Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation: What’s the Difference?
Have you ever wondered why do you do certain things when you get up in the morning every day?
What are some of the reasons you find it hard to get off the bed when your alarm goes off? Why do you go to the university?
Why do you drive to the office every day even if you do not like it? Why do you fall in love? Why do you work hard to earn a livelihood for your family? What are your motives to pursue a certain career?
There is only one answer to all of the above questions. We do all the things we do due to our motivation or for that matter, total lack of it.
Motivations come in all forms and types. It is imperative to understand what some of the things are which motivate you to perform certain tasks and ignore others.
It will also help you not only remain motivated but it will also enable you to motivate others within your circle.
There are, in fact, many different things which drive our behaviors. It can be the environment in which you live. It can be your professional and personal circumstances. It can be the nature of your relations with your loved ones. It can be your upbringing or your education. It can be your future plans or what you want to do with your life.
There are actually two types of motivations which control our life and influence our actions.
The first one is intrinsic motivation in which an individual seeks motivation from his own heart and mind.
The second one is the extrinsic motivation in which outside factors and events motivate a person to do certain things.
Both Extrinsic and Intrinsic motivations have different effects on the overall lives of people.
People who are intrinsically motivated have a different opinion of life as compared to intrinsically motivated people.
They adopt a different approach to pursue their goals and life objectives.
It suffices to say that both of them are important because they influence human actions in their own unique way.
In this article, we will discuss some fundamental differences between these two types of motivations, their benefits and how and when you can inspire productivity by using them in real life.
THE INTRINSIC AND EXTRINSIC MOTIVATIONS
The following lines explain both Extrinsic and Intrinsic motivations one by one.
When an external force motivates you to do a certain thing, you happen to be extrinsically motivated.
The force or factor compels you to do something in an order to accomplish two different goals.
It either helps you earn a reward or Keep a less than favorable or positive outcome at bay.
You do not engage in such behaviors by choice but you have to in order to avoid an unpleasant situation or get something in return.
Some of the examples of this type of motivation are as under.
- Rigorous exercise and workouts to reduce weight.
- Reading your textbooks all night long in a hope to clear the test.
- Cleaning your home to welcome visitors.
- Participating in a sport to win a trophy or medal.
- Cleaning your rooms to avoid your mom’s wrath.
- Finding a new job to be independent.
- Trying hard to win an exam with distinction to win a scholarship.
When you do something such as learning to code because it is your heart’s desire, you are intrinsically motivated.
In our example, you learn coding to make yourself happy, not to please anyone or earn money.
Although, you are going to earn money yet the initial purpose of becoming a coder was to fulfill your inner wish or desire.
You learned that particular skill because you were eager to learn it.
In fact, engaging in such a behavior or activity is a reward in itself.
The following are some other examples of intrinsic motivation.
- Reading novels, stories, and poems because you love literature.
- Exercising because you want to get rid of anxiety, stress, and depression.
- Cleaning your home because you like cleanliness. It also helps you feel organized.
- Playing football because it is your passion and you find it enjoyable.
- Solving puzzles because you like to take on challenges and you find them exciting and fun.
- Preparing for the police exam because you want to be a policeman.
- Studying a particular subject because it fascinates you.
THE FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INTRINSIC AND EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION
We have already understood the primary differences between these two major types of motivations.
In Intrinsic motivation, the desire for something arises from our inner self. It does not depend on external factors or reasons.
On the other hand, external factors and forces determine what we have to do in the case of extrinsic motivation.
How effective these motivations are in influencing our actions and controlling our behavior is yet another main difference between them.
For instance, the intrinsic motivation can reduce manifold if you offer someone too many outside rewards for something he is intrinsically motivated to do, a phenomenon commonly known as Overjustification Effect.
Take the example of a child who loves to play with toys.
He will gradually lose interest in a toy; say a remote controlled car, after you externally reward him for playing with it because he has already shown an internal interest to play with it.
In simple words, it is not a good idea to reward people externally for their internal desires and wishes.
It will only result in a sheer decline of intrinsic motivation.
Some people think it is better to be intrinsically motivated rather than being extrinsically motivated.
After all, it feels like you are living in an ideal world where you do not have to seek motivation from anything or anyone to do a certain task or attain a certain goal.
All you have to do is to have an external desire for it and you are good to go.
However, we do not live in a Utopia in which only intrinsic motivation exists.
You might resent the idea, but it is not bad at all to feel extrinsically motivated.
As a matter of fact, it is closer to human nature to derive motivation from things beyond our control.
For example, you will be extrinsically motivated to complete a project on time, even if you internally like the project. The extrinsic motivation will stem from the idea of getting a reward or praise from your manager. Similarly, you are good at mathematics and love the subject.
But, you are extrinsically motivated to prepare hard because you will be graded for mathematics in coming examinations.
You enjoy studying and participating in mathematics, but it is not enough to clear the test.
You can benefit a lot from extrinsic motivation in different situations.
It is especially helpful when you have to complete an unpleasant task or indulge in behavior which you hate form the core of your heart.
Some other advantages of extrinsic motivation are as follows.
- You can develop a taste for something or someone you dislike because of external rewards or gains.
- External rewards can also motivate you to gain new knowledge or learn a new skill. You may develop an internal interest to pursue the skill or activity once you get past the early stages of learning and development.
- One of the biggest advantages of the external rewards is that they can act as feedback for your actions. You will learn if your performance is up to the required standard or not. They also help you determine whether or not you need reinforcement for your behaviors.
