Monday, 9 September 2019, By Daniel Blazeski

Motivation is an essential factor that determines short- and long-term success for a person's goal. So, what is motivation? Well, the textbook definition states: "a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way" meaning, it's a key driving force that allows you to act a certain way to give you a specific outcome. If we look at it from a health perspective, it can be the catalyst to overcoming speed bumps and allow personal growth, whether that may be physical, like weight loss/muscle gaining, or mental, like personal satisfaction and competence.

Motivation is EXTREMELY broad, and it varies for each individual and the goal they set out to achieve. We can, however, attempt to break this down into two categories: INTRINSIC and EXTRINSIC motivation.

Intrinsic motivation: the behaviour that is driven by internal rewards

Extrinsic motivation: the behaviour that is driven by external rewards

Have you ever thought along the lines of "I'm going to lose an X number of kilos so I can fit into my favourite T-shirt", or "my wedding/birthday is coming up in a few months, I am going to fit in my favourite shirt/dress"? You've just consciously applied an extrinsic motivator. This motivation arises outside of the individual, which can promote a physical achievement. It is important to have extrinsic motivation, as it will help the person see the change develop over time that will allow more incentive for them to pursue that goal, keeping them driven and on track to their reward. It's great to apply for short-term goals, giving a specific measurable target that will reward them superficially.

Let's look at a real life example: A woman wants to wear a dress that is 2 sizes smaller that hasn't been worn in a few years - she'd love to wear it again! So, she will focus on a fat loss goal, monitor her routine and progression, keeping herself accountable with the inspiration that she will wear that dress again. With this extrinsic motivation, she may eventually reach her end reward.

Although, studies show that an excessive amount of extrinsic reward can result in a decrease in intrinsic rewards, applying more dependency on the reward itself, increasing the desire overall. While this doesn't sound too bad, depending on the person, this can make the process and growth of achieving it potentially backfire, placing a stressful stimulus on the mindset, which can be destructive.

Now, have you ever done things in life that make you feel good, you particularly enjoy, or find satisfaction within the practice? These are common psychological reactions based on something that allows you to be intrinsically motivated. A popular quote that I like to live by is "another day, to be stronger than yesterday" focusing the aim on the internal growth and success that will allow you to achieve any goal you aim for.

While extrinsic motivation puts more emphasis on the physical reward, intrinsic motivation focuses on the internal reward, which can set up a person for long-term success. How do you find what you're intrinsically motivated by? Simply, reflect on your goal and discover what it does for you beyond its physical benefits. Key factors can involve:

  • Curiosity. Curiosity pushes us to explore and learn for the sole pleasure of learning and mastering.
  • Challenge. Being challenged helps us work at a continuously optimal level work toward meaningful goals.
  • Control. This comes from our basic desire to control what happens and make decisions that affect the outcome.
  • Recognition. We have an innate need to be appreciated and satisfaction when our efforts are recognized and appreciated by others.
  • Cooperation. Cooperating with others satisfies our need for belonging. We also feel personal satisfaction when we help others and work together to achieve a shared goal.
  • Competition. Competition poses a challenge and increases the importance we place on doing well.

The author of 'Introduction to Psychology' summarises this perfectly with: "Intrinsic motivation occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualise our potentials."

Let's go back to the example of the woman - while she has a physical reward to attain (favourite dress), she also finds personal satisfaction and enjoyment in her training by allowing it to challenge herself, utilising an internal drive to want to progress further. This places more engagement in the task at hand, which will develop to new behaviours and routines, for long lasting health and success.

To conclude, how do you tie both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation into your own goal?

  1. It is important to enable a physical reward to be a consistent milestone to your successes.
  2. However, ensure you also utilise the internal journey that will invoke the excitement of pursuing it. If you enjoy the process more than the reward it becomes easier to maintain.
  3. Don't forget that it should be challenging enough to work at your best and control your actions to positively affect long-term success. If it's too easy it becomes less motivating!

So, what is your motivation?

*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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