Do you know what drives you to get good grades or put that extra bit of effort into your science project? What is it that makes us want to do well— both on tests and in our lives? Our reasons or desires to succeed are our motivations. There are two key types of motivations: intrinsic and extrinsic. The type of motivation that drives us actually affects how well we do.
Intrinsic motivation is the sort of desire that arises from within us. If you are an artist, you may be driven to paint because it brings you joy and peace. If you are a writer you may write to satisfy the need to create stories from the many ideas swimming around inside your head. These drives stem from an interest in the activity or job itself, without any external influence. Internal motivators often become defining qualities or characteristics of the person acting on them.
Extrinsic motivation compels you to act based on some outside force or outcome. The desire is not one that would arise naturally within you, but because of someone or some consequence. You might be motivated to do some extra credit to keep from failing your math class. Your boss might offer an incentive program to make you work a little harder. These external influences can have a great impact on why or how people do what they do, sometimes even things that seem out of character.
While it would seem intrinsic motivation would be better than extrinsic, they both have their advantages. Being internally motivated is most rewarding in that the activity or area of study naturally brings a person pleasure. The desire to perform an action requires less effort than an externally driven motivation. Being good at the activity is not necessarily a factor. Many people are motivated to sing karaoke despite their musical ability, for example. Ideally, people would be intrinsically motivated to do well in all aspects of their life. However, that is not the reality.
Extrinsic motivation is good for when someone has a job or an assignment to do that they do not really enjoy for its own sake. This can be beneficial in the workplace, school, and life in general. Good grades and the possibility of getting into a good college are good external motivators for a student. Receiving a promotion or a pay raise incentivizes employees to go above and beyond at work. Perhaps some of the most beneficial aspects of extrinsic motivators are that they encourage people to try new things. Someone that has never tried horseback riding may not know that it is something they might really enjoy. A teacher might encourage a talented young student to take classes they normally would not have, introducing them to a new area of interest.
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations work in different ways but are equally important. It is really great to feel good about doing something you love and doing it well. However, no one can function in the world acting only on internal desires. Those external influences help people develop in all aspects of life.
Extrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by external factors such as a reward or avoidance of negative outcomes. Money is the most obvious example of an extrinsic motivation.
Extrinsic motivation factors can be either tangible and intangible. Tangible factors are factors with a physical form. Any type of financial reward can be an example of a tangible factor. Conversely, intangible factors are abstract in their nature and lack a physical form. Examples of intangible external motivations include fame and praise.
Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation
Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation Intrinsic Motivation Intrinsic motivation refers to the stimulation that drives adopting or changing behavior for personal satisfaction or fulfillment. Such motivation drives an individual to perform an activity for internal reasons that are personally satisfying, as opposed to being motivated extrinsically, that is, by the prospect of obtaining some external reward are two types of behavior stimulation. Extrinsic motivation is the stimulation of behavior through various external factors. Intrinsic motivation is a behavioral catalyst driven by a desire for personal satisfaction or fulfillment. Note that both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation correspond with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Extrinsic motivation coincides with the safety needs in the hierarchy, while intrinsic motivation concurs with esteem and self-actualization needs.
We cannot say that one form of motivation is better than the other. Both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation can effectively impact humans’ behavior and stimulate them to perform certain actions. It is also worth mentioning that the effectiveness of a particular type of motivation may vary among individuals. For example, some people tend to prefer external rewards more, while others put a greater emphasis on personal satisfaction.
Generally, intrinsic motivation is highly regarded as the strongest incentive to achieve long-term objectives. If an individual possesses strong intrinsic motivation, it is very likely that he or she will complete a task. The caveat here is that a person cannot always be intrinsically motivated.
Unlike intrinsic motivation that can drive human behavior only in certain tasks or actions, extrinsic motivation comes with a larger number of potential applications. It is an effective stimulus to motivate a person to do a task he or she was not interested in previously.
