Definition of Motivation

Have you ever had days when you were booming with energy? On the opposite end of the spectrum, have you ever had days when you couldn’t sudden the slightest amount of energy to do anything? Chances are you answered “Yes” on both accounts. What did these two scenarios have in common? They both encompassed different levels of motivation. To help you understand what I am talking about, let’s learn the definition of motivation followed by how it affects your life.

To put simply, motivation refers to something which brings out certain behaviors in other people. For example, if someone is starving then they will be motivated to eat something until they get rid of the feelings of hunger. At its most basic level, motivation is designed to help people move away from pain and move closer to pleasure. Motivation can also be used to help someone achieve a specific state, goal, or ideal. Either way, motivation can usually be summed up to this: making someone “go” and do something. Now that we’ve covered the definition of motivation, let’s cover the different types.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation refers to anything which internally drives you to do something. This means that you are enjoying the task at hand without feeling any external pressure to make you feel that way. Intrinsic motivation is based on the idea that people take pleasure in doing things for themselves than for an external reward. Studies have shown that people with high self-motivation tend to push themselves much further and have more success than those individuals who are externally motivated. You might be intrinsically motivated if you:

  • You believe that you have the skills needed to achieve in anything (a.k.a. you don’t believe in luck)
  • You love mastering a specific topic, rather than jumping around and become “okay” at a few.
  • You are autonomous (you are self-sufficient)

Now, let’s move on to the next form of motivation.

Extrinsic Motivation

This refers to someone who does or acts a certain way in order to receive some kind of external reward. Basically, this form of motivation stems from outside of the individual. Common forms of extrinsic motivation include grades, money, and other materialistic possessions. Competition also tends to fall under this category because it encourages participants to try and beat one another (external reward) instead of focusing on bettering themselves. Something as simple as a crowd cheering on an individual can be considered extrinsic motivation.

The role of utilizing extrinsic rewards to make someone act a certain way can be seen in training examples using animals. Whenever the animal performs a trick or desired result correctly, they receive a treat. This makes the animal want to repeat the same behavior in order to keep getting the same reward. Astonishingly, the treat is enough of a motivator that it keeps the animal performing the trick consistently even when a reward is no longer present. As you can see, extrinsic motivation can be very powerful.

Which Form of Motivation Works Better?

Then we have the big question. Which works better: extrinsic motivation or intrinsic motivation? Well, the answer really depends on the goals and desires of that person. As a general rule of thumb, self-motivation works better for the long-term while external motivation works better for the short-term. For example, if you get into a fight at a bar, you are going to rely on external motivation to drive you. On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you are searching for your dream job, then you probably want to find one which internally motivates you.

Possessions like money, cars, and nice homes (while nice) can only keep someone satisfied for so long. Sooner or later, that individual is going to grow accustomed to those things and won’t have the motivation to work for them anywhere. This is why it’s especially important to do things in life which internally drive you- especially if it’s for the long haul.

Helping You Determine Your Destiny


Chris T Atkinson 🙂
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