How to Make Better Use of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Use This Understanding to Maintain Momentum as You Strive for Your Goals

Neel Raman
8 min readMay 9, 2023

As you learn to make better use of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, you will have an energized and purpose-filled life.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation occur in different situations, and an understanding of how both functions can help you better achieve your goals.

Motivation can be elusive and varies from person to person. This is why it’s challenging to make better use of your own motivations or understand the motivations of others.

Knowing the individual difference and which type of motivation to use in different situations is essential because improper use might lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment.

Find out how you can make better use of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in your life so you can achieve your goals and create the success you want.

1-Minute Summary Video

The Difference Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

It’s important to understand the key differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation because they have different effects on your behaviour.

What is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from within. Intrinsic motives cause people to do something because it’s personally meaningful or satisfying.

Intrinsic motivation occurs when you’re driven by the internal rewards or satisfaction of accomplishing something, like academic motivation or mastering a skill. The person performing the task does it purely because they enjoy it or find it to be rewarding for themselves.

It requires an understanding of human behaviour, what gives you fulfillment, and why you want to reach a goal.

What is Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrinsic motivation is the motivation that comes from outside sources. These can include extrinsic rewards, recognition, or praise. It’s driven by external factors such as money, fame, or power.

It requires external factors or extrinsic incentives to motivate you towards your goals or tasks and can take many forms — verbal reinforcement, tangible rewards, awards, and cash bonuses.

Extrinsic motives work well in getting you to complete tasks quickly and to put in more effort than you’d typically put into something. It can also come with a downside. It decreases intrinsic motivation and the feeling of personal responsibility for your actions.

It’s important you understand how these two distinct motives intertwine so you can successfully motivate yourself. According to self-determination theory, extrinsic motivation will often impede intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivation requires an understanding of the external rewards that give you incentive and energy. Together, they become powerful tools for tying your goals to self-fulfillment and reward based on performance.

intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

The Causes of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic-extrinsic motivation has their unique causes.

What Causes Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is caused by inner desires that stem from positive social psychology and experiences.

For example, when you feel rewarded because of your accomplishments or gain a sense of satisfaction with your efforts, it can cause an immediate feeling of intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation generates intrinsic enjoyment because it comes from within. It’s driven by the joy of completing a task and the pleasure that comes with accomplishing something.

The key to maintaining intrinsic motivation is understanding what causes it in the first place. Internal motivators include factors such as autonomy, competence, purpose, progress, and challenge.

These factors promote feelings of satisfaction and success. Autonomy, for example, allows individuals to feel more empowered in making their own choices or allowing them to take ownership of their work.

Progress can also be an important factor in generating intrinsic motivation because it helps a person feel they are making impactful improvements or moving closer towards a goal.

A sense of challenge creates excitement and enjoyment when working on a task, making it feel more engaging and meaningful over time.

It’s important to recognize what drives each individual’s human motivation so you can help them reach their goals more effectively.

What Causes Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrinsic motivation occurs when rewards are used to influence behaviour, such as financial rewards or recognition from peers.

For example, when a person expects to receive praise or favours for completing a task, they will be motivated to accomplish it instead of being driven by inner desires alone.

Extrinsic motivation involves behaviours that are linked to getting a certain reward. Therefore, extrinsic motivation is driven by extrinsic rewards, such as money, fame, or recognition.

Sometimes, outside forces may contribute to extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic factors like competitive markets or pressure from peers can create an environment where you feel driven to perform at your best out of fear of judgment and potential failure.

These external motivators can be beneficial because they drive you to perform better; but only when used in moderation and with a clear understanding of the productive outcome you want to achieve.

External motivation will only take you so far before they lose their effectiveness altogether and affect your mental health. The reason is because excessive rewards will have diminishing returns over time, therefore it’s important to create an environment that encourages intrinsic motivation too.

Examples of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Having examples that differentiate the types of motivation can help you better understand how to use them.

Intrinsic Motivation Examples

These can include:

  • Setting personal goals and striving to achieve them.
  • Taking pride in your work and feeling a sense of accomplishment when tasks are completed.
  • Feeling motivated by the challenge of learning something new or mastering a skill.
  • Enjoying the process of working on projects, rather than focusing on the end result.
  • Exploring a hobby for enjoyment or personal growth.
  • Engaging in creative problem-solving and challenging tasks.

You can also use intrinsic motivators for self-improvement or personal satisfaction unrelated to external factors.

Extrinsic Motivation Examples

These can include:

  • Working for financial rewards or public recognition from peers or superiors via awards ceremonies.
  • Participating in competitions with tangible prizes, such as money or gifts.
  • Being driven by external pressures, such as deadlines or expectations from others.
  • Creating healthy competition by giving rewards to people who demonstrate the best performance or output during a given period.
  • Increasing social recognition through titles or higher status.

The goal of extrinsic motivation is to shift behaviour away from an undesirable state and towards a more desirable state.

5 Ways to Make Better Use of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Here are five ways you can use your understanding of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to maintain momentum as you strive for your goals.

1. Acknowledge your accomplishments

When you acknowledge your accomplishments, no matter how small they are, you will reinforce your sense of achievement that will keep you motivated to continue working towards your goal.

You can do this by keeping a journal of your successes or by taking a few moments to reflect on what you have achieved.

2. Set goals that are meaningful to you

Setting realistic goals rarely gives you long-term inspiration or motivation. Instead, focus on setting goals that are meaningful to you and that will help you grow as a person.

This can include learning a new skill, taking on a challenging project, or exploring something that interests you.

3. Find ways to enjoy the process

It’s more effective to focus on the progress you make rather than the end result. This will help you stay motivated and enjoy the process of working towards your goals.

You can do this by breaking tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks and focusing on finding enjoyment in each step as you progress.

4. Reward yourself for any progress you make

Rewarding yourself for progress is a great way to keep yourself motivated and on track with your goals. Rewards can be an effective way to reinforce positive behaviour and encourage yourself to keep going.

This can include taking longer breaks during your workday, treating yourself to something special when you reach a milestone, or taking time off for self-care.

5. Surround yourself with positive people

Surrounding yourself with positive people who are supportive of your goals can help keep you motivated and inspired to continue working towards them.

Having someone to talk to about your progress can also help you stay focused and accountable for achieving your goals. They can lift you up when you’re less motivated and also provide valuable feedback and advice.

By understanding the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, you can make better use of both to stay motivated and achieve your goals.

Acknowledging your accomplishments, setting meaningful goals, enjoying the process, rewarding yourself for progress, and surrounding yourself with positive people are all great ways to ensure you stay on track.

Final Thoughts

Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can be beneficial in different scenarios and are powerful tools for achieving goals.

Whether you’re driven by an inner desire to learn or a need for external rewards, these motivators can help you stay on track in the pursuit of your dreams.

Ultimately, it’s important to find a balance between the two and ensure you are using them for the right tasks.

When you do that, you will create lasting motivation and continue to strive for excellence in everything you do.

Action Step: Assess which motivator you rely on more to keep yourself motivated. If you’re more driven by extrinsic motivation, identify ways you can become internally motivated. If you’re highly internally motivated, add new ways you can keep yourself motivated.

Question: What are more ways to make better use of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?

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Neel Raman

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