Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation

When we can't do something systematically, we think it's because we are not motivated enough. "I don't have enough motivation to finish a course in Italian", "I lost my motivation, so I stopped running in the morning". If we had a strong motivation, we would go through with it. This is not quite true.

The amount of motivation determines whether we start doing anything at all: whether we decide to go for a run for the first time, whether we sign up for a foreign language course. But it is the quality of motivation that determines how long we will stick to a certain behavior. And this is where most people face difficulties.

Motivation is divided into extrinsic and intrinsic.

* Extrinsic motivation is the familiar "carrot and stick." This is when we do something to get external rewards (promotion, money, good grades in school) or to avoid punishment ("I'll do my homework so my mom won't get angry"). This motivation isn't related to the action itself.

"I run because I want to improve my health and become more resilient" is extrinsic motivation since a person wants to get a result that isn't related to the running process itself.

* Intrinsic motivation is inside the person. We do something because it gives us pleasure or coincides with our values and life goals.

"I'm running because I enjoy it. I feel great when I run" - an example of intrinsic motivation because the person gets pleasure from the action itself.

What is the best motivation to use? 

Extrinsic motivation gives an excellent short-term effect, but as soon as the reward or punishment disappears, most often, everything backs to begin. 

Also, extrinsic motivation can reduce intrinsic if we already have it. For example, children who received the expected reward for drawing, for which they initially had an intrinsic motivation, after a two-week experiment showed less interest in drawing than children who were not awarded at all or were awarded unexpectedly for them.

For long-term changes, intrinsic motivation is more effective than extrinsic. When we do something that matches our values and that we enjoy, we don't need to be punished or rewarded by external factors.

This doesn't mean that extrinsic motivation is a bad way to motivate yourself. This is a useful tool if we are not interested in the action to be performed. But if we want to make some behavior part of our daily routine, extrinsic motivation is definitely not enough.

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