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What is intrinsic motivation and how can it be fostered?

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What is intrinsic motivation and how can it be fostered?

For everything you accomplish in life, you need motivation. But did you know that there are two different types of motivation? The term is generally positive, although there are negative motivators. This is especially the case when the drive to get things done does not come from you, but is forced from outside.

What is intrinsic motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is the kind of motivation that comes from deep within you. It conforms to your own personal desires, life goals and convictions.

Intrinsically motivated actions do not necessarily fulfill a specific purpose. You do the activity simply because you enjoy it and not in order to achieve a certain goal.

Intrinsic is a Latin term and means translated so much w "inward, inward". This translation reveals the meaning. Characteristic of intrinsic motivation is to feel true pleasure in an activity. You are independent of the confirmation or reward of others. You do something that corresponds to your own desires.

Examples of intrinsic motivation

There are numerous examples of (possible) intrinsic motivation:

  • The passionate pursuit of hobbies.
  • Taking on an honorary position.
  • Engaging in a professional activity that you enjoy.
  • Playing a sport you're passionate about.
  • Weight loss on your own initiative.
  • Tidy up because you like it tidy.
  • Acquire knowledge about a topic that interests you.

The list could go on, but these are the most concise examples. Apart from the passionate pursuit of a hobby, all other examples can also be motivated by external incentives. For example, some people do voluntary work to be admired and recognised, or lose weight to impress their partner.

Equally, however, all this can be done out of inner conviction. For outsiders, it is not always possible to tell whether it is intrinsic motivation or not. Ultimately, it is crucial that you yourself are able to question your motives for certain actions.

intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: what is the difference?

Extrinsic motivation is the opposite of intrinsic motivation. When you act extrinsically, you are guided by external influences. You perform the activity not because it gives you pleasure or fulfillment, but to receive a reward or escape negative consequences.

We note:

Intrinsic motivation:

  • springs from the inner conviction
  • self-determined
  • goes hand in hand with joy and fulfillment
  • No specific goal is necessary.

Extrinsic motivation

  • arises from external pressure (expectations of third parties, fears)
  • fremdbestimmt
  • You feel no joy.
  • A specific goal is to be achieved.

The characteristics of extrinsic motivation sound very negative at first. However, extrinsic motivation is not fundamentally a bad thing. Sometimes it is indispensable in order to complete important but unpleasant tasks (e.g. doing the tax return or getting the household in order).

If you were to pursue only those activities that you enjoy from the bottom of your heart, everyday life would quickly descend into chaos. A certain touch of extrinsic motivation is therefore even positive.

Internal satisfaction and extrinsic reinforcement

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation do not have to be mutually exclusive. Often they even coexist in one and the same task. Let's assume that you pursue a professional activity that fulfills you internally. Nevertheless, you want to be paid appropriately in order not to get into financial difficulties.

Seeking a promotion or a raise in a job you like would be extrinsic reinforcement to existing intrinsic motivation. Other examples of extrinsic reinforcers include rewards (financial or material) and a sense of recognition and belonging to a group.

Are we more often intrinsically or extrinsically motivated?

If we look at current studies on the subject of motivation, it is clear from them that we mostly act for extrinsic reasons. This is proven, for example, by the professional Publication on motivation theory of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich very clearly.

Our modern society is considered to be particularly performance-oriented. Already as children we are admonished that we can only be successful if we meet the expectations of our environment. We learn to perform unloved tasks in order to escape punishment and/or receive a reward:

"If you get an A in math, I'll give you ten euros." (Expectation of reward)

"If you don't do your homework, you can't watch TV." (Fear of punishment)

Maybe this sounds familiar from your childhood? In adults, the learned pattern of behavior is further reinforced. As explained earlier, a certain amount of extrinsic motivation is quite helpful. However, if extrinsic motivation completely displaces intrinsic motivation, productivity and performance suffer. This emerges from the following study: The self-determination theory of motivation and its significance for pedagogy .

How does intrinsic motivation arise?

Intrinsic motivation arises on the basis of positive feelings. Pride in particular plays an essential role. Those who lead their lives in a self-determined manner and are proud of what they have achieved do not need to be rewarded or confirmed from the outside.

Other factors for the emergence of intrinsic motivation are enjoyment, positive challenges, inquisitiveness (the subject at hand interests you) and meaningfulness.

Does intrinsic motivation suffer due to external factors?

A few years ago, motivation researchers posited that extrinsic reinforcers, such as the expectation of reward, have a strong negative impact on intrinsic motivation or even displace it altogether. This assertion is now considered to be confuted: The influence of incentive systems on intrinsic motivation.

Today, it is assumed that both forms of motivation can coexist. Consequently, we are very rarely exclusively extrinsically and intrinsically motivated. However, the following condition must be fulfilled for this to happen: The extrinsic reinforcer (reward or negative consequence) has a direct relation to the performance criterion.

