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Motivation is so important, but there are times when we may not feel particularly motivated in a certain area of our life. To persist at anything, we need mechanisms in the brain that initiate and maintain effort.  Without them, we cannot start or sustain action (Deci & Ryan, 2008).

Self-Determination Theory or (SDT) assumes that humans are, by nature, self-motivated, curious and interested, and eager to succeed because success itself is personally satisfying and rewarding.

2 types of motivation help us move toward this state of satisfaction. Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic involves doing something because it is both interesting and deeply satisfying.  We perform such activities for the positive feelings they create, typically leading to optimal performance (Deci & Ryan, 2008).

In contrast, extrinsic motivation involves engaging in an activity because it leads to a tangible reward or helps us avoid punishment.

Studies have consistently shown that intrinsic motivation leads to increased persistence, greater psychological wellbeing, and enhanced performance.

And the good news is that we can develop intrinsic motivation.

Here are two ways:

1 - Satisfying our basic psychological needs

Fowler (2019) recognises three basic psychological needs foundational to all human beings and their ability to flourish.

Increased intrinsic motivation can be encouraged by building environments that promote:

  • Autonomy – having choices
  • Relatedness – having connections with others
  • Competence – having skills and the opportunity to use them

2- Engage in your story

A great skill to develop is creating the story you tell yourself. Frame things around what you’d like to accomplish, finding comfort and encouragement by using narrative to create a sense of connection.

How we feel about our work is typically less about the activity and more about how we frame it. Making meaning of our contributions. For example, are you a bricklayer merely putting one brick on top of another, or are you part of a team-building a great church or school?

Is the task mundane and pointless, or are you creating a better environment for others?

Let’s build the internal motivational aspects of why we do what we do which keep us moving forward regardless of external appreciation or reward.

Watch out for more tips to develop intrinsic motivation next week.