What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

We all look for motivation! In fact, most of us need it to get things done and pursue our goals. However, the concept of motivation can be rather complex or at least elusive.

Some define motivation as an inner driving force that helps us realize our dreams. Also, it is described as an intrinsic source of determination & strength against hardships.

However, is this enough to understand what intrinsic motivation is, really?

Well, let’s find out!

What do we mean by intrinsic motivation?

Intrinsic motivation influences behaviors, actions, and pursuits that are driven by internal rewards. Everything that you do just because you enjoy it is driven by intrinsic motivation.

So, we can say! That it is an inner force that drives you to pursue things that you’re passionate about. In return, you achieve a sense of self-satisfaction & a rewarding experience that stems from within.

Think of it as a source of inspiration that motivates you to create & do things that aren’t subjected to external rewards.

Intrinsic motivation vs Extrinsic Motivation

As stated above! Intrinsic motivation is defined as behaviors or actions motivated by internal rewards. In other words, you are motivated to engage in an activity because it is inherently rewarding to you.

Now, we have a good idea of what we mean by intrinsic motivation! But how does it differ from extrinsic motivation?

Extrinsic motivation is defined as behavior or actions motivated by extrinsic rewards. These rewards could be financial or educational in nature… Like money, high grades, diplomas, or professional positions.

Other extrinsic rewards can be intangible, such as fame, admiration, or social validation. Unlike intrinsic motivation, which comes from within the individual, extrinsic motivation is only motivated by external incentives. This is a key difference that we should keep in mind.

An example

Let’s say you’re someone who loves running! Every day, you work in the morning and wait patiently for the afternoon to take a run. That’s because running makes you feel good about yourself. It clears your mind and helps you forget about your work pressure and stress. It is almost a form of liberation to you and a personal experience that fulfills you.

Here, running is driven by intrinsic motivation. That’s because its rewards come from within.

Now, Let’s say you’re a professional athlete, a runner! Every day, you run to prepare for your upcoming tournament. Although you love running, most of your training is driven by extrinsic motivation. That’s because you have a tournament to win and a trophy to get. And both the title of a winner & the trophy are external rewards.

Also, you’re driven by extrinsic motivation because you don’t want to lose in the tournament. Thus, you do your best to avoid the pain of failure & the unrewarding feeling of loss.

How does intrinsic motivation work

Intrinsic motivation can be both an inner motivator & a compass. In other words, it works when you pursue something you love in return for an internal feeling of positivity, satisfaction, and pleasure.

intrinsic motivation can be also personal. That’s because it works for people differently. The way I feel intrinsically motivated isn’t similar to everyone else. That’s why we enjoy doing different things in life.

Some of us like volunteering. Some of us like writing poetry & reading. Other people like taking a walk at night. This means every activity that is intrinsically rewarding is driven by intrinsic motivation.

Conversely, every activity we pursue in return for external rewards is driven by extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation & life

Intrinsic motivation impacts every aspect of our lives. It affects our career choices, goals, relationships, and education. This only means that it has great significance in how we make decisions and thus, lead our lives.

How it affects education

Intrinsic motivation is a critical issue in education. Teachers and curriculum developers work hard to create intrinsically gratifying learning environments. Unfortunately, many conventional paradigms hold that most students find learning dull and must be forced into learning… Through grading, exams, diplomas, etc.

However, students’ motivation is driven extrinsically through grading! This doesn’t mean that they don’t have intrinsic motivation and interests in education.

Many students pursue different educational paths based on intrinsic motivation & interest. That’s why some love math, science, and physics. While others love poetry, music, literature, psychology, sports, etc.

This means that our educational choices aren’t always driven by extrinsic motivation & rewards.

So, intrinsic motivation is always at play. As a student who loves literature, you must study math to succeed! You will always feel conflicted although you’ll do your best with math to not fail.

In the end, your interest in literature is motivated intrinsically! Unlike your interest in math which is motivated extrinsically to avoid failure.

How it affects personal goals

Our personal goals are hugely affected by intrinsic motivation. That’s because most personal goals stem from something we enjoy and are passionate about.

For instance, if you aim to become a great footballer or write a novel, then your motivation is intrinsic. Maybe you love football, or you adore literature and writing.

Your goals have an inner/personal meaning and value to you. This is why when you act upon them, you are mainly driven intrinsically.

I know some personal goals might have external rewards. However, as long as they stem from within the individual out of passion, love, or interest. Then, they’re influenced by intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation & procrastination

Procrastination is the biggest enemy of motivation! It can hinder our progress and efforts to achieve our goals and dreams. That’s why procrastination is a direct symptom caused by a lack of motivation.

However, why do so many people experience this lack of motivation and drown in procrastination? Well, intrinsic motivation could be the answer!

People usually lose motivation when they pursue something they don’t enjoy…

Something that is not self-fulfilling, which doesn’t create a feeling of inner satisfaction & positivity. So we can say that procrastination stems from something internal… Mainly a lack of intrinsic motivation.

On the contrary, when people pursue something they enjoy and are PASSIONATE about! They’re more likely to be motivated & satisfied. That’s because whatever they’re doing is driven by an intrinsic interest, passion, and motivation.

This helps people become more creative and productive in their personal pursuits. Thus, they’re less likely to procrastinate or feel demotivated in the process.

So, maybe intrinsic motivation could be the perfect remedy to procrastination. That’s because it drives us to pursue what we love and want in life. It allows us to follow our inner guide & passion.

Final thoughts

Intrinsic motivation is important! Because it drives us from within. It is about our internal passions & goals that make us feel fulfilled and satisfied. Moreover, intrinsic motivation works like an inner compass that guides us to what we want and value in life as individuals.

All in all, we hope this article has helped you understand what intrinsic motivation means. In case, you want to learn more, you can check other articles!

Written by

Hamid NOUASRIAFebruary 28, 2023

I am the CEO and founder of Overmentality. I am a professional business and technical blogs writer and on-page SEO specialist. I hold a degree in Culture Studies and Media Literacy from the English Humanities and Art Department. And I am interested in Digital Marketing, Business, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, and pets of course!

You can reach me via email hair: hamiid@overmentality.com

Or find me on my LinkedIn Profile.



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