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Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation - What’s the difference?

Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation
What drives you to do what you do? Is it external or internal factors? Understanding what motivates you to study can be helpful in analysing your activities. But what is the difference if you study maths for passion or to get good marks?

Extrinsic or intrinsic motivation

Motivation represents the reasons, interests or factors that drive a person to act, behave, make a decision, express an opinion and much more. Motivation also plays an extremely important role in learning, because motivated learners remain active and can learn more efficiently and productively.

In general, there are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. In this article, you will discover the difference between these two types of motivation and what you can do to motivate yourself intrinsically.

Extrinsic motivation

If the exam did not count towards your final grade, would you study for it? No? In this case, motivation is extrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is when you only do something because of external factors, i.e. outside incentives.

So, with extrinsic motivation, you only perform a task because you receive recognition and rewards or so you can avoid punishment. Such external incentives may include:
  • Rewards
  • Praise
  • Peer pressure
  • Power
  • Influence
  • Appreciation
  • Expectations
  • Fear of consequences

When to use extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation can be used to perform tasks that you don’t feel like doing. With extrinsic motivation, you create artificial incentives and goals that can motivate you to perform the task anyway, even if you don’t like it.

However, you must be careful: if what motivates you is always an external element, in the long run the action can become empty of meaning: you then achieve the opposite effect and become demotivated. Extrinsic motivation is not well suited to long-term commitments.

Intrinsic motivation

In a way, intrinsic motivation is the opposite of extrinsic motivation. It makes you happier in the long run and it is easier to stay on track. But what exactly does intrinsic motivation mean?

When you perform an activity that makes you happy, or that you are passionate about, you do not experience fatigue, boredom, or frustration. What keeps you motivated to do these activities is your own enjoyment, so you don’t need any external factors to keep your motivation high.

For example, if you love reading, you won’t feel the need to read a certain number of books per month: you’ll just read one book, and then another, and another, delving deeper and deeper into subjects regardless of marks and praise.

Examples of intrinsic motivation

You experience intrinsic motivation in various situations, for example when you find a hobby you’re passionate about. But other aspects of your life can also be intrinsically motivated:
  • At work: Many people do not find their ideal job and they settle as they need to earn a salary every month. However, in the long run, this salary-motivated work ethic only leads to dissatisfaction and a lot of stress.
  • When learning: If you learn a subject only because you have to, you will not gain any lasting benefit from it. If, on the other hand, the subject interests you, you’ll want to learn more about it and you will be more inclined to study and work to gain a deeper understanding of the topic.
  • Voluntary work: In volunteering, you do not receive a salary so there is no financial incentive, but you may still participate out of self-interest and personal values.

Encouraging intrinsic motivation

How can you intrinsically motivate yourself? Here are a few examples:
  • The meaning: Seeing the significance of a task can be helpful. When something becomes meaningful to you, you will be willing to devote time and effort to it.
  • The positive aspects: In most tasks, even those you don’t like, there is still a component that you appreciate. Focusing on these aspects can be helpful in doing this type of task.
  • The breaks: Dividing tasks into smaller goals and scheduling breaks is a good way to stay focused and motivated.
  • Associations: Combining unpleasant tasks with those you enjoy, such as listening to music while studying, is a great way to push you to do something in a comfortable environment. However, you must pay attention to the type of music you choose - read the article about studying with music on evulpo.

  • Conclusion

    For tasks that you don’t feel like doing, extrinsic motivation can help you to complete them. But for effective long-term learning, it is useful to find a way to motivate yourself intrinsically. This way, you stay focused on the task for longer and are happier when you do it.
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