Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation

In general, a person gets motivated either due to

  1. an extrinsic reward (outside of that activity), or
  2. an intrinsic reward (from inside that acitivity).

It has been generally concluded that the extrinsic rewards usually fail to motivate a person (or employee in a company) in the long run.

There are 3 main reasons why extrinsic rewards are bad for any acitivity (expanded from the book Better than Before, by Gretchen Rubin).

  1. Extrinsic motivation is based on the feel we get about the value being provided depending on the situation. That value of the same reward can sometimes seem very large and sometimes very small (e.g., when we are hungry, nothing but food counts. It’s different when we are full). Similarly, when a person gets up early for a run on a cold morning, the value of sleep varies according to the last night situation. Sometimes she will want to do nothing but sleep regardless of her goals.
  2. Extrinsic motivation brings decision into the game, whether something should be done or not. When we go into decision mode about something, we take both ‘for’ and ‘against’ decisions. If something is done 100% of the times without involving decisions, it is called a Habit. Habit is automatic and eliminates decisions from the equation. That is why we do it 100% of the time on auto mode (e.g., brushing the teeth).
  3. Extrinsic rewards show a finish line to us, which means stopping point. A child gets the toffee, an employee gets the bonus, and that’s it. Once we stop, starting over again is harder.

To motivate someone, we should do something that makes them feel more valuable and provides more intrinsic reward to her sense of self-worth.

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