Understanding Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation

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Motivation is typically described as the driving force that prods us to behave in a certain way. It is a powerhouse for our actions, goals, and dreams. While extrinsic motivation involves reward or punishment-driven behavior inspired by incentives (awards and prizes) or punishments, intrinsic motivation comes from inside.

Intrinsic motivation involves the act of doing something because it is interesting, enjoyable, or because it matters to us.

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Extrinsic Motivation: Reinforcement and Punishment

Extrinsic motivation is a type of learning known as operant conditioning or instrumental conditioning. Operant conditioning is learning in which we change behavior using reinforcement or punishment.

Operant conditioning (extrinsic motivation) has its application in parenting and education. Parents and teachers often use reinforcement and punishment to increase or decrease the likelihood that specific behavior will happen again.

In other words, external factors drive this form of motivation. External motivation comes in many ways. Being paid for a job, receiving a trophy in sports, or getting an A on a test are extrinsic motivation examples. Extrinsic motivation can also involve intangible rewards such as verbally expressed praise, a hug, or any other approval expression. 

Intrinsic Motivation: Internal Rewards

Genuine motivation, however, comes from within. Reinforcements and punishments may increase or reduce the likelihood of specific behavior, but real success and satisfaction come from intrinsic motivation.

In other words, intrinsic motivation means engaging in a behavior because you find it rewarding (the action itself serves as a reward).

Reading a good book, watching an exciting movie, hanging out with friends, or playing a game are examples of intrinsic motivation – we engage in these activities because they make us happy.

Any time you pursue an activity for the sheer pleasure, you are driven by intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic Vs. Extrinsic Motivation and Why Intrinsic Motivation Lasts Longer

An intrinsic motivation that arises from inside has the power to change your self-perception and guide you into changing your behavior. Intrinsic motivation lasts longer because actions motivated from inside create positive emotions that inspire us to repeat these behaviors. Intrinsically motivated behaviors are long-lasting because your genuine interest drives them.

For example, participating in a sport to win a medal is an example of extrinsic motivation. On the other hand, if you are participating in a sport because you find it enjoyable, your behavior is driven by intrinsic motivation.

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While both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation drive our behavior, intrinsic motivation provokes positive feelings about ourselves, such as the feeling of competence, satisfaction, and self-pride leading to increased self-esteem and self-appreciation. If you feel good about yourself, your enjoyment of the task you’re performing may increase.

However, extrinsic motivators can be a useful tool to shape behavior and encourage learning when used appropriately. For example, extrinsic motivation can get your child to complete a household chore (tidy up his room) he is not interested in.

Both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation inspire our actions and help us reach our goals. Understanding how each type of motivation works can help you improve productivity and learning.

I am asked many times for help with motivation. Intrinsic motivation is rooted in self-compassion. When we can practice self-compassion and celebrate our wins big and small, that positive feedback loop truly helps to keep the internal motivation burning.

If you are struggling with motivation and would like to speak more, book a time at ww.chatwithkamini.com

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Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood is a Certified Life Coach, and best-selling author. Her mission is to empower high-performing adults and teens to become resilient self-leaders by reducing stress and anxiety, overcoming imposter syndrome, working through trauma, and re-discovering their AuthenticMe®.

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My name is Kamini Wood, and I’m here to accompany you on your journey toward understanding yourself on a deeper level so can create the life you want personally and professionally. It’s time to embrace your AuthenticMe ™