Extrinsic Motivation in Organizational Behavior
In organizational behavior, extrinsic motivation plays a crucial role in determining the actions and behavior models of a company’s employees. In every organization or company, employees are extrinsically motivated by the compensation they receive for their work. However, salary Remuneration Remuneration is any type of compensation or payment that an individual or employee receives as payment for their services or the work that they do for an organization or company. It includes whatever base salary an employee receives, along with other types of payment that accrue during the course of their work, which is not the single extrinsic motivation factor, since many organizations provide many other rewards, such as bonuses, commissions, benefits Fringe Benefits Fringe benefits are the additional benefits offered to an employee, above the stated salary for the performance of a specific service. Some fringe benefits such as social security and health insurance are required by law, while others are voluntarily provided by the employer. (e.g., health benefits). We must also acknowledge that intangible extrinsic rewards such as praise and peer recognition are typically presented in many workplaces.
In the workplace, extrinsic rewards can be used to stimulate the interest of employees in tasks in which they are not initially interested. In addition, other sources of motivation typically encourage employees to acquire new knowledge and skills. Finally, the management of a company can use extrinsic rewards as a source of feedback regarding the performance of its employees.
Despite the fact that the external rewards are essential to motivate the company’s employees, a company should not rely solely on extrinsic motivation. If the company’s employees possess strong intrinsic motivation, they are likely to remain motivated for longer periods of time. Furthermore, an excess of external motivation may subsequently decrease the employees’ intrinsic motivation.
Therefore, every company or organization must carefully assess their workforce to understand their needs and to determine the optimal mix of extrinsic and intrinsic motivations.
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When it comes to getting employees to do their best work, good managers often adopt the role of a coach. They know that achieving the best results from their team members requires having someone who leads by example and provides the resources to help them do their best. As a result, many managers focus on inspiring and motivating their employees. There’s just one problem with this: Far too many assume that inspiration and motivation are essentially the same thing. Well, they aren’t. And knowing which how to leverage what makes them distinct can lead to a better chance of achieving long-term successful outcomes for your team.
Should You Master Motivation?
Motivation is consistently cited as one of the most important tools managers have for improving employee productivity. Providing external forces that encourage employees to give their best effort can make a significant difference in the workplace. Many motivating factors rely on some sort of reward. For example, a survey from Leadership Management Australia found that 79 percent of employees felt that training and career development opportunities were either “quite” or “very” important in motivating them to stay with their current company. In this case, the potential for career advancement was a powerful external motivating factor. Similarly, reward systems and recognition are often used to encourage greater productivity, while also improving retention and workplace happiness.
As Kristen Hamlin notes in a blog post for Chron, “Employers are better served to focus on rewarding employees for their actions rather than threatening punishment if they want to motivate them. Promising rewards for specific actions triggers the ‘go’ response that gets people to act. Trying to scare people into action via threats about the bad things that are going to happen if they don’t act is likely to create more fear and anxiety, which can thwart action.”
Innovation With Inspiration
While using external motivation can improve productivity and retention, quite often, these bonuses are only temporary. As soon as an employee feels they have advanced their career as far as possible within your organization, they become likelier to jump ship. To foster lasting engagement, you must do more than motivate. You must inspire.
So how does inspiration differ from motivation? A recent email conversation with Sam Taggart, founder of The D2D Experts, went a long way in clarifying the crucial differences for me. “Motivation is a push factor,” he explained. “It’s an outside force that is compelling you to take action, even if you don’t necessarily want to. Inspiration, on the other hand, is more of a pull or driving force. It’s something that comes from within that gets us to proactively give our best effort. When someone is inspired, they’re with you for the long haul.”
Inspirational leadership focuses on each individual employee, while also placing great emphasis on the company’s mission and values. Inspiring managers communicate and live the company values in each interaction with an employee. They emphasize how the team’s work is making a positive impact in the world. Inspiring leaders clearly communicate expectations and pay attention to the needs of their employees. They get to know their team members on a more personal level so that their words and actions carry greater weight for those they lead. A focus on inspirational leadership helps change an employee’s internal mindset. Motivation starts to come from within as they understand how their contribution makes a difference.
Research from the American Psychological Association reveals that finding meaning in one’s work is ultimately a far greater predictor of engagement, satisfaction, career growth and decreased absenteeism than any other factor. This was even true of “undesirable” industries, such as sanitation.
