Updated: Jul 2, 2019
Did you know there are actually different types of motivation that drive and feed us? There is the motivation that comes from inside us, the pure pleasure of engaging in an activity for example, and then there is the motivation that stems from a reward (or avoiding punishment) such as showing up at work earns you that paycheck.
Studies show the best outcomes are achieved from incorporating both internal and external motivational tools. Even better, research has found when both types of motivation are applied when working toward a goal, there are not only improved outcomes, but a greater focus, and more value is placed on consistent effort, resulting in an overall significant increase for both short and long term success.
What is Motivation?
Research has identified two main types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic. Each plays an important role in your ability to reach goals and sustain results over the long haul.
Intrinsic Motivation comes from doing something personally rewarding and enjoyable, basically doing something for the pure pleasure of doing it. Examples of this might be taking a walk outside because you enjoy being out in nature or participating in a sport because you find it challenging and enjoy the comradery of others.
Extrinsic Motivation comes from doing something for the reward, or to avoid a negative consequence or perceived punishment. Examples of this might be changing dietary habits in order to lower blood pressure or cholesterol or studying for an exam in order to get a good grade.
How it Works
Most of us automatically use a combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation when working toward a goal. Because our motivational tends to ebb and flow, using a combination of both enables us to apply what works best in the moment. For example taking a walk outside will help you to appreciate the moment, enjoying the sights, sounds, smells, etc. and that brings us happiness, however we may also seek a notable payoff for routinely going for that walk, such as a achieving or maintaining a healthy waistline. The pleasure of the walk is intrinsic motivation, while the payoff of having a healthy waistline is extrinsic.
As we grow and evolve, getting closer to our goal, what initially motivated change may not serve you the same or be as meaningful. For example, someone who started eating healthier to lose weight and improve their health was focused on the extrinsic reward, but as they begin to feel better, notice improvements in other areas of their life by making this improvement, the intrinsic motivation often kicks in. They want to make those healthier choices because they feel better and that is now as important as achieving the overall goal of improved health.
Motivation Will Come & Go.
We are continuously influenced by internal and external factors, which can be encouraging or discouraging in the moment. These influences can also derail or support our goals, causing our efforts to either fade or soar. The key to maintaining motivation over the long haul is to incorporate a combination of internal and external drives. Having reasons for participating in the activity, putting in the effort, and seeing both the short and long term benefit will often reinforce both internal and external needs.
You can start laying the groundwork for this by asking "how will I feel when I make this choice?" If it is a choice that is considered good, you are probably going to have positive feelings, if it is choice that is considered bad, then you are probably going to have negative feelings associated with it. Decide how you want to feel about the choice you are about to make - not just now, but tomorrow and beyond. Different things will work on different days, for various moods, environments, situations, etc. Just because something worked well one day, or for a few weeks, or even a few months or years, does not mean it won't need to be reassessed and tweaked from time to time. In fact, that is very normal.
Bottom line: motivation is like having your own inner cheerleader. There to get you going, excite you, generate enthusiasm, and give you a pat on the back when you need it. But even the best cheerleader will need support to keep that winning momentum going, and that's when you need to pull from outside sources, realizing your reasons for showing up and continuing to give your best effort. With intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, you have powerful team to support you for today, tomorrow, and beyond!
If you are a woman who is ready to live healthier and happier, ditch the diet, and discover small steps that will help you move more, stress less and eat healthier, then join my Healthy Habits for Weight Loss Facebook Group for healthy living tips, support, and fun!