However, there are certain situations in which you should try not to be extrinsically motivated such as:
- When you already are intrinsically motivated to do something.
- When you consider you are doing some “work” rather than enjoying the activity.
There is no denying of the fact that both extrinsic and intrinsic motivations are equally important.
Both of them are good and offer you a lot of benefits.
It is your own duty to figure out which one of them suits you the most because this is where most of us falter.
Try to find out which type of motivation drives you and your team to do certain things but never forget to encourage both types of motivations in your personal and professional life.
THE PERFECT TIME TO USE INTRINSIC MOTIVATION
There are many ways you can use intrinsic motivation.
Appreciation is one thing which greatly enhances this type of motivation.
This is especially beneficial for children.
Any type of praise or appreciation from the parents or teachers can considerably enhance their internal desire to achieve something.
However, things can get rather complex or unfavorable when we flip the coin.
When you start giving away external prizes haphazardly or without any planning, the intrinsic motivation is bound to decrease among the individuals receiving these prices.
Going back to our example, the motivation among the children may decline if they are getting too much appreciation for small tasks or negligible work.
Be very intentional and careful with your feedback if you manage a large number of people in a company.
Your feedback should not only be empowering and specific, but it should also make your subordinates understand what you expect of them and what they need to do to command your respect.
However, never ever shower too much praise for a task which is easy to complete and most importantly, holds no real significance for the team.
If you do, they will slowly but surely lose their intrinsic motivation.
On the other hand, always inform your boss or manager when their feedbacks are motivating and when they are not if you are a worker.
Never hesitate to give your own feedback in response to their feedback. It will work as a sort of intrinsic motivation for them.
As a result, the will keep managing you in the best manner possible.
THE PERFECT TIME TO USE EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION
So, what is the best time to use extrinsic motivation?
It is a fact that intrinsic motivation does not always work.
Most often, people have no inner desires to engage in an activity.
In fact, extrinsic motivation can become a very beneficial and useful method, especially if you manage to use external rewards appropriately.
For instance, children normally do not take much interest in completing homework or a boring task.
Similarly, there are many tasks people do not have any internal interest in.
This is where extrinsic motivation can come to your rescue.
You can use this type of motivation to motivate people to do any kind of task, whether or not they like it.
However, always abstain from mindlessly giving away rewards because it can create a lot of problems for you in both the short and the long run.
Bonuses, commissions, prizes and tangible feedbacks can motivate a person to take an interest in a task or learn a new skill despite the fact that he has no interest or aptitude for them.
It is pertinent to mention that extrinsic prizes, bonuses, and appreciations are a difficult territory to tread in.
We have already discussed that the excessive or careless use of extrinsic rewards can result in Overjustification effect.
In this particular case, the intrinsic motivation of the people who already are motivated by internal desires decreases considerably.
It can also kill people’s motivation to do a certain thing because it will start feeling like “work” rather than an enjoyable activity.
However, extrinsic motivation can be extremely useful in business environments.
You, as a manager, can sparingly use this technique to induce motivation among your staff to achieve lofty goals or take on new challenges and responsibilities.
You can reward your team for achieving quarterly or six monthly goals, completing a difficult task or learning new skills with promotions, monetary rewards, and verbal praises.
Also, keep in mind that some of your subordinates might already have a desire to learn a new skill independently.
You must give such employees enough time and resources to explore and master these skills.
In fact, you can demotivate them if you make the learning process the part of their routine activities or daily responsibilities.
In case you are an individual worker, strive hard to earn all the extrinsic rewards we have mentioned above, but do not go over the board to get them.
Try to make sure you set apart enough time to partake in activities you enjoy just for the sake of doing them.
This will help you keep yourself balanced and focus on your main duties without burning out or losing interest in that activity.
HOW DO EXTRINSIC AND INTRINSIC MOTIVATIONS AFFECT LEARNING?
Both types of motivations can have either positive or negative effects on learning settings and environments.
For instance, some experts suggest students might lose any intrinsic motivation they may have about anything if the college strongly emphasizes on physical rewards.
Then there are also some experts who believe extrinsic motivation does enhance intrinsic motivation by enabling students to feel more empowered and competent in the classroom.
David G. Meyers, a professor of psychology at Hope College in Michigan, states in one of his books:
“A person’s interest often survives when a reward is neither used to bribe nor to control, but to signal a job well done, as in a “most improved player” award. If a reward boosts your feeling of competence after doing good work, your enjoyment of the task may increase. Rewards, rightly administered, can motivate high performance and creativity. And extrinsic rewards (such as scholarships, admissions, and jobs that often follow good grades) are here to stay,”
Although people consider intrinsic motivation the better of two yet both types of motivation are necessary as well as important to influence people’s behaviors and drive their actions.
It is essential for you to comprehend some of the basic differences between the two in order to better understand how they work and how they shape and control our lives.
It is also imperative to figure out what the overall impact of them on our behaviors is for us to use them appropriately.
People mostly look for the extrinsic impetus to achieve the desired goal.
They keep looking for extrinsic motivation which can drive them forward and remove their inability to do anything worthwhile in their lives.
Without intrinsic motivation, you cannot get going no matter how many interesting ideas you have.
However, you cannot even dream of achieving success in any area of life unless you manage to develop intrinsic motivation for them.
All the great men the history has seen so far have one thing in common.
They have an incredible ability to motivate themselves, even during the most adverse of circumstances.
They necessarily do not have better ideas, or they are not more intelligent than the others. They just never give up and keep on working hard until their goals reach a logical conclusion.