Where does your motivation come from?

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Recently, I seem to be surrounded by personal challenges. But I also come across many people who are surrounded by their own challenges. Conversations with them, listening to or reading various personal development material, either confirms what you know or gives you insight into how different minds work.

However, one thing is certain – the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. When you are motivated by things outside of yourself, it’s much harder to face challenges. Whereas if your motivation comes from within you, then no matter how hard the road, you can continue on the path, looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. 

So what does it mean?

Extrinsic motivation comes from outside you. For example, when you want to lose weight because of how other people may perceive you. Or when you pick a career you hate, just because it pays good money. It could be things like signing up to do something because of peer pressure, or because you think you should. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be good at those things. Many people are. But it will almost certainly mean that you won’t be content doing those things, and when they become difficult, it will be much harder to rise to the challenges with a positive attitude, because you didn’t really want those things in the first place.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is what drives you, regardless of results. I write, for example, because I must. Sure, I hope that I can make a career out of it, but even when it doesn’t earn me anything, I write. When you exercise, because you want to feel good from the inside, because you want to feel the vitality and health pulsing through you, that’s intrinsic. When you strive on to save a marriage, be there for your kids, or your friends because you value those relationships, that is inner motivation. When we are driven by intrinsic motivation, while the road isn’t any easier, it’s certainly more bearable. Because you know why you are doing what you are doing. You know why you are putting in the effort or waiting for the right time. You know why whatever pain you are going through may be worth it. Intrinsic motivation makes the struggle less gloomy. 

As I’ve been going through challenges, often feeling very down, stressing out enough that it gave me a bit of insomnia, I never lost sight of it being the right thing. I had to go through this phase, in order to grow. I had to face challenges so that I would be out of the rut I was in. And I had to rise to these challenges so that I can take that one more step towards fulfilling my potential. Because our potential isn’t finite either. It can grow or shrink to accommodate our ambitions and drive. Intrinsic motivation can be that all-important glimmer of hope. When nothing seems to work, that’s what you can hold on to. You can keep telling yourself, to keep moving, one step at a time, because you know you are moving in the right direction. It may work, or it may not, but the journey – when fueled by the right motivation – will give its own rewards. You learn and you grow, and when you come out on the other side, your potential will have grown that little bit more.


For whatever challenges you are facing now, think about how you are dealing with them? Are you motivated to deal with them because of extrinsic or intrinsic motivation? What drives you? What is your light at the end of the tunnel? Let that sustain you with a positive outlook.


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