Balancing the Scales: What is Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation

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In our quest for success, understanding the driving forces behind our actions is paramount. These driving forces, more commonly referred to as motivations, can be broadly divided into two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The effective usage of both types can significantly enhance our chances of realizing our ambitions and dreams.

Understanding the Motivation Spectrum: Intrinsic and Extrinsic

At one end of the spectrum is intrinsic motivation, which comes from within us. It’s the pure joy and satisfaction derived from engaging in a particular activity. For instance, an artist might paint because they genuinely enjoy the creative process, not necessarily because they want to sell their artwork.

Conversely, extrinsic motivation is driven by external factors, rewards or outcomes. For instance, a student might study hard to get a high grade (external reward) even if they don’t particularly enjoy the subject.

Harnessing the Power of Intrinsic Motivation

Identifying Passions:

The first step in utilizing intrinsic motivation is discovering what you’re passionate about. What activities do you lose yourself in? What would you still do even if there were no tangible rewards? The answers to these questions are your intrinsic motivators.

Setting Personal Milestones:

Goals that are personally significant can boost intrinsic motivation. For example, a writer might set a goal to write a novel, not necessarily for publication or recognition, but because they find the process fulfilling and challenging.

Embrace a Learning Mindset:

Adopting a learning or growth mindset, where challenges are seen as opportunities for personal development, can enhance intrinsic motivation. Instead of fearing failure, this mindset celebrates the process of learning, leading to sustained engagement and enthusiasm.

Unlocking the Potential of Extrinsic Motivation

Incentivizing Actions:

Tangible rewards like promotions, bonuses, or certificates can be potent extrinsic motivators. For instance, a salesperson might put extra effort into closing deals if a bonus or a promotion is at stake.

Garnering Recognition:

Public recognition for achievements can also be a powerful extrinsic motivator. A sports player might push themselves harder during a game knowing that their performance will be acknowledged and praised by their team and fans.

Evading Negative Outcomes:

The desire to avoid penalties or negative consequences can drive extrinsic motivation. For example, an employee might complete a task promptly to avoid receiving negative feedback from their manager.

Combining the Strengths of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 

Although both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations have their unique advantages, blending the two can yield the best results for achieving goals. For example, a musician might love making music (intrinsic motivation) but also aspire to win a Grammy award (extrinsic motivation).

In conclusion, the process of goal achievement can be enriched by a better understanding and effective use of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. While intrinsic motivation ensures sustained interest and satisfaction, extrinsic motivation can provide immediate incentives and clear, achievable targets. By striking a balance between the two, you can maintain motivation in the long haul, successfully navigate challenges, and ultimately savor the triumph of accomplishing your goals. The key lies in your hands; fuel your journey with motivation, and nothing can hold you back from reaching your dreams.


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