Extrinsic motivation theory is a popular theory of motivation. There are two basic kinds of motivation. At first, there is intrinsic motivation which is the most powerful kind. Intrinsic motivation refers to any motivation that comes from within yourself. It’s about having a vision and knowing where you want to go. When doing something out of personal interest, that is intrinsic motivation.
Motivation is extrinsic when you only aim to achieve a desired outcome. Usually this outcome is attached to some kind of reward, so this could be money, a certain lifestyle or a good reputation. If you receive a bonus for excellent performance at work, this clearly is an extrinsic motivator.
Intrinsic motivation is more powerful and sustainable than extrinsic motivation. So when you have a personal interest to get to work because you like what you do, then that will be more successful than if you are solely motivated by your salary. It is best if you can employ a combination of both. So when you get paid for what you love to do, that would be the ideal combination for anything.
Fear and Inspiration: The Two Ends of The Spectrum For Extrinsic Motivation
Often it is said that people are either motivated by fear or inspiration. If you are not at one of the ends of the scale, you are not going to make changes in your life. This is a strong statement, but give it a thought for a second. Any change you want to make in your life takes energy. It is not easy to make a change. And often when people try to make a change they give up on it again after some time. What you need to make a change is sustainable motivation. Fear or inspiration are emotions that can be stuck with you for a long time. And they are strong emotions. This is why they will give you the energy you need to make that change you are looking for.
So if you are not afraid or inspired, you need to become afraid or inspired. Only then you can make sustainable changes in your life and stay committed to them.
I made use of extrinsic motivation, without knowing about it
Looking back I found this to be true for myself as well. Back when I was 16, I was thinking ahead to the future and how I wanted my life to be like. Being just an average student in school I didn’t imagine my future to be too well. I have to admit that I was quite lazy: Usually I spend the afternoons watching TV or playing computer games.
As I was only an average student, I imagined my future life to be boring and frustrating. To me ‘average’ meant an uninspired life with the same day-to-day routine. I did not want to aim for just average. When I became honest with myself and realized that exactly this would be my life if I would not make changes I became AFRAID.
Fear propelled me to action and to study hard to become an straight-A-student
The fear I felt propelled me to make a decision and to take action. I set a goal for myself to finish school as a straight-A-student. I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I had the goal and the determination to work hard for it. In my mind I imagined the countless opportunities I would have if I achieved this goal. Instead of needing to choose a random university, I would be able to study at one of the top universities and choose my favorite subject. Later I would work in a high position and earn a good income.
What I couldn’t know back then was how well this actually motivated me. Not immediately, but slowly I was making progress. I changed schools and suddenly even became an A+ student. Additionally to my extrinsic motivation through fear I had intrinsic motivation, as in my new school I could learn more about subjects that interested me.
How you can make use of FEAR and INSPIRATION yourself
First, you need to start being honest with yourself. If you take an honest look at how you are living your life right now, how will it look like in 5 years, in 10 years or in 20 years? Is this the life you desire for? When you try this little thought experiment you might realize that living a poor lifestyle will not get you far.
As a next step, you need to make a decision to change. You need to make a commitment to changing and to improve your life. This decision is not just random, but you need to back it up with your emotions. Feel the FEAR and make the decision.
Finally, you need to keep reminding yourself on a consistent basis of the change you would like to put in place. Having a specific goal you are desiring to attain can be helpful. My goal was to become a straight A-student. I was probably unconsciously and consciously thinking about the goal every day. This will propel you to action.
Taking action didn’t make me a more organized student by default, but it made get up at 6AM to finish the homework I didn’t do the day before or it made me read ahead to prepare for the class. Just by reading ahead in our coursebook I could easily answer most of the questions the teacher asked and made a good impression.
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