Using Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation to Succeed

(Last Updated On: March 31, 2022)

When doing most of the things you do in life, you do them because you have some kind of motivation occurring. There’s a reward delivered by the actions you take. The motivations that you have can be either intrinsic or extrinsic.

Sometimes only one will be present, but at times, both can be as well – and that’s a good thing. You can use these motivations to gain the ability to succeed in whatever you’re attempting to accomplish.

Some people fight their automatic motivation to rebel against completing a task or to help them avoid something they may have a fear of, or uncertainty. But if you learn how to wield the power of this force, you’ll be empowered to put your efforts to things that provide better opportunities and more personal satisfaction in your life.

Defining Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is the type of motivation that comes from within you. What you gain from this type of motivation is usually a feeling of satisfaction from your actions. You’re led by what you feel.

Those who act based on an intrinsic motivation typically like the journey better than the outcome. For example, there are people who work a job, not because they make plenty of money as their motivation, but because of their passion for the type of work they do.

Sometimes an intrinsic motivation can be linked to a cause or a purpose. For example, someone who grew up with a family member who struggled with a disease may grow up to become a doctor, not for the prestige or pay, but because they want to help others in the same situation, and it makes them feel good to do so.

On the opposite end, extrinsic motivation doesn’t rely on what a person feels or is necessarily passionate about. This can be a motivation that looks for what they gain from doing something.

Instead of becoming a doctor because they want to help someone, they might choose to become a doctor because they want the money or because they want others to think highly of them – maybe even because of parental pressure to go that route.

Instead of being motivated by what’s going on within themselves, they get their motivation from what’s going on outside of themselves. One of the issues that can make it more difficult to reach success based solely on extrinsic motivation is that, because it’s an external motivation, your motivation can change based on the outside situation and there may be nothing you can do to prevent that.

An example would be someone who wanted to become a doctor for the money or for the praise of others. If you found out that you were going to need to work in a setting where there was little or no recognition and the pay wasn’t that great, then your motivation to succeed would be affected and dwindle.

Because what motivated you is gone, you wouldn’t have the same drive to succeed as you would if the motivation was coming directly from within you. You’re less likely to continue to stay in a situation where your motivation isn’t being fed.

If you’re someone who decides to be an entrepreneur because you want to be your own boss to have more time off to spend with your family, you’re more likely to stick with it and see your tasks through to a successful end.

But if you’re someone who wants to be an entrepreneur just because you want to make a lot of money, when times are hard and little or no money is coming in, you won’t have the motivation needed to keep going.

How Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation Impact Success

Because both of these are motivations, you might think that intrinsic and extrinsic can be used the same way to help you succeed. They can’t. They’re different because the reward system each one brings differs.

But the good thing is that, even though they aren’t the same and don’t work the same way, they can be used in turn to boost the other motivation. For example, what you want outwardly can be used to boost an inward motivation.

It’s the same with intrinsic. What you want within you can be strengthened or more deeply motivated by what goes on externally. People who find their motivation from within often feel more complete with their success goals.

They believe that they can remain motivated for the long haul because they’re not affected by what happens outside of their inner drive. But you can take any extrinsic motivation and allow that to boost your inward motivation.

For example, you might be someone who has a strong desire to help others financially. You’re always giving money or items that others need. Maybe you’re involved in your community and you’re consistently donating to food banks or helping volunteer at an organization that helps the less fortunate.

All of that come from within you. You could have an extrinsic motivation to make more money at your job. So you take steps to level up so you bring home extra in your paycheck solely because you want that additional money to go toward helping others.

That is a way of using both the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation jointly to gain inner satisfaction and find the success that you want to have. There is a strong overlap in certain areas of these motivations.

They can work together to help your success, but they can also work together and become an obstacle. The doctor that lives using intrinsic motivation who gets public recognition for helping a patient or saving a life can reach the point where the extrinsic motivation becomes more desirable.

So he begins to change his core beliefs, desires and motivation. Sometimes the two motivations can work in tandem to help you create success and give you a stronger motivation than if you were relying on one or the other.

But often, the extrinsic motivation can start to overshadow intrinsic motivation. That doesn’t mean that you should stick with just one type of motivation and never try to use both at once.

Because if they are used in the right way, together, they can strengthen your will to achieve and do whatever it is you’re trying to do. The key is to know which times you should rely on intrinsic motivation and which times you need to defer to extrinsic motivation.

Which Motivation Is Best for Success?

The answer is that it depends on you. Do you go out to spend time exercising because it makes you feel happy (intrinsic) or because you want to lose weight because you worry about what others think (extrinsic)?

The reason why you want to do something can help you understand which motivation is best for your success. Sometimes, combining the two is clear. You can want to exercise because it makes you happy and because you want to lose weight.

You can want to show up at work because you love your job and because you want the money. Doing what you want to do because you’re basing your actions on an intrinsic motivation satisfies the inner person.

If you gain something external, that’s good. If you don’t, you’re still okay with that.

Extrinsic usually has a “what’s in it for me” at the end of the journey. An example of how intrinsic and extrinsic can differ in daily life is that some people lie because their intrinsic motivation is not to hurt the other person’s feelings.

