What is intrinsic motivation, and how can you improve yours?
Pretend you work for a fashion magazine.
It’s already a given that you and your coworkers will consider the office their runway, right?
Everyone has different reasons for the way they dress.
Some choose their outfits based on their level of confidence and mood, while others dress to the nines to impress peers or be a trendsetter.
Those who dressed up for personal reasons are known to have intrinsic motivation.
Those who base their outfits on societal or peer pressure are examples of people with extrinsic motivation.
What are these types of motivation, and why are they important?
Difference Between Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation
“We are happy when for everything inside us there is a corresponding something outside us.” – William Butler Yeats
Extrinsic motivation occurs when actions are performed to receive external feedback like compliments, rewards, medals, and recognition or to avoid danger and off-putting criticism.
Extrinsically motivated people focus more on the outcome rather than the (positive) emotions associated with their behavior.
Intrinsic motivation is fueled by participating in activities you genuinely enjoy and don’t feel pressured or obligated to do.
These are things we do where time just seems to fly by.
Motivation determines what we do, how we do something, and how much we accomplish.
Testing has proven that our performance is only as great as our motivation.
The less inspired we are, the poorer our performance.
If your peers are unmotivated and your surroundings feel toxic, your only source of inspiration will be yourself.
Here are some ways to channel your intrinsic motivation:
1. Make a list of all your favorite things.
Once you’ve got all your go-to books, hobbies, or activities down, you already have a list of “happy” things to choose from.
You have no excuses for being idle, bored, or uninspired.
Eenie-meenie-miny-moe your options.
Never say you’re out of things to do.
2. Take a break.
“Work to live or live to work?”
The controversy continues.
People fail to remember that life is not all about working.
Even if you love your job, are happy with your salary, or are devoted to your company, you need a break.
Sure, your job has unique benefits and great pay – but these are all extrinsic sources of motivation.
Take part in outdoor and family activities that increase your intrinsic motivation, like picnics and hikes.
How else will you enjoy everything life offers outside your 8-5 work hours?
Our jobs should not define us.
3. Reminisce on good times.
Go back to when you won your first swimming match.
Recall your first perfect score on a test.
Remember how great those milestones felt?
Imagine how amazing they’d feel the second, third, or fourth time around.
The more positive you are about your abilities, the easier it is to build intrinsic motivation.
4. Participate in community events.
“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” – Buddha
Love to read?
Sign up to teach kids how to read or be the storyteller yourself at your local library.
You can do what you love while partnering with your community.
Seeing the thankful faces of people you helped should give you more than enough fulfillment.
There’s no greater feeling than being someone else’s reason for being happy.
It doesn’t have to be in a romantic way.
Choose to help those in need because you feel in your heart that it’s the right thing to do – not because it makes you look good.
5. Look forward to the feeling of relief and satisfaction.
“Monetary rewards are not a substitute for intrinsic motivation.” – Edwards Deming
If you’ve been putting off doing a project or repairing a broken part of the house for months, think of how rewarding it’d feel to finish the task.
That’s one less thing to worry about and more time to do what you want to do.
6. Spend time with your family and/or friends.
“Your inner strength is your outer foundation.” ― Alan Rufus
Mixing in a little extrinsic motivation won’t hurt.
You don’t need grand gestures to enjoy each others’ company.
Sometimes all it takes is a hug and inspirational words from mom or dad to motivate you and help you succeed.
They are our number one supporters.
It’s still up to you whether you will implement their advice.
7. “Just Do It”
Even Nike knows that the first step is always the hardest.
Use your intrinsic motivation to earn rewards, not regrets.
8. Stay healthy.
You have complete freedom over what meals you should prepare, when, and how often.
Opt to eat healthier; not only will it make you look good, but you’ll also feel better.
Hunger leads to crankiness and inefficiency.
No one really accomplishes much on an empty stomach.
9. Know your wants.
Want to do something.
If you’re simply doing things because you “have to, should, or must” or because “everyone else is doing it”, you won’t get very far.
No matter how many extrinsic factors push you to succeed, it will always feel like something’s missing if you don’t know what you want – and how to achieve it.
10. Keep a journal.
It doesn’t matter what you write.
Compose a song, discuss how your day went in your journal, and write a poem.
Some keep a notebook where they write their dreams upon waking up, only to laugh at them when they read their entries months or years from now.
Our dreams reflect our innermost desires, thoughts, and daily life.
You’ll notice time spans when your emotions were on a rollercoaster ride and when they were stable.
Writing allows us to look at our lives objectively and from different perspectives.
In our writing, we can find meaning, realize what matters, and be stimulated.
“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” ― Lou Holtz
Start improving your intrinsic motivation today
Intrinsic motivation happens when you do things because you want to, and they make you happy.
It’s so easy for us to say that we need, are out of, or lack motivation.
Motivation comes in all forms and can be found both externally and internally.
So if we no longer find stimulation from rewards, incentives, and material objects, we can always look to ourselves for some inspiration.
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Looking for more inspirational thoughts and ideas? Explore our collection of short inspirational quotes for more inspiration.