What Motivates You? The Two Main Types of Motivation

The words "what motivates you" written on a chalkboard

“Motivation is the incentive or reward behind why a person is compelled to act a certain way.”  Evan Tarver 

We often look at motivation through the lens of whether we have it or not. But have you ever considered what truly drives you? Or, more specifically, looked at the motivation behind motivation?

In this blog we will cover the two main types of motivation – Extrinsic and Intrinsic – which represent the external and internal rewards that fuel us. We also include tips and tricks to increase your motivation by helping you to identify and tap into what drives you. 


Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is driven by external rewards. This type of motivation comes from outside of us and represents all the things we do for external rewards like recognition, praise, or a paycheck. It also includes achieving or doing things due to fear, wish for acceptance, desire for social belonging or meeting societal expectations.

One example of extrinsic motivation is doing work required by an employer, who rewards our behavior with a tangible incentive in the form of a  paycheck. You do your job, and you are paid. You may not be doing the work because you love it or take joy in performing those tasks, you do it for the promise of payment at the end of the pay cycle.

Psychology Today notes, “an extrinsic motivator needs three elements to be successful: expectancy (believing that increased effort will lead to increased performance), instrumentality (believing that a better performance will be noticed and rewarded), and valence (wanting the reward that is promised).”

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is driven by internal rewards. Intrinsic Motivation comes from within us. This type of motivation is not due to any outside pressure, obligation, or reward. We do things for internal reasons, for the pleasure of doing something, in the spirit of helping others or because it is in line with our value system.

For example, a person might follow a vegetarian diet because it makes them feel good, aligns with their values and is a part of their identity. Compared to extrinsic motivation; “intrinsic motivation is powerful because it is integrated into identity and serves as a continuous source of motivation.” It is typically more sustainable because it focuses on things that we can control.

While extrinsic and intrinsic are the two main types of motivation, it’s important to note that motivation is very complex and there are a multitude of sub-categories within each of these main motivation categories.

How do we use this knowledge to help drive us? TIME Magazine recently published an article entitled “15 Ways to Motivate Yourself and Others”. I’ve captured some of the main points below, but please take a moment to read the entire article – it’s full of helpful suggestions!

1. Connect to your values. Frame the work that needs to be done around your values to find the motivation to succeed.

2. Find your WHY. What is your compelling purpose?

3. Change your WHY. Are you doing things for the wrong reason?

4. Change your HOW. Changing how you do something can help get you out of a stale routine.

5. Remember the feeling. Remember what makes you feel good and tap into that motivation to change how you’re feeling.

6. Shift to past, present or the future. Figure out which serves you the most in this present moment and switch your thinking there.

7. Find a meaningful metaphor that fuels you. Connecting it to your values is even more impactful.

8. Take action. Sometimes you just need to “start”, and the motivation may follow.

9. Link the work to good feelings. Playing your favorite type of music can make you happy when doing a task you are dreading.

10. Impress yourself first. 

11. “CHOOSE” to. Change the dialogue from “have to”, “must do” or “should do”.

12. Pair up with somebody who can mentor you and help motivate you when you lose your drive and ambition.

13. Change your question to change your focus. As yourself what is going well, rather than what is going wrong.

14. Have a routine for eating, sleeping, and working out.

15. Play to your strengths.

The author of the TIME article referenced above, J.D. Meier, offers this tip, and I couldn’t love it more “Learn how to push your own buttons from the inside out.”

Finding what motivates us and how to tap into those motivational factors can help us push forward and overcome slumps or obstacles in our daily lives. Try some of the tips above and view our video Motivation, Self-Control, and Productivity: Quick Tips to Improve Yourself to increase your motivation today!


By Kris Powers | May 11th 2021

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