Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation

What motivates you? Are you motivated extrinsically or intrinsically?

Extrinsic motivation means that the payoff or reward for doing something is going to come from outside of you. This might apply to working in your job for pay, receiving that sales commission for hitting monthly targets, or a child cleaning their room for a sticker.

Intrinsic motivation means that the payoff or reward will be generated within you. This might be that you pay for the coffee for the next person in line to do something nice, you take an extra course because you value education, or leave a note on the car you just dinged – because it is the right thing to do!

Here is an example of how motivations can vary. Your first job might have been to pump gas at the gas station. For those of us who are a little younger, back in the day you would drive up to the service station and the attendant would ask you how much petrol you would like, and they would put the petrol in for you while you sat in your car. In this role, an example of extrinsic motivation would be the attendant is filling you car with petrol because it is their job, and they are being paid. If the attendant were to wash the windows, without any expectation of monetary reward or even a thank you, this would be intrinsic motivation – the attendant feels nice (intrinsically) for going beyond their expected duties.

Our lives are filled with duties and tasks that include both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Often just the monetary reward, the pay we get from our work is not enough. We need other types of extrinsic motivation like recognition from our bosses and colleagues. But what about intrinsic motivation at work? It is tough to want to do more for a company that you feel used by, or give that little extra to a rude client. The thing about intrinsic motivation is it is not about them, it is all about us. When we are motivated by our own set of values and goals we do the things that seem like little extras because they make us the person we want to be. For example; If I want to be a kind person, then I need to practice kindness not for the outer rewards, I need to do it because it is who I want to be.  

Our intrinsic motivation can also sustain us when we are not receiving adequate compensation. So if you are not getting the pay or the recognition you want, then think about who you want to be. How are you contributing to the greater good or creating something innovative and unique, even just in the small things? 


  • Perform a motivation checklist for all the major activities in your life. What areas are you being extrinsically motivated in, and what areas are you intrinsically motivated?
  • What ways can you grow the number of things you do that build you into the person you want to be?
  • What 2 things can you do today to practice intrinsic motivation?

Good luck!

If you would like a life coaching session with Nathan to take stock of what motivates you, click here for more information and to book a free one-on-one session:



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