What Is Extrinsic Motivation?
Posted on March 17, 2015
You probably know it is being motivated from outside sources – money, attention, rewards, medals, women, men, fame. Yeah…all those things.
Turn on the radio and you are going to hear song after song about stacks on stacks or clubbing…really just listen and your imagination will run wild. Try hard enough and you can convince yourself that without these things your life is actually pretty lame. Try even harder and you can imagine yourself as a person who has all these things and somehow “happiness” finds its way into that vision.
But this story we are fed – the story that extrinsic motivation…the life of gaining fame, fortune, sex, and drugs will grant us all of our needs couldn’t be any farther from the truth.
We live in a society that demands we have everything now and puts celebrities on a pedestal for seemingly no good reason. Granted there are some amazing people out there doing some amazing things, but time after time we are fed another story – one where confrontation and combative dialogue sells – and we let it soak into our minds. We see these outside motivators as what’s going to make us happy and start our daily grind to capture these things…only to realize when we do…that they were in fact hollow and worthless beyond their material dollar sign.
Extrinsic motivation can be a really good thing sometimes. It can build some drive and momentum in your life and you can build a better life for yourself and the people around you. You can access better education, get a better job, and a multitude of other things. But at the same time, if you depend on it too much, it can lead to a significant decrease in intrinsic motivation – the drive from within.
There have been many studies, and the video from Dan Pink above on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation definitely attests to this idea, that an overabundance of outside motivators can actually lead to decreased intrinsic motivation and further a dip in creativity.
That’s the last thing we need! Our intrinsic motivation is one of the greatest gifts we have been given – the type of motivation where we enjoy what we are doing and we learn to actualize ourselves through behaviors. This is the type of motivation where we can suffer through failure over and over again but still keep coming up to the plate of life to see if we can actually achieve what we set out to do.
So in comparison, extrinsic motivation falls short in terms of long-term performance against intrinsic motivation.
Here’s where I go off the tracks a little bit.
I know that without a shadow of a doubt that my life would be a fraction of what it is now if I didn’t find something to hold onto 4 years back that told me deep inside I could go out and do it. I used to be incredibly extrinsically motivated because I was always comparing what I didn’t have to others who had what I thought I needed. In time, I realize that the only things that really mattered where how we loved others, how we made other people feel, and what we were contributing to the world that was in a positive way.
Finding something deep within yourself that will help you grind through the hard times is more valuable than many other things on this planet. See where extrinsic motivation fails is when you confront absolutely massive obstacles and deep pain in your life. These motivators fall short in giving you the strength you need to overcome tragic defeats and pick yourself back up. If all you are motivated by is money, fame, and other material goods…you are going to find it incredibly difficult to see past some of these roadblocks that are showing up in the present.
Also, on a completely separate note…extrinsic motivation almost has an air of shallowness around it…as if thinking life was all about what you could buy and discard. I think life is far deeper than that and we can truly discover the mysteries of what it is to be a human being in this world if we start tuning into our personal vibrations.
So my challenge to you today is to find 4 or 5 things deep inside you that give you reasons why you want to achieve something. Who do you want to be in this world? What will you stand for? How will you change it? When you can find these answers that are deeply resonating with you…you can become something far greater than just yourself. Those who are tapping into extrinsic motivation will be capped at a certain point…but find those reasons for doing something deep within…and there’s no telling the impact you could make.
The Better Man Project