Motivation is the guiding force that makes the people push the envelope and define their behavioral patterns. Symbolically, motivation is like a carrot dangling from the end of a stick in front of a person, but you cannot actually motivate another person in this manner. The motivation that comes from within or is intrinsic, is actually true motivation. Prizes or awards (extrinsic) may push you to perform or act in compliance with a directive, but it is not motivation. If you want your group to be successful, intrinsic motivation must be imbued into the very ethos of a person. An intrinsic motivational environment can change a person’s perceived perceptions of self and guide them into changing their behavior.

Hence, meaningful work is driven by intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, motivation.

When we talk about extrinsic motivation, it is generally described in terms of materialistic gains or external gain. Getting a pay raise or a reward is a nice way of describing extrinsic motivation. Then you work to reach an arbitrary goal that someone else has set. When you go for future interviews, your résumé would look good and you are extrinsically motivated for better positions and paycheques.

Intrinsic motivation–or deep internal motivation–is much deeper, wealthier and better defined. The innumerable teachers who are inspired by the growth of their students or a doctor who is driven by improving health. Intrinsic motivation is derived from the meaningfulness of the work you do. You are driven by an implicit faith of doing something without any aspirations for reward or compensation.

Developing research on motivation suggests that intrinsic motivation is the sole factor for the emergence of a person. Extrinsic motivation results in a fall of performance since it works for a limited period when the rewards are coming. Once the rewards dwindle, the performance takes a nosedive since it is dependent on external factors that keep changing. However, internal motivation remains within your core and cannot be compromised. Studies conducted by Yale’s Amy Wrzesniewski and her team followed 11,320 West Point military cadets and assessed their motives for attending the academy over a 14-year period. The researchers made a startling discovery: Cadets who entered West Point because of internal motivators were more likely to graduate, become commissioned officers, receive promotions, and stay in the military. Whereas, compared with those who entered due to external motives, the likelihood of success was less.


“Helping people focus on the meaning and impact of their work, rather than on, say, the financial returns it will bring, maybe the best way to improve not only the quality of their work but also–counterintuitive though it may seem–their financial success,” observed Wrzesniewski and her co-author Barry Schwartz. Don’t fall in the trap of being motivated for external rewards. The performance will fall if we don’t depend on the intrinsic value of the work and make it more meaningful to our lives.


One must make a conscious effort to cultivate and develop intrinsic motivation. A survey was conducted on a group of creative writers. They were divided into groups where one group was given the external motivation in the form of a reward. The other group was asked to be creative and bring-on their best. It was found that the group with no external motivation performed better than the other group.

Think about the implications of your work. When you are barraged with conventional motivators, they may produce results initially but on a long-term basis they are not sustainable. It is paramount that you are passionate about your work and enter the day with an overwhelming feeling of doing your best, finding the best version of yourself. You are not part of the herd mentality. You are motivated from within. What may work for you may not work for the person sitting next to you. But you are you. An individual with a strong sense of remaining motivated in whatever you do, irrespective of external factors. Because you are secure and motivated. Success follows those who work relentlessly, meaningfully.

Finally, it is an intrinsic motivation that leads to the stimulation that drives a person to satisfaction or fulfillment. In other words, with intrinsic motivation, the incentive for engaging in a task is performing the task itself.

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