Finding and Harnessing Your Individual Motivation

Hey! I’m so happy that you’re here, reading this post right now. In this world of 7.5 billion people, we’ve somehow crossed paths through this article. 

Actually, this likely didn’t happen by chance. You likely actively sought out this article, whether through searching our website on safari or clicking on the link in our Instagram bio. What is it that compelled you to read this article right now? 

Motivation. Oxford Languages defines it as “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.” Finding the motivation to complete certain tasks can sometimes be a more arduous experience than the actual task itself. The lack of motivation stands as a reluctant, stubborn boulder between the status quo and where we want to be. 

There are two general categories for types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Each can be found in different areas of a person’s life and causes different courses of actions in various people, but both are important to understand and observe in your life.

Extrinsic motivation

Trophies. Money. Good grades. Praise. 

These external rewards are what is commonly associated with extrinsic motivation. All of these examples are right, but the scope of extrinsic motivation actually extends beyond what it is commonly thought of as. Extrinsic motivation is ANY reason we do work aside from for the enjoyment of the work itself. You may be motivated to do work because of the results of it. However, this would be considered extrinsic motivation; it’s a common misconception I shared before pursuing further research. 

Intrinsic motivation

This would be something like reading for the simple pleasure you get from enjoying a good book. On the other hand, reading in hopes of expanding your knowledge or for a school assignment would be considered extrinsic motivation. Doing something simply for the enjoyment of doing the activity is considered intrinsic motivation. There is a natural desire to complete a task. 

Harnessing Your Own Motivation

You may be working towards many different goals right now. College applications, eating healthier, taking time to pause each day, getting more sleep, and so on. The motivation you naturally harness towards a goal or task is a useful indicator as to how you can maximize your motivation to work towards achieving that goal. 

If your motivation is extrinsic:

Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with extrinsic motivation. People tend to belittle themselves when they’re extrinsically motivated towards a goal, but we live in a competitive society- being extrinsically motivated, especially towards tasks we are pressured to do is a part of human nature. When intrinsic motivation isn’t present, extrinsic motivation allows you to get the job done. 

  1. Make your goal public/Don’t do it alone

Telling your goal to people essentially ties you to a promise to the world. A public promise will naturally compel you to work towards that goal. Whatever level of public you’re comfortable with is effective, whether that is posting to your entire social media platform, or simply conversing with one close friend. Especially if you’re extrinsically motivated by praise, receiving positive, sincere, feedback from others has been found to promote intrinsic motivation that may initially be lacking!

  1. Don’t exhaust yourself constantly seeking the prize

Some tasks and metrics are unwillingly pressed onto us and we have to pursue them despite lacking the intrinsic motivation to do so. In order to balance the extrinsic motivation that is pushing you in one activity, balance your time with activities you love to do in order to harbor your intrinsic motivation. If you’re extrinsically motivated to do cardio in order to lose weight, balance that with an activity you love, such as a relaxing cool-down stretch or a cool shower afterward. Rest is an essential part of reaching goals, and neglecting it both hinders your progress and removes a great source of motivation 

  1. Break your goals into steps, then reward yourself along the way

Breaking up a large task into manageable chunks can improve your confidence. As you work towards completing a task, reward yourself with prizes along the way to maintain motivation, whether that is taking short brain breaks or eating a yummy snack. 

A quick note: Be careful to not overuse extrinsic rewards, as overuse can diminish a person’s already existing intrinsic motivation. Researchers have coined this as the overjustification effect. In a 1973 study, children were split into reward and no reward groups and given felt-tip pens to play with. After being given the reward continuously, the reward group stopped wanting to play with the pens, while the group given no reward continued. 

If your motivation is intrinsic:

You’ve already got a headstart. Having a passion for what you’re doing will naturally push you towards achieving that goal. 

  1. Make your goal public (Sound familiar?)

Telling your goal to people essentially ties you to a promise to the world. A public promise will naturally compel you to work towards that goal. Receiving positive, sincere, feedback from others has been found to promote intrinsic motivation. That being said, receiving positive feedback for too many effortless tasks will decrease intrinsic motivation, so be sure to find a balance. 

  1. Understand your impact on others

Further, finding an understanding of the greater impact of your work on others can be a huge intrinsic motivator according to psychologist Angela Duckworth. In her book Grit, she explains that the notion that what you do has a positive effect on others aids in both perseverance and passion. Note that there is a difference between seeing your work benefit others and simply knowing that it does so. For example, a young musician thanking you for the inspiration your music gave them versus simply posting your songs on SoundCloud with the hopes that someone appreciates them. The former is extrinsic, and the latter is intrinsic. In this case, the latter has proved to be a more effective motivator to continuously pursue your passion and demonstrate grit.

The takeaway? Harness your maximum potential by employing both intrinsic and extrinsic potential in a delicate balance. You got this!

Works Cited:

Bernazzani, Sophia. “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: What’s the Difference?” HubSpot Blog, 10 Oct. 2017, blog.hubspot.com/marketing/intrinsic-and-extrinsic-motivation.

Burkus, David. “Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation at Work.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 11 Apr. 2020, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/creative-leadership/202004/extrinsic-vs-intrinsic-motivation-work.

Cherry, Kendra. “Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation: What’s the Difference?” Verywell Mind, 15 Jan. 2020, www.verywellmind.com/differences-between-extrinsic-and-intrinsic-motivation-2795384.

Duncan, Cath. “10 Things That Steal Our Motivation-and How to Get It Back.” Shine, Shine, 2018, advice.theshineapp.com/articles/10-things-that-steal-our-motivation-and-how-to-get-it-back/.

“What Is Extrinsic Motivation and Is It Effective?” Edited by Timothy J. Legg, Healthline, 18 Sept. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/extrinsic-motivation. 

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