Internal Drive: The Art & Science of Human Motivation

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We’ve all known that great teacher, boss, or coach. The one that motivated you to study harder, push farther, or perform more than you ever thought possible. These individuals are great motivators, but are they great at teaching you to motivate yourself intrinsically?

For many students and adults, extrinsic motivation is more of a force than their own intrinsic motivation, which could be a bit of an issue. First, let me explain what is meant by the terms intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic Motivation

Commonly called external motivation, this is the kind of drive that lives outside of you. This looks like:

– when your boss offers you an extra week of vacation if your pitch goes well or you reach a sales target, or
– when your teacher offers your class a pizza party if you all do well on a test.

Extrinsic motivation can also come from fear of punishment. For example, if you don’t do well on a test, you’ll have extra homework for a week.

Intrinsic Motivation

Also referred to as internal motivation, this comes from within. You’re not motivated or reliant on an outside reward or punishment. Intrinsic motivation is what you feel when you keep pushing yourself to practice a hard new skill or take a class to improve your knowledge even if a raise or promotion isn’t guaranteed from doing so.

What’s Happening in the Brain?

Evidence suggests that dopamine is at the root of intrinsic motivation. We know that dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and rewards. This can be a reward, such as eating food when hungry, which is necessary for survival. However, drug use also artificially creates this effect, thus creating a link between the drug and the dopamine effect that is so addictive because it makes us feel good.

When we only rely on external motivation, we are relying on external sources to release this dopamine. It can be challenging to transition this mindset over and learn to motivate yourself if you do not perceive an external reward. It’s important to remember two things:

We are all born with intrinsic motivation. Something innate and animalistic within us makes us want to walk, and we motivate ourselves to continue trying despite numerous failures.
We need to succeed at something without external rewards to recognize the sense of accomplishment and joy. This sensation will then become our motivating factor rather than us always relying on an external motivator.

How do you cultivate intrinsic motivation?

When it comes to cultivating intrinsic motivation, you must offer yourself numerous opportunities for success. It’s hard to continue to motivate yourself toward an end goal if it feels unattainable. This is why we must consider Attainability and Time when developing our SMART goals. Celebrating the mini-goals along the way will help you continue to motivate yourself forward.

Similarly, if you’re trying to motivate a team, make sure you have mile markers along the way to the big goal. These little wins will help continue to motivate your team forward.

Coaches, teachers, parents, and leaders can cultivate a growth mindset or intrinsic motivation in those around them by reducing external rewards. Try placing the highlight on your team or individuals’ hard work and accomplishment instead of on the reward they’ll get. Place a lot of emphasis on the effort it takes someone to complete a task or accomplish something. When we reflect on the hard work it takes to succeed, hard work becomes less of a deterrent. We become less reliant on external motivators to push us forward.

Do you want to learn how to cultivate intrinsic motivation within yourself and those around you? I focus on this exact topic on one of my speaking topics: Internal drive is lasting – the art and science of human motivation. Get in touch today to book a speaking event with me. I’m happy to accommodate social distancing and find digital ways to motivate and inspire you and your team.

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