External and Internal Motivation

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Do you know what drives you to get good grades or put that extra bit of effort into your science project? What is it that makes us want to do well— both on tests and in our lives? Our reasons or desires to succeed are our motivations. There are two key types of motivations: intrinsic and extrinsic. The type of motivation that drives us actually affects how well we do. 

Intrinsic motivation is the sort of desire that arises from within us.

If you are an artist, you may be driven to paint because it brings you joy and peace. If you are a writer you may write to satisfy the need to create stories from the many ideas swimming around inside your head. These drives stem from an interest in the activity or job itself, without any external influence. Internal motivators often become defining qualities or characteristics of the person acting on them.

Extrinsic motivation compels you to act based on some outside force or outcome. The desire is not one that would arise naturally within you, but because of someone or some consequence. You might be motivated to do some extra credit to keep from failing your math class. Your boss might offer an incentive program to make you work a little harder. These external influences can have a great impact on why or how people do what they do, sometimes even things that seem out of character. 

While it would seem intrinsic motivation would be better than extrinsic, they both have their advantages.

Being internally motivated is most rewarding in that the activity or area of study naturally brings a person pleasure. The desire to perform an action requires less effort than an externally driven motivation. Being good at the activity is not necessarily a factor. Many people are motivated to sing karaoke despite their musical ability, for example.

Ideally, people would be intrinsically motivated to do well in all aspects of their life. However, that is not the reality.

Extrinsic motivation is good for when someone has a job or an assignment to do that they do not really enjoy for its own sake. This can be beneficial in the workplace, school, and life in general. Good grades and the possibility of getting into a good college are good external motivators for a student. Receiving a promotion or a pay raise incentivizes employees to go above and beyond at work. Perhaps some of the most beneficial aspects of extrinsic motivators are that they encourage people to try new things. Someone that has never tried horseback riding may not know that it is something they might really enjoy. A teacher might encourage a talented young student to take classes they normally would not have, introducing them to a new area of interest. 

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations work in different ways but are equally important. It is really great to feel good about doing something you love and doing it well. However, no one can function in the world acting only on internal desires. Those external influences help people develop in all aspects of life.