Developing intrinsic motivation in adults
If you are creative, you must know by now that motivation doesn’t happen every day. Some days it eludes us completely. You wake up, sit at your computer and stare at the screen for the longest time.
You wish for motivation and it can’t seem to show up. I have learned that intrinsic motivation can make you a better creative. Sometimes all you need is a purpose and drive to create and once you get started, there is no stopping.
We are told not to wait for motivation to get started, but we all need a dose of motivation once in a while.We are all motivated by different things. Our motivators can range from a need to have a better car, raise our social status, gain knowledge, gain independence and freedom, among others.
According to some psychologists, our desire to be better and better ourselves can be a source of motivation. Humanistic theory shows that humans are driven to achieve maximum potential and will do so unless or until faced by obstacles.
As seen in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we seek basic needs then climb up as our needs change. This means we are motivated by needs.
Other researchers such as McClelland show that we are motivated by achievement, power and/or affiliation. Achievement is the drive to excel and improve.
Power is the drive to influence and manage other people. Affiliation is the drive to form and maintain good relationships with others.
We are motivated by different stuff. There are those driven by power, convenience, riches, happiness, independence, and freedom. Identifying your motivator is important as it gives you the drive to work for the ways that will help you achieve that.
I am motivated by independence and freedom and for the longest time I have been working to take along paths that will help me achieve that.
What motivates you?
Take this exercise and identify what your motivators are.
Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation
What sets apart effective and non-effective motivating factors are whether they are internal or external.
What is intrinsic motivation?
Intrinsic motivation is being motivated by internal factors such as ego boost, to gain knowledge or skill by engaging in a behavior. People that are intrinsically motivated engage in a behavior because it is rewarding and satisfying for themselves.
For example, some get a degree to feel good about themselves. Others get a degree because they are interested in gaining a skill or knowledge in a certain area.
What is extrinsic motivation?
Extrinsic motivation is when you are motivated by external factors such as money, new car, more friends, a social status.
Extrinsic motivation involves getting involved in an activity or behavior so that one can get rewards or avoid punishment. It is going to work because you will be fired or because you get paid at the end of the month.
Characteristics of intrinsic motivation
- When you are intrinsically motivated, there is enjoyment in the process itself. You find that you are not forcing yourself to work on a task, you are enjoying it because you are after more than just the results.
- You experience pleasant emotions such as enjoyment, freedom, and relaxation. When you are intrinsically motivated, you can achieve the state of flow which makes you highly productive.
- The rewards in the case of intrinsic motivation are not material but come from enjoyment and pleasure in doing what you are doing. Sure, sometimes your work can bring you rewards such as financial rewards which is great, but you feel more internal satisfaction from getting involved in that task.
Benefits of intrinsic motivation
Pursuing something from intrinsic motivation can make you last on the pursuit for longer since you are fascinated and absorbed in it. Intrinsic motivation does not wear out easily and helps you pursue what you want for longer.
This means intrinsic motivation drives success since success is achieved when you persist on something for longer.
Intrinsic motivation can also make you happier and more fulfilled. When you are working on something that you are internally driven to, you are likely to achieve high levels of satisfaction and fulfillment from that.
According to studies, students who are intrinsically motivated persist for longer and are more likely to conquer challenges. They also demonstrate greater accomplishments academically compared to those driven by extrinsic motivation.
This is similar to what Angela Duckworth shows in Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance that persistence is only developed when one has interest and passion for what they are doing.
If you entered into a course for all the wrong reasons, chances are you will not persist when it gets tough since you are not intrinsically driven.
You are more creative when you are intrinsically motivated. At work, for example, you are likely to perform a task giving it your all if you have intrinsic motivation.
If you are a creative, such as a writer and a composer, being intrinsically motivated, for example, your desire to pass a certain message through your work, will give you intrinsic motivation. This will drive to work more and give your work all the effort you can manage.
Downfalls of extrinsic motivation
Extrinsic motivation is not necessarily a bad thing. However, pursuing something for external reasons can get tiring at some point and one experiences decreasing emotional involvement.
When you are not emotionally involved and passionate about what you are working on, you get bored easily and you are more likely to abandon it.
