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The Differences between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Updated: Jan 30

The author Valerie Sawade of the article: The Differences between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation".

Publication date: 24.10.2023


Motivation is the driving force behind human behavior. It is what gets us out of bed in the morning, propels us to pursue our goals, and helps us persevere in the face of challenges. However, not all motivation is created equal.

In the realm of psychology, motivation is often categorized into two distinct types: intrinsic and extrinsic. Understanding the differences between these two forms is essential for unlocking your full potential and achieving your goals.

In this article, we will delve into the psychology of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Moreover, we will explore how they influence our behaviors and outcomes.

The Basics of Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is the kind of motivation that originates internally. In other words, it is the inner drive and desire to engage in an activity or pursue a goal because it is inherently rewarding. Intrinsic motivation is fueled by personal satisfaction, enjoyment, and a genuine interest in the task at hand. When you are intrinsically motivated, you do not need external rewards or incentives to stay engaged.

1. Lasting Satisfaction

Intrinsic motivation tends to lead to more lasting satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. When you enjoy what you are doing, the process becomes its reward.

2. Creativity and Innovation

Intrinsic motivation often sparks creativity and innovation. Also, it fosters a mindset where you are prompted to explore unconventional ideas, experiment, and venture into new territories.

intrinsic motivation sparks innovations and ideas

3. Resilience

Intrinsically motivated individuals are often more resilient when facing obstacles and setbacks. Therefore, their internal drive keeps them going even when things get tough.

4. Autonomy

Intrinsic motivation thrives on autonomy. This way, it allows individuals to choose their own paths and make decisions aligned with their values and interests.

The Allure of Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is driven by external rewards or punishments. In particular, it involves pursuing a task or goal to earn a specific outcome, such as money, recognition, or praise. While extrinsic motivation can be highly effective in some situations, it may have limitations. This happens when it comes to long-term satisfaction and personal growth.

1. Short-term Gains

Extrinsic motivation can lead to short-term gains, as individuals are often enticed by external rewards. For example, a bonus at work can motivate employees in the short term.

2. Risk of Burnout

Over-reliance on extrinsic motivation can lead to burnout and a sense of emptiness when the rewards no longer feel fulfilled.

3. External Control

Extrinsic motivation may diminish an individual's sense of control and autonomy. However, they may feel compelled to pursue external goals rather than their passions.

4. Fickleness

Extrinsic motivation is often influenced by changing external factors. When the rewards or incentives disappear, motivation may wane.

find balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

Balancing Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

The key to unlocking your full potential is to strike a balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Here are some strategies to achieve this balance:

1. Identify Your Values

Understand what truly matters to you and align your goals with your values.

2. Set Intrinsic Goals

Focus on goals that bring you personal satisfaction, joy, and a sense of accomplishment.

3. Recognize Extrinsic Rewards

Use external rewards as a tool for short-term motivation, but do not rely on them solely for long-term success.

4. Cultivate Intrinsic Motivation:

Find ways to make tasks more enjoyable, interesting, and personally meaningful.

5. Stay Mindful

Continuously assess your motivations and adjust your approach as needed.

Psychology Unleashed: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

In the grand tapestry of human motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic motivations play distinct roles. Extrinsic motivation can only provide short-term incentives. While it is intrinsic motivation that often leads to lasting satisfaction, resilience, and personal growth.

Therefore, you can unleash your motivation if you understand the psychology of these motivations and strive for a balance. Of course, this should suit your needs and values. What’s more, you can chart a course toward achieving your goals and aspirations.


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