The Power of Intrinsic Motivation

Living an inspired life with intrinsic motivation.


Woman walking outdoors to show intrinsic motivation

(Bogdan Sonjachnyj /

Motivation is a powerful process. It enables you to fulfill basic needs as well as complete life goals. You may be familiar with extrinsic motivation, yet you also have a hidden motivator called intrinsic motivation. When you practice intrinsic motivation, you may feel renewed confidence, creativity, and joy.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are both very important, yet also different. Extrinsic motivation is driven by rewards, be it achieving high marks, earning a salary, or gaining peer recognition. Intrinsic motivation, according to Psychology Today, offers no external rewards and is all about enjoyment.

For example, an intrinsic runner will run simply because he loves it. He is not training for a marathon or trying to better his time; he is running because he feels running is a part of his identity and he will run no matter what comes of it. 

Other intrinsic motivation examples, according to Developing Good Habits, include doing pottery because it gives you joy, and not to make pieces for sale; or volunteering at the local shelter because you like to help others, and not for a school requirement.

Although it has no external rewards, intrinsic motivation does contribute to positive change. When people are intrinsically motivated, they get into a state of such deep immersion, it can lead to better performance and productivity, according to a study from Advances in Physiology Education

Researchers found that elementary students who were intrinsically motivated were calmer, more competent, persistent, and positive. This is important knowledge for parents, teachers, and managers to instill, as fostering intrinsic motivation enhances creativity and inspiration in all.

In fact, intrinsic motivation can actually be a more powerful motivator than its counterpart, according to Psychology Today. For example, if you are always measuring your success you may live in constant dissatisfaction.

This is like being on a hedonic treadmill, where consumers are compelled to buy the next generation luxury car or own the latest cell phone. After such a purchase, buyers may feel empty, dissatisfied, and start hunting for another product to fill the void. Likewise, after setting the next extrinsic goal, it is common to feel uninspired and disinterested. 

When you measure your worth by your performance and not your effort, you are unable to enjoy the process, according to Developing Good Habits.  Yet when you attach satisfaction to the effort, chances are you will enjoy yourself no matter what the outcome.

Instead of setting the next goal, stay in the present and enjoy the moment. Look inside to uncover what inspires you and do this for the sake of the act. If you love nature, walk in a forest without tracking your distance or time. Or, take out a blank canvas and lose yourself in the process of drawing. This can lead you to a place of pure creativity, the flow state, and a feeling of joy and soulfulness.

Intrinsic motivation is becoming an important tool for parents, educators, businesses, and athletes. It is about process, being in the moment, and enjoying life each step of the way. As motivation is such a powerful driving force, a world filled with those who are motivated intrinsically may become a place that is filled with creativity, joy, and inspiration.

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