Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation. What drives you?

Last week I touched on motivation and this week I want to delve a little deeper into the topic.


Let's look at my gal Zoey. Here is a picture of her performing her trick "sit pretty." Do you think Zoey likes the way "sit pretty" makes her feel?

I would wager a bet as to "NO!" Zoey is "sitting pretty" because she knows a treat is coming her way!

My pups are VERY extrinsically motivated.

Everyone is motivated by something. Psychologists have determined there are two types of motivation that explain our behaviors and how we pursue our goals: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. We may gravitate towards one motivation more than the other, but often there is a mix of both driving our behavior.


Defining the terms

Intrinsic motivation refers to those activities you do because you find them personally rewarding. It's an internal form of motivation and plays off your internal interests and values. You perform a behavior or strive towards a goal for personal satisfaction or accomplishment.


Examples of intrinsic motivators include doing a workout because it feels good, solving a puzzle because you enjoy a challenge, taking a course because you find the topic interesting, or choosing healthy meals because you enjoy cooking them.


Extrinsic motivation is an external form of motivation. It's any reason you do the work other than the joy of doing the work itself. Anything that you are promised for doing the work and anything that you get as a result of doing the work are all extrinsic motivators. You strive towards a goal, perform a behavior, or engage in an activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment.


Examples of extrinsic motivators and rewards are things like monetary bonuses, pay raises at work for hitting specific goals, working for good grades, competing in sporting or fitness competitions for trophies, or losing weight to look better in your clothes.


Make sense?


Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation coexisting

When I first started my undergraduate studies and learned about different types of motivation, extrinsic motivation was novel to me, since most of what has always driven me was "feeling" based (and yes that has gotten me in trouble sometimes!)


Let's look at a few examples how my internal feelings have led and motivated me.


I have been exercising since my 20's because of the way it makes me feel. I married my husband because of the way he makes me feel (of course I also thought he was a great guy, smart, kind, generous, etc. but overall I loved the way I felt when I was with him.) I eat and don't eat certain foods because of the way I feel during and after eating the foods. I chose a new career path because I love helping others reach their health and fitness goals. I took Spanish because I have a sense of satisfaction when growing and learning. I keep in touch with the people I care about because I enjoy their conversation and feel thankful to have them in my life. I could go on!


Awards, recognition, fame, etc. none of the classic extrinsic motivators ever meant much to me. Or so I thought.


When I transitioned to a full-time undergraduate student early 2016, I started achieving Dean's List every semester. One semester I overloaded myself and had to change one of my classes to audit (I bit off more than I could chew that semester). Well, guess what "audit" meant for me? No Dean's List. I was really upset. I mean REALLY upset!


In reflection and hindsight, what I find most interesting about this shift within me, is that I chose my undergraduate program because I was fascinated with the curriculum. I was busting at the seams with excitement to be a part of a program that encompassed several of my FAVORITE subjects. Exercise, Nutrition, and Psychology. For those that are hockey lovers, this is a hat trick of awesomeness for me!