Where Do Managers Need to Focus?
In reality, your greatest leadership successes won’t come by focusing exclusively on inspiration or motivation. You will need to use both to foster a successful team environment. For example, a survey from LinkedIn identified both motivating and inspirational factors as being extremely important in creating a sense of belonging among employees. Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed wanted to be recognized for their accomplishments, while 46 percent wanted to feel like their company cared about them as an individual.
Ultimately, both motivation and inspiration will help your employees be happier and more satisfied with their work environment. A study by the Social Market Foundation and the University of Warwick’s Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy found that happy workers enjoyed productivity rates 12 to 20 percent greater than a control group.
In an economy where even single-digit percentage boosts in revenue or productivity are considered a big deal, it’s clear that creating a workplace where your employees can truly thrive will have a lasting impact on your company’s profitability. Which motivating and inspirational factors you should use will likely vary from person to person. Some people respond better to motivating factors, while others will buy in completely with inspirational leadership. You must get to know your team as individuals to effectively motivate and inspire based on their individual needs.
While motivation is a good start, the most effective way to lead your team is when motivation is combined with inspiration. When you’re able to help support internal change, your team will become more driven to give their best effort and buy into your company’s vision and mission. It’s time to start inspiring and motivating your team.
I was recently asked whether or not I am a behaviorist.
Behaviorism usually refers to approaches of Pavlov (classical conditioning of stimulus/response) and Skinner (behavior modification by reinforcing behavior AFTER an act occurs).
Behavior modification is popular in schools, especially with special education teachers. Unfortunately, MANY RESEARCH STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THE APPROACH TO BE INEFFECTIVE. However, its staying power is attested to by an increasing number of states mandating that schools use “positive behavior support” that is based on a behavior modification model.
The essence of behavior modification is to REWARD DESIRED BEHAVIOR AND IGNORE UNDESIRED BEHAVIOR. The fact that inappropriate behavior is ignored can send the message that nothing is wrong with the behavior, and so there may be little incentive to stop doing it. Therefore, a major problem with the approach is that, when undesired behavior is not addressed, such behavior can become “reinforced.”
Since all behavior modification RELIES ON AN EXTERNAL STIMULUS—something or someone external or outside the person—in a certain sense, this can be related to Level C in that the motivation is external.
The RAISE RESPONSIBILITY SYSTEM encourages INTERNAL motivation (Level D). External motivation (Level C) is acceptable, but it is not the highest or most effective approach for changing behavior.
People who rely on behavior modification believe that rewarding behavior influences the person to change. But in reality, only the MOTIVATION CHANGES. This can be witnessed in young people who ask, “What will I get if I do it?” The motivation lasts only as long as the reward lasts; when the reward is gone, so is the motivation.
External sources prompt us to act, but the behavior itself is not automatic; nor does one’s BEHAVIOR ever come from outside the person. Behavior is a person’s own choice. The actions may be habitual and/or nonconscious, but the behavior ALWAYS comes from that person. Therefore, it would be misleading if I classified myself as a behaviorist in the traditional sense of the word. I could classify myself as an INternalist, a word that perhaps I have just coined.
For a practical example of the difference in effect between internal and external motivation, read “ A Letter Worth Reading .”
We all have motivation that ebbs and flows.
Some mornings you wake up energized to get to work and power through that to-do list. Others you smack the alarm clock, curse the morning and give yourself an extra five minutes to dream about putting in your notice and getting the first flight out to a tropical locale.
Not to mention the peaks and valleys that we experience within just one day: First thing in the morning (with a workout and an espresso under our belt) we’re feeling like a walking advertisement for motivation. By the time the afternoon munchies kick in we’re counting down the hours until we can throw in the towel.
But identifying the “why” behind the actions you perform can make finding the motivation to do them easier on those days when you’re feeling less-than-inspired. Whether you’re dragging yourself to the gym or fighting the mental battle against procrastination at work, making a mental shift to reconnect to your source of motivation can give you the boost to get it done.
