing enough for them to do it? (extrinsic)
  4. A man truly enjoys spending time with his partner (intrinsic), or is the primary reward the financial security, companionship, and the opportunity to have children (extrinsic)?
  5. Do you stay with your partner for love (intrinsic), or because the consequences of leaving would be too difficult (extrinsic)?
  6. Do you struggle to accomplish anything without deadlines (extrinsic)?

    Or, do you love the feeling of getting your work done and can’t stop yourself from doing it as soon as possible (intrinsic)?

We all have intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

Because intrinsic motivation relies directly on how you honestly feel about something, this type of motivation is a more effective way of creating long-term happiness.

Here are 3 ways to develop more intrinsic motivation in your day-to-day life.

  1. Make a list of the things you love to do. If your doctor tells you that you need more exercise, there are many different types of exercise you can do.

    You could play tennis, run, swim, lift weights, or play soccer. If one of those activities is very enjoyable to you, it only makes sense to choose that activity.

    • Whenever you need to do something, consider the most enjoyable way to accomplish it.
      When you can find something you enjoy, it will be hard to stop yourself from doing it.
  2. Learn how to reward yourself. A reward can be as simple as pumping your fist in the air and congratulating yourself. Avoid using an external reward system if possible.
    • Imagine that you want to do 25 pushups each morning.

      After completing your pushups, you jump up in the air and tell yourself how awesome you are.

      In time, that simple reward can make pushups enjoyable and attractive. This is also how habits can be created.
  3. Understand WHY you are doing something. Even the smallest of tasks can be linked to a greater purpose.

    Playing piano scales might seem mundane, but if you believe they are an integral part of learning to master the piano, they seem a lot more meaningful.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation: It Starts With 'Why'

Most people can’t fathom why a millionaire or billionaire would continue to work. That’s because most people work only to make money.

Take the money away and they’d quickly stop going to work. Give them enough money that they don’t need any more, and they’ll quit.

However, the billionaire becomes a billionaire because he loves building and creating. His main motivation is intrinsic. The money is secondary. That’s why he never stops working.

Intrinsic motivation will keep you coming back for more. Extrinsic motivation is less reliable.

When the external reward vanishes or becomes less enticing, you’ll stop repeating that behavior.

Find things you love to do, and then do them. Use your natural interests to your advantage and greater happiness will be the result.

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