Extrinsic motivation such as working so you can get a certain amount of money, without intrinsic motivation can lead to dissatisfaction. There are two sides to this. When you are working for a reward and you don’t get it, it’s likely to break you and your spirit to work hard.
The same way you can be working for something and when you get it, you still are not satisfied. That’s why you have seen some people achieve all the money they had been chasing after and they still are not happy.
The absence of a reward can be demoralizing if you depend on extrinsic motivation only. For example, if you work hard at work just so you can get a bonus, and it doesn’t come through, this can demotivate you.
Does this mean extrinsic motivation is bad?
Not at all!
Extrinsic motivation has its benefits. Say you are a writer, and you sure love writing and you are intrinsically motivated to write. Then you write and make a best seller and get some good money from it? Isn’t this motivating?
It is, now you can be motivated to write more since you know you will get paid for it. The only time extrinsic motivation will fail you is if you write just for money.
Chances are you won’t have the motivation to wake up in the morning and write. If you do, you won’t have the drive to seek out a really cool storyline that will intrigue your readers.
Organizations use extrinsic motivation all the time. They give bonuses to employees for good performance to encourage them to perform better. This works, but it is not long-lasting as intrinsic motivation is.
Some studies have shown that sometimes excessive extrinsic motivation can backfire and lead to a decrease in intrinsic motivation. For example, if you buy your kid something nice every time they perform well in school, they will only work as hard as their desire for a gift is.
On the other hand, when they are intrinsically motivated, they will work hard because they love learning and getting good grades makes them feel good about themselves.
Developing intrinsic motivation in adults
1. Show the importance of the task at hand
Create an understanding of how a skill or gaining certain knowledge is important. If you are trying to motivate someone or yourself to take a course, the first thing is to make them realize how important this course is to them.
When someone enrolls on a course because they were pushed to without themselves realizing how important it is, chances are they will drop out. If they don’t, they won’t put their heart into it.
2. Create and maintain curiosity and interest
My background is in management and leadership an area in which I have attained a degree and a master’s degree. However, a short course on psychology got me hooked on psychology.
Now all I read about is psychology. I am interested in understanding how the mind works and how we behave the way we do. I buy books on psychology, watch psychology content and even take psychology courses online.
My curiosity and interest in this area give me intrinsic motivation. I don’t read on psychology because I have to, I read because I am curious and interested. To encourage intrinsic motivation, in students or employees, foster curiosity and interest.
3. Provide a variety of activities for sensory simulations
Are you interested in something and you want to gain the motivation to do it? For example, do you want to learn judo or French language? Before you dive into it without being too sure, engage in activities to stimulate your sensations.
Watch videos on these activities. Read about what you are interested in. If you can, maybe visit a country where they speak French or visit a French event. Attend a judo session and see if it is for you.
4. Challenge yourself
Challenge yourself to something bigger than what you are working on. When you challenge yourself to achieve or learn something, then you go ahead and do it, you feel so good about yourself that you want to set up a new challenge.
Psychology shows the harder you train your mind to learn new things, the more it expands and becomes more accommodating to learn even more new things. This will keep you on a continuous quest to learn new things and explore new challenges.
5. Improve your skills and competence
You are more likely to be motivated to work on something if you are good at it. To achieve a state of flow, the task you are working on must be challenging enough, and you must have sufficient skills to work on it.
To be better at creativity, create more. You become a better writer the more you write. You become a better graphic designer the more you design. The more you create, the better you become.
Work on improving your skills by creating more and learning more about your skills even if you have to take some courses to achieve this.
6. Break down your goals
I assume you have set goals that you want to work on. Sometimes, when we look at a goal it may look too huge and scary and sometimes unachievable. This can result in anxiety and affect your creativity.
To manage this goal, break it down into manageable pieces. This way, you have small attainable goals that you can challenge yourself to. This exercise aims to help you see progress.
When you see progress, you feel driven since you start to acknowledge and realize that your efforts are not in vain. For example, if you are writing a book, challenge yourself to write 2,000 words a day. These are small attainable goals.
I hope you become so intrinsically driven and put that motivation into your creative work and give us part of your awesomeness in your work.