Motivation is the force that drives behaviors. While people once believed individuals either did or did not possess this trait, thinking has evolved toward understanding how various types of motivation can affect performance, enthusiasm, and attitude. It is easy to determine when someone is motivated, but the force behind that motivation is not always clear. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation work in unique ways.

What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

An internal force causes intrinsic motivation. The person does not worry about external validation or getting recognized for an achievement; rather, they are driven to perform the activity based on the feeling the action itself imparts. They may be exercising a natural talent, acting on a deep interest, or just genuinely enjoy or recognize the importance of the task at hand.

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Examples of Intrinsic Motivation

The intrinsic motivation depends on the person participating in the activity. The outcome generally cannot be separated from the activity itself. Examples include children wanting to run around and play outside for the pure enjoyment of it, an artist painting for a sense of fulfillment, or someone completing a crossword puzzle because it is challenging.

artist fulfillment joy Sladic / Getty Images


What Is Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrinsic motivation is the opposite of intrinsic motivation. Reinforcements are external, typically a reward or avoiding a punishment. Not all extrinsic motivation is the same. Often, the activity is not necessarily enjoyable, but the person feels motivated to complete the task for the reward itself.

Extrinsic Prize Reward Nicola Tree / Getty Images


Examples of Extrinsic Motivation

One example of extrinsic motivation is someone pursuing a degree to advance in their career or to achieve what they perceive to be a level of personal growth and not because of a desire to attain further knowledge. Other more obvious examples are participating in a competition for prize money, studying to get a good grade, or taking on a project at work to secure a bonus.

Prize Winner Acknowledgement triloks / Getty Images


Which One Is Better?

Experts argue that intrinsic motivation is the better form. When people motivate themselves to perform an activity, it is more fulfilling and helps preserve autonomy. There is also increasing evidence that extrinsic motivators can lead to decreased autonomy (self-governance) and lower the chances of the person developing a genuine interest in the project.

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Motivation in Daily Life

Both types of motivation are important in everyday life. For example, daily tasks are, by nature, uninteresting, but are still necessary. Taking out the trash, cleaning, following posted speed limits, and going to work are all examples of things we do without intrinsic motivation but are essential regardless. True intrinsic motivation cannot have any outside pressure, and examples can be difficult to find in real-life scenarios.

Daily Chores Boring Gravity Images / Getty Images


What Influences Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is natural. People want to perform activities they enjoy or in which they are skilled. Still, intrinsic motivation needs social encouragement to enhance competence and autonomy. For example, even when activities are intrinsically motivated — such as reading under the covers after lights out — the threat of extrinsic punishment can be enough to decrease intrinsic motivation.

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Motivation Incentives

While intrinsic motivation is ideal, there are a lot of situations when it is not enough. Not all activities are fun, challenging, or enjoyable, but that does not mean they are optional. In these cases, extrinsic motivation is necessary. Extrinsic motivation is not one-dimensional. Offering extrinsic motivation to internally motivate someone when there is no intrinsic motivation is possible. Examples of these include deadlines, punishments, and fines.

Deadline Extrinsic Motivation urbazon / Getty Images


Motivation in School and the Workplace

Two of the best examples of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in the real world areschool and the workplace. Leaders, managers, and educators should understand how to motivate others to elicit good performance, participation, and increase morale. The goal is to support autonomy and well-being while still meeting the necessary goals. One way to accomplish this is by creating an environment with flexible deadlines that encourages feedback, camaraderie, and inclusion.

Workplace School Motivation PeopleImages / Getty Images


Increasing Motivation

There are several ways to increase motivation. If intrinsic motivation is low, external motivation is necessary. To encourage self-determination, it is essential to tie the activity into personal values, goals, and experiences. Setting small short-term goals for manageability and fostering supportive relationships creates a sense of belonging that motivates participation and increases work ethic.

Goals Values Belonging gradyreese / Getty Images


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