Internal vs External Motivation

Have you ever wondered what drives a single parent to drag themselves to work after a sleepless night only to come home to cook and clean their homes knowing they must repeat these steps over and over again for weeks, days, or months? If you said motivation, you’d be right. But what kind of motivation does this parent have? Is there something inside of them that drives them to do things? Or could it be something like money and power that pushes them along? The psychology of motivation dates back for centuries and there has always been these two types of personal motivation that are still relevant today: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Motivation is the driving factor in all of our minds that pushes us to complete tasks and gives us incentive to do something. Some people are motivated intrinsically to complete tasks because it gives them internal gratification. Others look for extrinsic rewards as a means of motivation. These motivators are often tangible.

If you are intrinsically motivated, you find reasons within yourself as to why you should do something. There is an internal desire for you to complete tasks and you receive gratification by knowing you are able to accomplish things. Puzzle solving is a great example of having intrinsic motivators. When you first start putting together pieces of a puzzle you have no outside reasons as to why you want the puzzle completed. There is no prize, no time limit and no one pressuring you. How great you feel after the puzzle is completed is attributed to your internal motivation. Many psychologists including Albert Bandura and Fritz Heider have studied intrinsic motivation through self-efficacy theories and attribution theories.

If you are someone who is extrinsically motivated, outside factors are needed to push you to complete tasks. Money is perhaps the most apparent extrinsic motivator. People who complain about their jobs yet still drag themselves to work every day are most likely motivated by their paychecks at the end of each work week. Other forms of extrinsic motivation include coercion and threats. For example, if you set out to complete a task and your family and friends are supportive, you will most likely be more motivated to achieve success. On the other hand, if you are up for a raise and are competing with a bully at work, you might not perform as well because you feel threatened by such a strong presence.

Knowing that motivation can come from different sources is very helpful. You can apply internal motivational tips to help yourself get through your daily tasks and you can also learn how to block negative external motivators in your life.