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What Is The Difference Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation And How Can You Use Them To Your Benefit?

How come that for some tasks we are so eager to work on, but for others we are almost unable to even get started? Well, in order for your brain to push you to do something, it will evaluate whether the reward is worth the effort.

Back before civilization existed, our ancestors were in a constant state of survival. Our brain was, and still is, hardwired to limit energy waste. So it is continuously doing a risk versus reward analysis. If there isn’t a substantial enough reward in the short term, you simply wouldn’t feel like doing that task.

Today we have coined this sensation of “not feeling like it” as a lack of motivation. Although in the field pf psychology the study of motivation is much broader and more complex than a mere sensation. We now distinguish between 2 types of motivation; intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.

So lets see what the main differences between them are!

What is Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic Motivation is our internal drive for wanting to put in effort to complete tasks. Whenever we are under the influence of intrinsic motivation, we are uninterested in outside benefits related to that task. Many of us do daily activities just for the fun of it without worrying about any future benefits that those activities might provide for us.

Typical examples of intrinsic motivators might be solving a crossword puzzle by yourself, or studying a subject that you are not enrolled in class for. Neither example necessarily provides a future benefit, so what is the reason that we put so much effort into these tasks? The simple reason is that you simply have some internal craving for these activities. They are pleasant to the soul and are in general a pleasant experience for the brain.

What is Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is our external drive for wanting to put effort into a certain task. It exists for the sole purpose of making the life of our future self better. Extrinsic motivation can drive us to do tasks that we have absolutely no interests in, as long as they provide some external reward when the work is done.

There are many examples of extrinsic motivation that you are probably familiar with. A classic example is studying hard for exams during your high school days. Most of us were uninterested in the courses we were studying for. Yet we put in a lot of work and effort to pass those exams. The main reason for this is that the degree we would get opened more doors for us. It allowed us to ensure we had a better life in the future. Hence the motivation we had to study for those exams was externally driven, therefore it was extrinsic motivation!

How Can We Benefit From These 2 Motivational Types?

3 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Intrinsic Motivation

1. Work On Tasks That Make An Impact On Others

Studies into motivation have actually shown that those individuals whose goals correlate with serving their community or having a direct impact on others, are powered moire by intrinsic motivation than by extrinsic motivation. These people claim that they are willing to put in the effort because they have a sense of personal meaning when they are working. On top of that, seeing the benefit of their work positively influence others and their communities caused an even bigger motivational boost!

It is clear that if you want intrinsic motivation to influence you more, you should try and find a way so that your goals, no matter how selfish, will positively influence others. This can be done by simply adapting your current goals.

Say you are an engineering student, and your main goal right now is to obtain a degree. Instead of just studying all day for that degree, use your skills to help people in need gain access to water for example. There are many summer programs where you get send to less developed countries to help those in need. Gaining such experience will re-light a fire within you to finish that degree. You will gain a massive intrinsic motivational booster from that!

If you are new to goal setting, make sure you read my article on why you should set big goals, even though you might not achieve them here!

2. Limit ‘Rewarding Yourself’

If you know that you are fueled by intrinsic motivation, then you should know how to make the most use of it! One of things you might be doing to try and help your motivation might be the very same thing that is destroying it. If you are intrinsically motivated, rewarding yourself for your actions in counter-intuitive for your body. You are teaching your mind that there is an external reward attached to the task you are doing. Over time, your motivation will shift from intrinsic to extrinsic. If your extrinsic motivational reward system is not up to scratch, you will lose a lot of motivation over time!

Just have a good look at all the goals you are pursuing right now. If you feel you are intrinsically motivated by some of them, avoid using external rewards for doing work towards that goal. It will be more beneficial for you in the long run!

Remember that intrinsic motivation comes from internal wants and needs. Hence you will be able to benefit greatly from it if the goals you are pursuing are related in some way with your true passion. Continue to go after those goals which have a personal meaning for you!

For a lot of us it can be quite difficult to find exactly what our real passion in life is. I think there are many ways to figure this out. The one method I know that really digs down to the truth is a simple mental exercise. I have already written an article on it here, so make sure you check that out!

Another method you could use is practicing gratitude on a daily basis. It is one of the best tools to dig up the past and relieve your past dreams. I am sure you will come across some sort of childhood passion you had.

If you truly feel lost in life, make sure you check out this article here, it will help you get back on track.

3 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Extrinsic Motivation

1. Continuously Set New Goals

Extrinsic motivation is all about external rewards, and looking towards the future. One way we can prepare for this is to set up more goals. If we are working towards a big goal, make sure you set smaller goals to measure your progress. Completing these smaller goals will give you a massive motivational boost when it comes to the overall effort.

A perfect example could be a coach who is trying to lead his team to win the national championships. His end goal is to win that tournament. However, he will likely set many intermediary goals, such as training 4 times per week. After every successful week of training, the coach will see the progress that the team is making, which will cause him to be more motivated to keep on pushing forwards!

When you set goals, make sure you set them big! Don’t be afraid to set astronomical goals, I actually encourage it! When you gain experience in goal setting, you will realize what levels are achievable for you!

2. Make Sure To Use A Proper Reward System

Giving yourself the proper reward relative to the work put in can oftentimes be more difficult than you think. Luckily for you, there is a tested methods out there that works brilliantly. It is called the 50/10 methods, sometimes also referred to as the pomodoro technique. You study or work for 50 minutes, then you give yourself a 10 minute break. If you use this reward system, not only will your motivation keep helping you out, you will also see your productivity spike!

Some thing you can do on your 10 minute break include:

3. Turn Your Reward System Into A Habit

Without making it a habit, trying to get yourself more motivated is an exhausting task. If we rewarded ourselves properly (as discussed in the last section) and were able to make it a habit, we would make it so much easier on ourselves. Not only that, you will actually gain more benefit from the rewards itself. If our brain knows to expect a reward is coming, it will push harder to get the job done. But before the brain truly understands the reward system, you have to make it into a habit!

Note that it can take up to 3 months for something like this to turn into a habit! So make sure you give it plenty of time to embed in your routine!

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