If this is not the case, extrinsic motivation can actually boycott intrinsic motivation. Those who are rewarded solely for completing a particular task (without regard to the performance criterion) lose their intrinsic motivation. The performance of the activity then occurs only on the basis of the expected reward.

Tips for promoting intrinsic motivation

6 tips to promote intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation cannot be forced. If it were possible, you would approach every task intrinsically, because it would undoubtedly feel more pleasant. However, there are ways to boost your intrinsic motivation.

The following tips can help you:

1. revive your curiosity

Interesting aspects can be found even in a dull task. Children have this ability by nature. They ask the most creative questions about all kinds of things, so that even boring tasks become exciting. As an adult, you can take a leaf out of this book. Try to interrupt your work routine more often and do tasks in a completely new way.

2. divide large tasks into small sub-steps

Unpopular tasks seem even more daunting the more extensive they seem. Therefore, it can make sense to set yourself partial goals. This will nip the feeling of paralyzing overload in the bud.

Example: You have to sort your papers. The thought of how many hours this will take demotivates you. To make the task more manageable, you divide it into sub-steps. Monday you sort your bank records, Tuesday your medical records, Wednesday your business mail, and so on.

Another plus of this method: After each completed subtask, a feeling of success sets in, which spurs you on to continue.

3. what do you enjoy about the job?

Intrinsically motivated is someone who performs a task just for the sake of it. So ask yourself: What do you enjoy about the activity in question? You can always find some aspect. If not, you should provide additional fun: For example, listen to your favorite music while cleaning the house.

4. keep your good mood

If you are already grumpy about the task, you will not be intrinsically motivated. Therefore, try to stay in a positive mood even if you have to perform a tedious activity. To do this, you need to work on your inner attitude. You can do this, for example, with the help of professional coaching.

5. find allies

Working together with others towards a specific goal can increase intrinsic motivation. This is simply because working together on an unloved task is more fun than if you had to struggle with it alone. As you know, fun and joy are the main characteristics of intrinsic motivation.

6. tell yourself "free will

Intrinsically motivated is only someone who does a task without coercion from outside. Turn the thought "I have to" into "I want/need/can". Is there something you want that can be achieved by completing the task? Simple example: You don't clean up because you have to, but because you want it to be nice and clean.

Intrinsic motivation in daily life

Intrinsic motivation can play a role in almost every area of life. The more intrinsic motivation you can integrate into your life, the happier you will feel.

children motivation

Intrinsic motivation in child rearing

Extrinsic motivation often dominates, especially in child rearing. Many parents use the principle of punishment and reward to get their children to do unloved things (tidy up, do homework). The children comply with the demands because they expect something from it or to escape punishment. They do not act out of their own inner drive.

Children could be much more productive and be more successfulThe child would be better off if the parents focused on intrinsic motivation. Give your child age-appropriate choices more often, e.g. regarding the order of homework. If you have a say, you will feel intrinsic motivation more quickly.

Try to make unloved chores fun for your child so that they have fun. Why not treat the chore of cleaning up as a game? Give your children age-appropriate positive feedback when they have done something particularly well, rather than giving them money or sweets.

In this way, children learn to be proud of themselves. This inner pride leads to intrinsic motivation. The expectation of being compensated for unpleasant things is eliminated.

Intrinsic motivation at work

Workers are significantly more productive when they are intrinsically motivated. To achieve this, get involved at work. Share your ideas and try to implement them. Those who achieve a sense of self-actualization at work are intrinsically motivated.

Keep reminding yourself why you chose your profession: What do you enjoy about it? What do you find so interesting about your job? You should also consider a relaxed working atmosphere and friendly colleagues. This is how you Motivation backeven if things are not going well at work.

If you cannot find a single positive or interesting aspect of your job, it might be advisable to think about a career change.

Intrinsic motivation in learning

Surely you have noticed that you can learn more easily if the subject matter interests you personally. In this case, the intrinsic motivation is present from the beginning. This confirms a Study by the University of Potsdam.

If, on the other hand, the subject matter doesn't interest you, it's a little harder to tease out intrinsic motivation. The tips listed above can help here: Make it easier for yourself to learn "dry material" by loosening it up, e.g. with your favourite music or funny mnemonic devices.

Get involved with the subject you're learning without rejecting it out of hand. Accounting is boring? It doesn't have to be! It's all a matter of opinion and design.

Boost your intrinsic motivation with the Greator Visions Challenge

The Greator Visions Challenge lasts seven days, during which you learn to clearly define your desires and goals. Only when you know the latter, you can develop intrinsic motivation. For one week you will receive daily videos. Each day, a different topic is covered on the way to your personal vision.

First, you'll learn how to remove Beliefs from the past. Then you will learn how to gain self-confidence and courage. The goal of the Greator Visions Challenge is to guide you on the path to your personal life goals. In addition to the video coaching, you will receive a 24-page "Vision Book" with exercises for your dream life and 4 meditations.

If you are curious, you will find out here more:

Greator Visions Challenge 2021

7 Days Challenge - Finally more clarity for your dream life!
START now for free
Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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