Lacking Inspiration? How 3 Types of Motivation Can Help Change Your Mentality
The 3 Types of Motivation
Motivations are primarily separated into two categories: extrinsic and intrinsic. Good news if neither of these get the job done. Researchers have identified a third type of motivation that’s impressively effective.
Doing an activity to attain or avoid a separate outcome
Chances are, many of the things you do each day are extrinsically motivated.
According to research published in Contemporary Educational Psychology, “Extrinsic motivation is a construct that pertains whenever an activity is done in order to attain some separable outcome.”
Like exercising to lose weight, learning to speak Italian to impress your friends, or getting to work on time to avoid being yelled at by your boss.
“Extrinsic motivation is doing something for the external rewards you get from it. In your career, this can include financial gain, benefits, perks and even avoiding getting fired,” says says Shawna Clark, owner of Clark Executive Coaching, a leadership development company.
When you find your inspiration waning, re-focusing on external rewards is a quick way to recommit to a goal or activity, whether that be performing well at work or sticking to an exercise routine. If you find yourself grumbling through your commute each day (to perform a job you’re not crazy about) try focusing on the external rewards — be it the paycheck that pays your rent, the health insurance or even the free fruit in the cafeteria — to get motivated.
An internal drive for success or sense of purpose
The journal of Contemporary Educational Psychology defines intrinsic motivation as doing “an activity for its inherent satisfaction rather than for some separable consequence. When intrinsically motivated, a person is moved to act for the fun or challenge entailed rather than because of external products, pressures, or rewards.”
Hopefully you have a handful of actions you perform each day that fall under this bucket. Your job may not provide obvious sources of intrinsic motivation, but perhaps you head out for a run because you enjoy the experience of unplugging and pounding the pavement or help your neighbor carry their groceries up the stairs because you genuinely feel good doing it.
“Intrinsic motivation is doing something because it feels good to you. You feel internally rewarded for doing it,” says Clark. “In a job, this can be doing work that feels purposeful, enjoying time with your teammates or achieving goals you’ve set for yourself.”
Say, for example, you’re a financial adviser and feel genuine satisfaction from being able to help people manage their money in a way that betters their lives. Or you’re a marketing executive who enjoys brainstorming new campaigns with your colleagues.
Many people find it harder to identify sources of motivation in this bucket. (Who actually enjoys running or spending 40 hours a week behind a desk?)
There is some convincing evidence to encourage us all to identify our sources of intrinsic motivation, though. In a study of 14 years of data, researchers looked at the motivations and outcomes for more than 10,000 incoming cadets at West Point Military Academy. What they found was that cadets with primarily internal motives were about 20 percent more likely to make it through training than the average. (Plus, those with external motivations had a 10 percent lower chance of sticking with a military career and a 20 percent lower chance of being promoted early.)
Just because you don’t immediately see the connection with your own job doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Step back and take a look at the role you perform each day and look for sources of success or purpose. For example: You may not care much about the product your company sells or find satisfaction in fielding phone calls, but as a customer service rep, you can focus on feeling good about the people you were able to help throughout the day and use that as a source of motivation to keep working hard.
Motivated by the desire to provide for your loved ones
Finding intrinsic motivation isn’t always easy, especially for those of us who aren’t passionate about our work. Luckily, there is a way to compensate: Think about your family. This has emerged as a third source of motivation proven to be a strong source of inspiration — even for those who do not feel intrinsically or extrinsically motivated to do something.
A new study published in the Academy of Management Journal looked at a group of factory workers whose jobs entailed performing the same mundane task day after day, without any rewards for good performance. You’d think in the absence of both an intrinsic and extrinsic motivator, the workers would have little incentive to work hard in their roles. But what the researchers found was that some people who lack both kinds of motivation are still spurred on by a third factor called “family motivation.”
Those who identified with the statement “I care about supporting my family” felt more energized and performed better each day, even when they didn’t find the work enjoyable and had no financial incentive to perform it.
“Family motivation can relate to both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. If family is a top value of yours, then your family can serve as an intrinsic motivator. If you feel family pressure or obligations, then that’s more of an extrinsic motivator,” says Clark.
