There are all sorts of quotes about motivation on the internet. Do an image search for “motivation” or browse Pinterest for a while, and you’re bound to see many. I saw one that said, “Chuck Norris doesn’t need motivation. Motivation needs Chuck Norris.” I’m not exactly sure what that is supposed to mean, but maybe someone is inspired by a picture of Chuck Norris standing in front of an American flag holding guns in his hands. 😉
Most of the pictures and quotes about motivation have humor in them like the Chuck Norris thing and the dinosaur picture to the right. But what really does motivate us? That is our topic for today. In the psychology world, motivation is usually broken down into intrinsic motivation vs. extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation is what comes from within you. You are meeting a need, such as hunger, or doing something that you enjoy. Maybe you took a class at some point that you just loved the subject and read and studied because you just couldn’t get enough. You didn’t really care what your grade was in the class. That’s intrinsic motivation. It’s really all about how you feel inside, the natural “want to.”
Extrinsic motivation comes from outside yourself, such as a paycheck or a grade in a class. You might not want to do something, but you push on to get the reward. You might have been required to take a class you didn’t enjoy at all, but you still studied hard because you wanted a certain grade in the class. Extrinsic motivation is anything that comes from others like approval, rewards, paychecks, grades and the like.
According to an article by the P2P Foundation, there are positive and negative values of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. You either like something, positive intrinsic, or don’t, negative intrinsic. A reward is a positive extrinsic, and a consequence, is a negative extrinsic. Your greatest point of motivation will come when you find where positive intrinsic and positive extrinsic overlap.
Hopefully you spent some time after last week’s post thinking about yourself. You might have discovered something new about your personality or your passions. Now you can use the traits about yourself and add some positive extrinsic rewards.
For example, last week I shared that I am introverted. This means I function best when I get some alone time every day to recharge. So, when I started running, getting some alone time by running by myself was a positive intrinsic motivator for me. I was also learning to do something I had always hated, which is another intrinsic motivator — doing something purely for the challenge of it. Even though I don’t love running and I’m not a morning person, there was value in getting up to run. I could have better motivated myself by attaching a reward to my running routine. I didn’t deliberately do that, but there was some approval from others who encouraged me on my journey and some weight loss, which are both extrinsic motivators.
Here are some intrinsic motivators:
- Learning a new skill.
- Getting a new personal best (faster time in a race, lifting a higher weight, completing more reps of an exercise).
- Improving technique.
- The good feeling of eating healthy foods. (See Jessica’s post about her asthma improving.)
- Rewards, rewards, rewards. A new article of clothing for working out a certain number of times in a month. A “cheat day” on your healthy eating plan after going for a certain amount of time without cheating.
- Winning a competition.
- Losing weight or inches from your body.
- Approval and encouragement from a buddy or The Journey! Tell us about your accomplishments so we can cheer you on! That’s what we’re here for!
So, once again, it boils down to YOU! Find your sweet spot where things you naturally enjoy overlap with things that will push you to try harder. We need both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators to keep going. And they might change over time. You might start going to the gym just so you can get your reward of a new shirt, but you eventually (hopefully) will want to try something new at the gym or improve your technique.
Next week we’re going to talk about setting realistic goals. Maybe we should have talked about goals before rewards, but hopefully our reward talk will motivate us to set good goals. For now, what are some motivators I missed? Leave some comments about what has helped keep you motivated.
For further reading:
The Difference Between Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivation at Livestrong
Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation at P2P Foundation