Health Productivity

What You Should Know About Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

By FocusMe Team on 13 February 2019

Why do we enjoy doing some things and don’t like to do others? What determines our behavior and our preferences? Psychologists have many different opinions on what our motivation is and how to improve it. Although there are different views on how does motivation work and what it’s important for, most psychologists agree that there are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Extrinsic motivation comes from outside, while intrinsic motivation arises within ourselves. Intrinsic motivation is also called self-motivation. Although these two types of motivation are different, they both are equally important. If you learn how to manage your motivation and how to balance these two types of motivation, you will achieve your goals easier, feeling satisfied with what you do and even inspiring people around you.

Proper motivation helps you learn faster, be more productive, and it also positively affects your mood. It’s important to understand how different types of motivation influence our actions, and in what situations one or another type is most effective. Thus, we decided to help you learn more about this interesting topic.

The Difference Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Simply put, you are intrinsically motivated when you do something just because you enjoy the process. For example, intrinsic motivation works when you read a book because it’s interesting (not because you need to read it), when you exercise just to feel well and to relieve stress, or when you clean your home just because you like it clean.

Extrinsic motivation implies doing something because of certain external factors. For example, if you’re looking for a reward, you are driven by extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation pushes you to read a book when you have to prepare for exams, to exercise in order to lose weight, and to clean your home when you’re waiting for visitors to come.

Perhaps, now you think that intrinsic motivation is better than extrinsic motivation. Indeed, what can be better than doing something just because you like it? It’s good when you don’t need anyone to motivate you to accomplish any tasks, but it’s almost impossible to stay intrinsically motivated all the time. There will always be things you like more or less, and it’s impossible to do only what you like. Extrinsic motivation is about being a human. It helps us work on something we wouldn’t enjoy without it. In addition, the two types of motivation work differently and independently of each other. For example, you can enjoy working on some project at work but your main motivation is a financial reward or a potential raise.

Both types of motivation are good and helpful, however, if you use one or another type too much, the motivational effect may decrease. For example, researchers found out that if you’re already intrinsically motivated and also try to motivate yourself extrinsically, the overall motivation can decline. This is called the “overjustification effect.” To manage your motivation successfully, you should know what factors can increase each of the motivation types.

Intrinsic motivation

  • Accomplishment and engagement;
  • Sincerity;
  • New skills or knowledge;
  • Positive feedback;
  • Gut feel.

Extrinsic motivation

  • Rewards;
  • Raises, bonuses, commissions;
  • Fame;
  • Sexual desire.

How to Get More of Both Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

1. Be curious to learn more

A good way to boost your intrinsic motivation is to be curious. Make getting new knowledge and mastering new skills your goal, and do what you can to achieve it. No matter what you do, you can always do it better. All you need to do is just strive for more knowledge and want to discover more.
Many successful people have one thing in common: They are curious to learn and passionate about their goals. For example, Elon Musk has always been excited about the idea of dominating Mars. As a result, he created the most effective rockets to date.

2. Choose the right reward

Rewards are one of the most important factors that affect your extrinsic motivation. Thus, it’s important to know what rewards work best for you. For example, money is a good reward itself, but it’s also important to understand why you need money, and how you’re going to spend it. Les Brown, the well-known motivational speaker, was seeking financial success because his mother needed a house, and he wanted to buy it for her.
Keep in mind that if some rewards make great motivation for others, they will not necessarily be the best choice for you. Listen to yourself and think of what is most important and rewarding for you. The right reward can also help you build good habits.

3. Mind your great purpose

To boost your intrinsic motivation, you should understand what drives you. What do you want most of all? Why do you want it? There are many people who don’t know what exactly they want to accomplish in their lives. They often develop a passive approach to life and have problems with setting clear goals. When you understand your purpose, it gets much easier to develop the right motivation, moreover, it will come to you naturally.

4. Acknowledge your effort

Acknowledging and recognizing your hard work can increase your extrinsic motivation. You should be proud of your achievements and celebrate everything you’ve managed to do. Every time you succeed at something, you should see it as a victory. Such a mindset will also help you associate positive emotions with taking action.

5. Autonomy is important

Autonomy causes a great impact on intrinsic motivation. Managers and leaders who want their employees to be driven by intrinsic motivation should allow employees to set their own goals. When employees have a certain freedom of ideas, they get more involved in the working process. In addition, it’s a great way to boost creativity.

6. Use competition to your advantage

Competition can increase your extrinsic motivation, however, it’s also important to choose the right level of competition. Imagine if you were a professional racer competing with a rookie who drives a sports car for the first time. Such a race would be boring and wouldn’t bring you any satisfaction from your win. On the other hand, racing with a world champion would be too difficult and could cause a negative impact on your motivation.


Both extrinsic and intrinsic types of motivation are important drivers for your productivity and success. It’s important to understand what factors can increase different types of motivation, helping you achieve your goals. There is no need to choose between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Some elements of intrinsic motivation can also increase your extrinsic motivation and vice versa. Use both internal and external sources of motivation, and you’ll notice how your life changes for the better.

About the Author
Berta Melder is an experienced brand manager, co-founder and content marketing strategist for Masterra. Also, she’s a regular contributor for many websites (covering a broad range of digital topics). When she’s not writing, Berta tries to bring Scandinavian wellbeing philosophy into the workplace. Follow her on Twitter.


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