As organizational psychologist Nick Tasler says, “Every job — whether you’re washing dishes or performing kidney surgery — provides us with the opportunity to affirm our identities as capable, respectable individuals, upon whom the most important people in our lives can rely.”
We’ll keep that in mind next time we spend the afternoon wrangling our email inboxes.
In order to truly engage our workforces, we need to first figure out exactly what makes our employees tick. This is where the subjects of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation come into play.
Understanding intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is key to performance management. If you spend all your time trying to incentivize great performance through external motivators when an employee’s motivation really lies within, you’ll not only waste time and money, but you’ll also lose the interest of your top performers.
Finding out what motivates employees is no easy feat. In fact, it can be a huge hurdle. Once you figure it out, however, you can seriously boost productivity levels and improve your bottom line. According to one source, unhappy employees cost the US up to $550 billion in lost productivity each year. Addressing this issue by deploying the right motivators can really turn things around for your organization. In fact, happy employees are 12 percent more productive.
Which brings us back to intrinsic and extrinsic motivators: Keeping employees happy, motivated, and productive requires that we first understand the effects different types of motivators can have on staff members.
What Is Extrinsic Motivation?
Extrinsic motivation is easy to understand. In fact, companies have been trying to motivate their employees extrinsically for a long time.
Extrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from the external world. Extrinsic motivators tend to be financial or tangible. They generally come in the form of an increased salary, a bonus, a company car, or a promotion. These rewards, as you can tell, are external to the work itself. It is also worth noting that the form of an extrinsic reward is usually determined by someone else, such as the employee’s manager.
Essentially, those who are extrinsically motivated do things primarily to receive a reward. According to this logic, an employees doesn’t perform well because they enjoy a certain sense of satisfaction or they want to help the business thrive. Rather, they perform well in order to earn material compensation for their efforts.
Recently, it has been shown that extrinsic rewards are not as motivational as we once believed them to be. In fact, extrinsic motivators can even be counterproductive when it comes to employee creativity!
What Is Intrinsic Motivation?
Intrinsic motivators come from within; they are more psychological in nature than extrinsic motivators. Intrinsic motivations are typically tied to some deep sense of personal satisfaction, which can be tremendously beneficial for employees to tap into. In fact, some experts go so far as to say that intrinsic motivation is the only type of motivation that leads to serious success. When employees are intrinsically motivated, these experts argue, they are more likely to perform well and get promoted.
Intrinsic motivation can come from a number of sources, including the desire to please a manager, to improve a particular skill, or to further the company’s mission. Intrinsic motivation is the reason why personal development objectives are so important to successful performance management.
Examples of Intrinsic Rewards
To fully motivate your employees, you need to lean on intrinsic motivators. The following are examples of intrinsic motivators that should be incorporated into every organization’s performance management system.
1. The Pursuit of Knowledge
Human beings have a general thirst for knowledge. We’re always seeking to learn more. This is particularly true of successful people. Top performers and leaders tend to have strong desires for knowledge and self-improvement. These appetites should be supported in the world of work if we really want to keep high flyers engaged.
Companies can encourage the pursuit of knowledge by providing ongoing training opportunities and helping employees create and follow personal development plans.
2. A Sense of Meaningfulness
Employees want jobs they actually care about, and they want to know their efforts make a real difference to their teams, managers, and companies. The best way for companies to give employees a sense of their own importance is to keep the lines of communication open. Managers should take time to explain thoroughly to employees both the company’s mission and how each individual’s efforts contribute to the company’s overall success. This will help employees feel like valued parts of a team, significantly contributing to their sense of accomplishment.
It has become increasingly clear that employee autonomy is paramount to engagement. In fact, extrinsic motivators like increased pay often pale in comparison to intrinsic motivators like improved flexibility and autonomy.
Employees who are incentivized by autonomy seek more responsibility, increased trust, and freedom to perform work their own way. Companies and managers can accommodate this by simply releasing the reins and cutting back on micromanaging. This doesn’t mean letting go of control altogether. In fact, regular one-on-one meetings are always required to check in on employee performance. However, giving employees the freedom to pick their own hours or approach work from a different angle could pay off in the long run.
