Intrinsic Motivation: The Drive from Within

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Intrinsic motivation is defined as the act of performing behaviors without the need for external rewards or validation. To put it simply, it’s doing something regardless of a reward or punishment. You do something because you want to.

Intrinsic Motivation vs. Extrinsic Motivation

If you find yourself doing yoga (or some form of exercise) and you keep doing it because you want to learn more about it, then you are doing yoga based on intrinsic motivation. You are extrinsically motivated if you do yoga intending to execute a difficult pose like a handstand.

Intrinsically motivated actions and behaviors are motivated by internal reward— it could be that feeling of satisfaction once you turn in an assignment or that feeling of accomplishment once you’ve managed to do yoga every day for a week. By keeping up with this habit, you may end up reaping the benefits of establishing a healthy routine. On the flip side, you might find yourself doing yoga regularly only until you build enough strength to do a handstand. However, once you achieve this goal that you set for yourself, you might lose interest in the practice.

The Reward: Internal Satisfaction

People who pursue goals and behaviors simply because they want to are said to be highly internally motivated. Of course, accomplishing things despite the motivation (internal or external) has its rewards. The difference is that activities pursued based on internal motivation have internal rewards, which give more meaning to the accomplishment. 

Cultivating Intrinsic Motivation in Schools

Teachers and administrators are always looking forward to cultivating an intrinsically motivating environment for both the students, teachers, and school staff. Although grades are important, the school should not just be about getting high grades. An intrinsically motivating school environment is one that makes students want to come to school.

Some factors that increase intrinsic motivation in schools are (1) challenge because it gives meaning to the tasks that students have to endure and overcome. In the process, they learn to set goals for themselves. (2) Cooperation and competition increase intrinsic motivation by allowing the students to share their skills and knowledge with others while benchmarking their skills with their peers. Internal motivation is increased by (3) curiosity. When something piques a person’s interest, they become drawn to it and therefore want to know more. People’s desire for (4) control will drive them to control themselves and their environment to pursue their goals. It is but human to want (5) recognition for their achievements. People become more internally motivated to accomplish what they set out to do.  

Concluding Thoughts

It is so important to build that intrinsic motivation for students because they might carry that mentality with them throughout adulthood. Students who study purely to get good grades to get into a college might end up becoming workaholic adults who are too focused on earning money that they forget to cultivate personal relationships and enjoy the little things. Working hard is in itself not a bad thing. However, it is important to remind ourselves to enjoy what we do.

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