In Writing

As the new year begins, let’s strive to make 2022 stimulating and productive. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on public motivation and well-being, so this year it is important to regain your sense of purpose and develop healthy habits that will keep you satisfied all year long. 

There are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is the idea that one engages in an activity for a separable outcome. Extrinsically motivated people complete tasks because they seek an external reward rather than internal satisfaction. An example of extrinsic motivation would be learning sign language to impress your friends or doing your assigned task at your job in order to earn a paycheck. On the other hand, intrinsic motivation is the internal drive for success or purpose. In other words, one completes a task for its inherent satisfaction rather than a reward. When people are intrinsically motivated, they engage in activities simply for fun, for the challenge, or to genuinely feel good about themselves. An intrinsically motivated person would help their elderly neighbor bring in her groceries without expecting anything in return, or go on a run because they enjoy the adrenaline rush.

This begs the question, is it better to be intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated? Which one produces better results? Well, in a 14 year study, researchers observed 10,000 cadets at West Point Military Academy. Cadets with intrinsic motives were 20% more likely to make it through training than the average cadet. Those with extrinsic motivation were 10% less likely to complete training and 20% less likely to be promoted early. Intrinsically motived cadets were able to successfully make it through training more effectively and efficiently than extrinsically motivated cadets. 

Not only does intrinsic motivation make people more productive and focused, but also more creative. In a psychological study of elementary school students, published in The Hidden Costs of Reward, one set of students were promised a reward for drawing pictures, while another group was not promised anything for their drawings. Surprisingly, the students who weren’t rewarded completed more drawings with increased effort than those who were promised a reward. This contrast can be attributed to The Sawyer Effect, whereby the prospect of a reward transforms a fun activity into a dreaded chore. 

The short answer is this: if one is intrinsically motivated, incentivized by their own potential satisfaction, they will produce better results, while exuding increased focus, creativity, and contentment with their performance. Rather than seeking external validation, which is subjective and limited, strive for self-validation. Instead of being extrinsically motivated to lose weight, do it to develop long-lasting, healthy habits that will make you happy. Instead of reluctantly completing your next work presentation, be motivated by the potential for self-improvement. 

The most important ingredient for consistent intrinsic motivation is having an unwavering, immeasurable love for yourself. You can only see intrinsic value in daily tasks if you find value in yourself. For example, if you care more about money than yourself, it’s easy to be extrinsically motivated by your job. But if your self-love surpasses your desire for financial gain, you may be more inclined to maintain that motivation, even when you don’t get that raise or promotion.

Rewards are limited. External satisfaction is restrictive. Be intrinsically motivated to complete your daily tasks because self-validation is boundless and persistent.

Guest Writer Bio
My name is Sofia Principe and I am a senior at Leonia High School in Leonia, New Jersey.
I work with Ms. Andreu every Friday as part of my school externship. My interests include
reading, writing, and history, and I am also a competitive swimmer. It’s an honor to work
with Ms. Andreu and I look forward to an amazing year!


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