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💪 Intrinsic motivation: what is it and how to cultivate it?

Last updated October 10, 2021Reading time: 7 min.

Are you looking for motivation at work or in your personal life? Do you know what intrinsic motivation is? Do you want to know tips to know how to cultivate it and be closer and closer to your best version? If so, you came to the right place, because here we will explain what intrinsic motivation is, what benefits intrinsic motivation brings and how you can cultivate intrinsic motivation in your day to day.

Then, get ready to acquire tools that will make you that leader who inspires you not to give up and to overcome new challenges every day with passion and a lot of satisfaction. With intrinsic motivation, take and guide your team to another level of personal growth.

What is intrinsic motivation?

Let’s start by understanding what intrinsic motivation is. To explain I want to ask you a question: doesn’t anyone have to pay you to go see a concert of your favorite musical group? In theory, intrinsic motivation is that; which drives you to do things for the simple pleasure of doing them, which is born from within, without the need for an external stimulus.

In other words, intrinsic motivation goes from the inside out, so it is the opposite of extrinsic motivation, which is motivated by some kind of reward.

See! Clarisa María Ponte Betancourt, human resources professional with experience in different areas focused on transformational issues, who also teaches the course Self-motivation and motivation to achievement, explains that intrinsic motivation, or internal, “arises without an apparent reason, is very intense and lasting and depends on yourself”.

To give an example of intrinsic motivation, Clarisa talks about sport:

“I can get an internal motivation to do a sport, but what motivates me to do it?: that for me it is important, that it fills me, it generates pleasure, because I want to be in the first place, because my body feels good. It’s my decision, it doesn’t depend on the outside for me to do it,” says Crehana’s tutor about intrinsic motivation.

In this way, the definition of intrinsic motivation can be seen as the satisfaction of performing one’s own activity, not by the result or approval; that is, it is a behavior that brings in itself the incentive.

Source: PexelsWhat are the benefits of intrinsic motivation?

Now let’s turn to the benefits of intrinsic motivation. We understand then that intrinsic motivation is born from the desire to improve, from the desire to grow or learn, from the satisfaction of doing things well, and that its results are directly proportional. That is, the rewards of intrinsic motivation are purely intimate. Let’s look at some examples!1. You’ll feel better about yourself

Applying intrinsic motivation gives you autonomy and self-determination. Therefore, it is inherent in intrinsic motivation to acquire confidence, independence, inner strength, personal satisfaction, self-love and other potential feelings that make you feel better about yourself in everything you do. 2. You will be more productive

We like to feel that we are good at something, therefore, intrinsic motivation gives us the feeling that we master our skills, being more and more productive and competent. Therefore, in your working life, the fact of wanting to climb or aspire to a new job can be a sign that you have the intrinsic motivation afloat, so that you will be reaching your best version more and more.3. You will improve your relationships

Participating in altruistic activities, such as volunteering to help animals in street condition, visiting an old man or gathering your work team to collect Christmas gifts for low-income families, are very motivating activities that not only improve your relationship with yourself, but with others. Intrinsic motivation requires us to interact with others and care about others. In addition, you will be inspiring others to be supportive in their work and personal environments.

These concepts of autonomy, competence and relationship with others are treated by researchers Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan in their Theory of Self-Determination, which postulates that there are two main types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic.

Do you notice the importance of intrinsic motivation in our day to day? Have you already been able to identify people who apply intrinsic motivation at work or at home? How is intrinsic motivation displayed at work?

An article in the psychology journal INFAD entitled ‘Making Learning Flow’ cites Jenneth Tomas’ Theory of Intrinsic Motivation and argues that “today’s organizations do not seek the ‘submission’ of the worker, but their commitment and initiative. Therefore, the external rewards with which that submission was previously purchased are not enough.”

Research has shown that intrinsic motivation greatly influences performance and innovation in organizations, since it depends on it that the worker feels fulfilled in his work and cares about what he is doing.

Some examples of intrinsic motivation at work can be the following:Work on what we likeHave aspirations and ambitionsEnjoy a supportive personality, good attitudes and habitsValue-based actions

Source: FreepikHow to achieve intrinsic motivation?

Based on Deci and Ryan’s theory, we understand that, in order to move from the extrinsic (from the outside in) to the intrinsic (from the inside out), we must focus on meeting our needs for autonomy and self-determination; go from “I have what” to “I want”.

But that’s not all, when it comes to achieving what intrinsic motivation drives us, we must ask ourselves: what can I do to achieve it? In this sense, Clarisa Ponte Betancourt explains that, to be motivated, it requires, in addition to a stimulus, an intensity (attitude), a direction (focus) and persistence (discipline).

“We are not all the same or motivated in the same way. Everything must be born in that we have to know ourselves to understand what motivates us. Motivation has its own psychology, so it’s important to understand everything that goes into it so you can put your self-motivation into practice.”

Once you clarify those steps, you can encourage yourself to practice activities that will help you foster healthy intrinsic motivation. Here are some ideas:Learning: think about what you like to do and enjoy a lot; training in that area can be very motivating for you. For example, let’s imagine that you like dogs very much, but also photography, then you could dedicate yourself to photographing dogs. Or, if you’re passionate about video games, how about opening a YouTube channel to teach others your tricks and the best ways you discovered to get through each level? Encouraging learning is an excellent first step in cultivating intrinsic motivation.Constantly set new challenges: getting out of the comfort zone is essential to experience intrinsic motivation; each new experience overcome brings you personal satisfaction. Therefore, setting new goals for you and your team will always be a very positive exercise.Second chances instead of punishments: be gentle with yourself and your team. As a leader, stop seeing failures as something negative, because the truly negative thing is being unable to learn from mistakes. In intrinsic motivation, it promotes not giving up, trying again and correcting, as second chances, doing things much better.Be gentle and inspiring: Make yourself feel and make others feel capable of doing things and succeeding. Believe faithfully in the capabilities of each one, recognizing potentials and shortcomings. Remember that it is not about the destination, but the way. As Pierre Corneille said, “the greater the effort, the greater the glory.”Congratulate the effort: regardless of the results, it always highlights the effort that was spent on a task. It raises what it took to do better next time.

Now that you know what intrinsic motivation is, how would you exemplify intrinsic motivation in your personal and work life? Do you apply it? With all this information you already know how to perfect it and put it into practice.


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