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Most people want to change at least one thing in their life. But it can be challenging to find the motivation just to make a start. It helps to understand what motivation means to you so you can find your own ways to get motivated.
What is motivation?
Motivation is the drive to achieve your goals or needs. It is influenced by:
- how much you want the goal
- what you will gain
- your personal expectations
Why is motivation important?
Motivation is important because it:
- provides you with goals to work towards
- helps you solve problems
- helps you change old habits
- helps you cope with challenges and opportunities
Most people struggle with motivation, but it is even more challenging if you have mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Here are some tips:
- Set yourself one specific, achievable goal.
- Think about how to include that goal in your life, what you need do to make it happen, and then put a timeframe on it (such as a week).
- Break your goal into small, easy tasks and set regular reminders.
- Use your family and friends as support – tell them about your goals and encourage them to help keep you motivated.
Ways to keep on track
- Make your goal part of your routine by using a diary or app for reminders.
- Positive self-talk is important and effective in managing depression or anxiety. Instead of saying ‘I can’t’, say ‘I can try’.
- Mindfulness helps keep you relaxed and focused.
- Start a class or join a support group. Support groups can be as effective as professional help.
- Reward yourself when you have completed a step or goal.
Ways to stay motivated
Here are some tips:
- Regularly review your goals and progress. Seeing progress is a great motivator in itself, and also improves your self-esteem.
- Continue to set new goals. Think about what you want to achieve next week, next month and next year. Tackle one goal at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
- Keep the momentum up. It takes up to 3 months to develop a new habit, so keeping the momentum and routine helps it feel more automatic over time.
- Find mentors – a mentor is someone who is experienced in the habit you want to change. Finding social or support groups with the same interest can help you find a mentor.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Positive friends and family enhance your positive self-talk, which also helps to manage the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Use exercise as one of your daily goals to improve your mental health.
What to do if you lose motivation
Setbacks are normal, but developing resilience can help you carry on and pick up where you left off. Here are some tips to help you find your motivation again:
- Review your goals and see if they are realistic in the timeframe you have set. You may need to break your goal down further into smaller and more achievable goals.
- Remember why you wanted to get motivated or reach that goal in the first place.
- Take motivation from others – feel inspired by reading a book, talking to your mentor or friends or family who have reached similar goals to the ones you have set.
- Sometimes you just need to take a break and start afresh.
When it comes to motivation—especially for health and fitness goals—being an “inny” or an “outy” can make all the difference. The “inny” I’m talking about is “intrinsic motivation,” or a drive to achieve that comes from inside a person and isn’t motivated by external rewards. This is the kind of motivation that can lead to life-changing improvements and well-being.
External rewards (like compliments, fitting into a smaller size, or winning a race) might get a person started but long-term motivation depends on a person’s values and processes for achieving goals.
When it comes to health and wellness, internal motivation involves emphasizing current health and happiness instead of ideas about future health, fitness, and positive body image. In order to be sustained, exercise and healthy habits need to be relevant to a person’s life today, not “off in the distance” goals. Vague warnings about future health are less motivating than the tangible, post-workout feeling of “Ahhh, I’m so relaxed right now. I need to do this again!”
This kind of current, internal drive might not come naturally to all of us, but the good news is it can be learned.
Self-Sabotaging Beliefs—The Challenge
Many people who don’t work out regularly can rattle off a list of reasons why they’re not motivated to exercise, from not understanding the benefits of activity to thoughts like “I’m too busy,” “I’m embarrassed by how I look,” “exercise is boring,” and so on.
The folks who hold these (false) self-sabotaging beliefs often believe exercise doesn’t matter; they don’t enjoy it, or they simply have no interest in doing it. And, really, who could blame them? Who would be inspired to start a physical activity with negative thoughts running through their head? A person has to believe exercise is of value in order to build motivation to do it.
Building Sustainable Motivation—Four Strategies
In my experience working with families, athletes, fitness professionals and enthusiasts, and corporate executives and teams, I’ve learned there are four strategies people can use to create sustainable motivation: Self-Efficacy, FIT/Rational Thinking, SMARTER Goals, and Commitment Contracts. Let’s walk through them one by one.