It makes them happy not to cause someone pain. An extrinsic motivation to lie could be because you don’t want to get in trouble for something you did or didn’t do. People who rely on intrinsic motivation are usually the ones who find success because they have an inner “why” that they rely on to do things.

When times get tough or obstacles crop up, they look within at their why and find the will to keep on going. Those using extrinsic motivation don’t have an inner “why” to fall back on.

It’s up to you to know when and how to use either or both of these types of motivations.

You’ll find that there will be times when your success comes easier because of the intrinsic motivation that you have.

No one can take this away from you. You’re the only one who can lose the inner will to succeed. For example, you join a mastermind group because you love learning about your niche.

However, you’ll also experience days when having an extrinsic motivation makes it easier to succeed. Those who rely on intrinsic motivation can have times where they just don’t feel like doing what needs to get done.

They may have set a goal to finish by a certain time, but then end up being too tired to accomplish a task. Because they don’t rely on the same reward factors that extrinsic motivation does, it’s easier for them to let go of doing something when they don’t feel up to it.

If you’re motivated extrinsically, then you can often see or touch the motivating factor once it’s accomplished. Like smaller clothes with the lost pounds, more money in the paycheck, etc.

Combining Your Motivations for Success

You can choose to let your motivations be either intrinsic or extrinsic. But if you look at a history of successful people, they relied on both. Finding a way to bring both motivations onboard so that they help you work toward your goals is the best way to succeed.

Some people swear that intrinsic motivation is the only way to gain success. Having an inner motivation or intrinsic one pushes you to achieve. You’re not going to give up just because the circumstances or the people change.

It’s true that relying on this type of motivation allows you to be satisfied through the ups and the downs. You’re often grateful for what you have and see the good even when things aren’t going well because you look inward.

But you don’t have to be an either/or person when it comes to how you use motivation. Having an extrinsic motivation can push you to achieve because, at the end of the goal, the reason you were striving bears fruit.

You get the promotion, you get the money, you get the diploma, you buy the car, you purchase the home, etc. Though you can rely on one motivation or the other, learning how to harness the power of both can make you more successful.

The key is to find the underlying strength in both types at the same time or through the same situation and put them to work for you. If you’re someone who wants to go to college because you want to embrace learning and grow your knowledge, that’s intrinsic.

But wanting to do that because it means you can level up in your career is extrinsic. You can mesh the two together and it gives more strength to the motivation to succeed. Though some people say it’s best to focus on one or the other type of motivation, it’s not – because everyone has some type of inner motivation just like they have an external one.

It’s not important that you choose only one way of motivating yourself and stick with that. What’s important is that you know how much to let either type of motivation drive you.

You can easily get out of balance by relying solely on one or the other just like you can get out of balance if you use both but let one have more weight on the decisions that you make.

For example, if you’re someone who relies only intrinsic motivation, you might be on salary and love your job and support the business to the point that you take on too much work and spend too many hours without receiving any reward for doing so.

Or, you might have trouble saying no to a coworker who wants you to do some of their tasks, too. By balancing the intrinsic with the external, you can still love your job, but because the payoff of not earning more for spending more time isn’t there, you won’t stick around for all those extra hours because there’s nothing in it for you.

Boosting Your Motivations

There are different ways that these two types of motivation are boosted to give you maximum ability to achieve success. You’ll want to look at these ways and pick the ones that can help you the most.

Intrinsic relies more heavily on internal happiness or satisfaction. Gaining better work or relationship skills can boost your intrinsic motivation. The areas where you might find these would be in taking a class or course, going to a meeting, networking with others in your field or with others who also find satisfaction in their job or relationship.

Many intrinsic motivations are intangible. You can’t touch it, but you can feel it. That’s why it’s important for people who rely on intrinsic motivation to practice positive self-talk. Because much of their action taking is associated with the feelings they get from the tasks they accomplish.

This motivation often requires more introspect than extrinsic motivation. People who use intrinsic motivation need to be able to look within themselves and be able to acknowledge truthfully what they want.

Not being truthful causes them to get discouraged because their “why” isn’t authentic. Those who want to boost their intrinsic motivation can find success by following what feels right to them.

It may go against what everyone else is saying or what’s always been done in a traditional way. The things that can boost your extrinsic motivation are the things that matter to you as far as your life goals.

These people want to achieve for a specific purpose that usually doesn’t relate to feelings. Though some say that an extrinsic motivation is more self-centered, the truth is that it’s human nature to want rewards and recognition for what you gain or do and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Your extrinsic motivation is boosted every time you receive something related to your efforts. When you perform well at your job and get a raise, that strengthens your extrinsic motivation to push yourself to continue succeeding.

Connections with people you admire is another way that extrinsic motivation gets boosted. An example of this would be if your hard work earns you a lot of focus from others and it comes to the attention of those you consider your role models.

The reward of connecting with someone you admire solidifies your motivation. Giving yourself the rewards, intrinsically or extrinsically, that you need will help you not only to feel satisfied with your efforts but will lead to a greater chance that you’ll achieve all your goals and reach success in whatever area you’re striving in.