Have you ever wondered why the promise of another pay bonus doesn’t help increase your productivity anymore?
Or why your kids don’t care about bad grades as much as you do?
Or, why some people seem to be always motivated while your motivation is short-lived?
How to become more motivated all the time
If you have, you’re not alone. And if you really care about achieving your goals, whatever they are, you should keep reading.
Because I will reveal some motivational secrets, which will help you keep your level of motivation up.
Motivation is an indispensable ingredient of success.
Want to improve your writing skills, lose weight, live a happier life, get a better job?
You need motivation.
You need it to live meaningfully, you need it to change, you need it to keep going when the going gets tough.
Motivation is what drives us through life. Without it, our life would be just a series of urges and impulses.
But not all motivations are made equal. The first and most important difference is that there are two major types of motivation: external (extrinsic) and internal (intrinsic).
And understanding the differences between them is crucial to being and staying motivated throughout your life, whatever you do.
1. The most obvious difference and why it matters
Let’s start with the most obvious difference between external (extrinsic) and internal (intrinsic) motivation – it’s where it comes from.
Extrinsic motivation is driven by external factors: your environment, your tasks, relationships with other people, etc.
To put it simply, extrinsic motivation is driven by rewards – material or not. Most often it’s money, awards, accolades, etc.
But it’s also about being praised, respected, appreciated. The flip side of rewards – punishment and avoidance of punishment are also powerful extrinsic drivers.
This may take form of avoiding penalties (e.g. for paying bills too late, or submitting your assignment after the deadline), or conflict. Often, we do things that we would not otherwise do, because we want to keep other people happy, or just avoid their anger (e.g. getting good grades for your parents, or staying up late to finish a report on time so that your boss don’t get angry).
Intrinsic (internal) motivation comes from within you. It’s your own desire to achieve enjoyment, fulfillment or simply experience fun/pleasure.
According to Daniel Pink, there are three main types of intrinsic drivers: Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose.
Mastery is about self-improvement, the urge to improve and develop yourself, your skills, your knowledge.
Autonomy is the desire to direct your own life, be the master of your destiny and your own boss.
Purpose is about the need to do things for reasons other and bigger than yourself, helping others, building a better world.
This extrinsic/intrinsic difference is crucial to understanding how to stay motivated, because these two types of motivation work in different ways and are useful for different kinds of goals.
2. The lasting effect
Let’s go back to that question about the monthly bonus that used to motivate you to get extra work done, but is not any longer.
For the same reason that people keep parking in the ‘no parking’ slots despite fines, and kids are erratic in their chore duties even if you pay them for it.
Extrinsic rewards, often called carrots and sticks, can work quite well, but the longer or the more you use them, the less effective they become.
Sadly, although effective at first, rewards don’t create lasting commitments. They just temporarily get us to do things (behaviours) that are desired.
Intrinsic rewards, Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose, create a long-lasting effect, because they come from within you. If the activity brings you joy, fulfillment or a sense of meaning/purpose, you’re more likely to engage in it over and over again, whether anyone pays you for it or not.
That’s why in psychological experiments in the longer run, children who expected rewards drew much less than those who did that for the pleasure of it.
And this is also why some people can work on their pet projects or practice their favourite sport for hours on end, even when they tired.
The effect of extrinsic rewards is short-lived, while intrinsic drivers tend to last much, much longer; often – throughout the life span.
3. The role in goal setting and achievement
We set goals, because we want to achieve them. Motivation is an important element of the process, from the very beginning right to the end.
But different type of motivational drivers will lead to different kinds of goals set.
If you want to create a lasting change, such as break bad habits, or develop healthy ones, you need to fuel it with intrinsic motivation. Any major personal change is best driven internally: either by your desire to self-improve, gain autonomy, or serve a higher purpose.
The same applies to any goals or plans that are long-term, or multi-stage. If it is to last, it has to come from within.
But if your goal is short-term, like finishing a report on time, or making sure you file your tax return by the deadline, extrinsic rewards/avoiding punishment may just do the trick.
4. The application in day-to-day life
Just as with goal setting, extrinsic and intrinsic motivators differ when it comes to the day-to-day execution of your plans.
This is where most self-improvement goals fail: in the brutal reality of trying to implement lasting changes on day-to-day basis, particularly when things aren’t going smoothly, workloads pile up and stress levels are through the roof.
Trying to remind yourself of your aspirations to become a better version of yourself, or help those in need may come handy, but a material reward may have a faster and more powerful effect on the spot. Just think about all those times when the only thing that helped you survive those hectic days at the office, or boring meetings filled with conflict, was the thought of nice hot bath and a glass of wine (bar of chocolate).
While intrinsic drivers work best for long-term projects, extrinsic rewards get your through hard days, particularly if you feel there is nothing left in the tank and you still need to get stuff done.
5. The role in building healthy habits
S. Weinschenk, a behavioural scientist,gives an excellent tip for using various types of motivators when establishing good habits. Obviously, the best way to set a goal of building good habits is to power it with an intrinsic desire.
The point of a habit is for the behaviour to become automatic. And the best way to kick it off and keep it going before it runs on autopilot is to reinforce the behaviour extrinsically: with rewards, even a symbolic (or literal) pat on the back, a tick in your diary, or a golden stars on your child’s chart.
6. The wearing-off effect
Nothing lasts forever, they say, and it’s no different with motivation.
Motivation fluctuates naturally throughout the day, and week, and life.
I’ve mentioned above that the effect of extrinsic motivators wears off with time. But intrinsic motivation is not eternal either.
Although internally driven desires are more likely to last, as we grow and change, our needs and wants change, too. The same happens with our life and environment.
Sometimes, you find yourself at a life crossroad with a motivational driver that’s no longer rings true to you. Or a purpose that lo longer lights your fire.
Even intrinsic motivation can dwindle and die.
7. Use it but don’t abuse it
Sadly, combining the two types of motivation may sometimes work against you. Using extrinsic rewards to boost up a desired behaviour that’s driven internally is a dangerous situation.
Yes, giving your kids sweets for practicing a skill they enjoy improving on, may initially give them an extra boost, but the drive to keep doing it will quickly drop.
Overjustification effect (motivation crowding theory) is the reason people who enjoy doing stuff for the fun of it, stop enjoying the same thing once they get paid for it. If you think yourself lucky getting a job where you’ll be pursuing your passion and get paid a lot of money and other perks for it, you may be actually in danger of losing that sense of enjoyment and fulfillment.
Be mindful how your motivation works and keep an eye on your extrinsic rewards so that they don’t overpower your internally driven joy.
Keeping yourself motivated is tough. Motivation fluctuates and changes, sometimes irrespective of what we do or don’t do with it.
But with a better understanding of how, when and why different types of motivation work and other not, you’re prepared for your next battle.
Now, you know how it works, so make it always work for you.