A person with high self-efficacy believes in their ability to perform a task and achieve goals. Such a person might have thought patterns that look like this: “I’m sure of my ability to achieve the goals I set for myself;” “I believe that if I work hard, I’ll be successful;” and “I can move in another direction to achieve my goal, if an obstacle blocks my my path.” These beliefs are the strongest and most consistent predictors of exercise behavior. A person won’t pick up a 35-pound dumbbell—or even a five-pound one—as long as they believe they can’t. In contrast, the greater a person’s self-efficacy, the more likely they are to stick with an exercise program and make it a habit for life. There are three ways to build self-efficacy:
Ensure early success. When first starting out, choose activities you’re certain you can do successfully. If new to exercise, start with a fifteen-minute walk, one set of strength training exercises with a weight you can lift comfortably eight to ten times, or some gentle stretching. Similarly, if you’re looking to take an exercise routine to the next level, start small—say, by adding three more reps to a lifting routine or a few minutes of high intensity interval training to a cardio session. Gradually up the intensity level as you’re able, achieving more and more.
Watch others succeed in the activity you want to try. This is particularly effective if the person you’re observing is similar to you—neighbors, friends, co-workers, and gym mates are all good options. Witnessing their successes can boost your own self-efficacy level.
Find a supportive voice. Personal trainers and coaches are skilled in giving appropriate encouragement, as are good friends (usually). Just be sure the feedback is realistic and focused on the progress you’re making instead of comparing you to others.
Fundamentally Independent Thinking (FIT)/Rational Thinking
A fundamentally independent thinker understands that nothing makes a person upset, angry, or depressed; rather, what a person thinks about things determines how they feel. As Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” There is no motivation without this important “inner game.”
But people aren’t necessarily born FIT thinkers. Instead, we have to learn to be rational even in the face of negative beliefs. Internal negative messages, or “Automatic Negative Thoughts”, can act as obstacles to motivation and goal setting. Examples of destructive thinking include:
Feelings of inadequacy.“Emotional reasoning” means if a person feels something, they automatically assume it must be fact (“I feel like a loser, so I must be one”).
Predictions of failure. “Fortune telling” means a person makes predictions using FEAR, or False Evidence Accepted as Real (“I know I’ll make a fool of myself in front of everyone in the gym when I try to lift weights, and I’ll fail”).
Mind-reading. A person assumes people are reacting negatively to them when there’s no evidence for this assumption.
To oust these negative thoughts, ask the following types of questions:
What’s the evidence for and against what I’m thinking?
What would I tell a friend in the same situation? If I wouldn’t tell them what I’ve been telling myself, then why am I saying it to myself?
If a thought makes me feel bad or abandon a healthy lifestyle, then why don’t I stop thinking it?
SMARTER Goal Setting
We can eliminate inconsistency from our health and wellness plans by making goals that are SMARTER (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely, developed Enthusiastically, and attached to Rewards). Waking up in the morning and thinking, “I’m going to work out today,” is less effective than coming up with a specific and actionable plan (“I’m going to the gym at 8:30, do 15 minutes on the treadmill at 4 mph at an incline of 10 percent, then do three sets of eight reps of barbell bench presses, etc. SMARTER goals take the guesswork out of health and wellness routines, so we’re more likely to stick to them.
It can be particularly difficult to sustain nutrition or exercise routines around the holidays. The field of Behavioral Economics offers some strategies to help harness both internal and external motivation. The idea is grounded in “commitment contracts,” which are exactly what they sound like: A person commits to a behavioral change and then establishes a “contract” (with a partner, a friend, or through a website like Stikk.com) whereby some consequence (usually a monetary one) results from the person failing to achieve their goal. The idea is that the desire to avoid the consequence helps keep people more committed to success.
The Final Takeaway
Without an “inny,” it’s difficult—if not impossible—to develop lasting motivation. By believing in yourself, thinking rationally, setting SMARTER goals, and using commitment contracts, you’re sure to cross into 2013 with enough motivation to tackle your New Year’s resolutions with long-term success.
Raise the excitement in your students to learn and accomplish goals.
External motivation can encourage short-term accomplishments, but it can only take you so far. Teachers need to prepare their students for the adult world, where concrete rewards are few and far between.
We want kids to be excited about coming to school, interested in acquiring new skills, and eager to explore new topics. We want them to feel good about themselves when they succeed, not because they will win an award, but simply because it gives them a sense of accomplishment. In short, we need to instill intrinsic motivation in students. But how?
The Limits of External Motivation
Motivating kids to learn for learning’s sake isn’t easy, which is why teachers often rely on external motivators. These can take many forms, like contests, prizes, or parties. Even grades are a form of external motivation; a student who has earned an A on an assignment is typically more thrilled by the grade itself than the successful learning it represents. External motivators aren’t necessarily bad; some of them may, in fact, encourage kids effectively. But it’s also important to encourage intrinsic motivation in students.
I once worked with a physical education teacher who solicited prizes from local businesses for the school’s annual field days. He put a lot of time and effort into accumulating prizes, including restaurant coupons, sports equipment, tech accessories, and movie tickets. I once asked him if he really needed all these rewards. “They expect prizes,” he said. “I don’t think they would participate without them. I’d have to stop doing field days.”
This teacher thought he was going the extra mile for his students, but he was actually selling them short. Most kids just wanted to be outside competing and enjoying the sunshine. The experience itself was reward enough—they didn’t need any free stuff on top of that.
In my experience, teachers who connect with kids and give them lots of opportunities to participate in their own learning are generally successful at encouraging intrinsic motivation. When students know that their teacher really wants to hear their ideas and opinions about what they’re studying, they feel like they’re part of the learning process. If students know that today’s assignment will definitely be part of tomorrow’s discussion, they want to be prepared.
Limiting “teacher talk” and allowing more time to be spent on cooperative learning or group projects also helps. Encouraging kids to work together sends a message that the teacher trusts they can learn and find solutions to problems with minimal adult intervention.
Teachers who are successful in helping kids become self-motivated use a variety of ways to determine academic progress. A rubric, for example, is a powerful tool to help kids understand what quality work looks like and how their own efforts measure up. Likewise, teachers who want kids to participate in their own learning tell them what’s going to be on the final test at the beginning of the unit of study. This helps students understand the expectations from the get-go.
“Inviting students to have a voice in classroom decisions—where they sit, what day a test takes place, in what order units are studied, or even where a plant should be placed in the classroom—can help them develop that greater sense of control,” says teacher Larry Ferlazzo. Kids develop intrinsic motivation to succeed when they’re invested in their own learning.
The Power of Choice
Encouraging intrinsic motivation in students is a challenge, but it’s possible. According to David Palank, a principal in Washington, D.C., kids have to convince themselves that they really want to do a particular activity. For example, Palank says that before class begins, you can ask students to select one of two lines to stand in: “Ready to Work” or “Going to Misbehave.” Palank says that few children want to select the second line, but committing to the first means they have to persuade themselves that they are, in fact, ready to work.
A similar technique is to ask students, “On a scale of one to 10, how likely are you to do your homework tonight?” Students typically won’t respond with low numbers and again have to persuade themselves that they will do the homework.
Palank also suggests asking students to set a goal at the beginning of class and to read it out loud so that everyone knows what they intend to do. Goals are reviewed at the end of class to see whether students accomplished them. Asking students what they’re going to do instead of telling them what to do is a way to instill in them self-direction and, eventually, intrinsic motivation. The key, Palank says, is that students have the ability to choose for themselves.
Why Intrinsic Motivation Matters
Students who find motivation within themselves are likely to be lifetime learners. Reading for enjoyment, for example, will serve students well throughout their academic careers and beyond. Students who don’t find the excitement of chemistry class to be acing the test, but rather learning how the scientific process works, are setting themselves up for success later on.
As for teachers, most know that while it’s great to be recognized with an award, helping kids succeed despite the odds, and having former students return years later to say thanks, is what really matters. Most teachers don’t work hard just for the promise of an external reward, so why shouldn’t they expect the same of their students?