What influences us to motivate ourselves?

Today’s topic is motivation.

Specifically, intrinsic motivation.

Internally driven: intrinsic motivation

What does that mean? It means we do something because we want to. We are driven from within. Do you remember a time in your life when you were caught up in something because it simply felt like something you couldn’t not do? Maybe you are an avid reader. A cyclist. A gardener. Whether you got an external reward or not, that wasn’t the point. You wanted to do it. You did it. Hours passed and you found yourself in flow. This was why you did it.

Personal story coming up, now. I remember a lot of people asking me why, when I was on the road in South and Southeast Asia or Northern or Western Europe, why on earth I was doing what I was doing. I was going around, and discovering places, and finding people there to talk to, about the topics that made them feel like talking most, and then I compiled some of those stories and the photos I took into zines. I made 190 of these zines and now, I’m going to talk about all that I learned from that experience.

Most often, the question I would get was, ‘Why do you do this?’ The second most often asked question was, ‘How can you live like that?’ I think the answer is intrinsic motivation.


Why we do what we want

Kendra Cherry summarizes at Very Well Mind’s the topic of intrinsic motivation. Here is a snippet:

Malone and Leeper[1] identify these factors as increasing intrinsic motivation:

  • Challenge: People are more motivated when they pursue goals with personal meaning and when attaining the goal is possible but not necessarily certain. These goals may also relate to their self-esteem when performance feedback is available.
  • Control: People want control over themselves and their environments and want to determine what they pursue.
  • Cooperation and competition: Intrinsic motivation can be increased in situations where people gain satisfaction from helping others. It also applies to cases where they can compare their performance favorably to that of others.
  • Curiosity: Internal motivation is increased when something in the physical environment grabs the individual’s attention (sensory curiosity). It also occurs when something about the activity stimulates the person to want to learn more (cognitive curiosity).
  • Recognition: People enjoy having their accomplishments recognized by others, which can increase internal motivation.
  1. Malone TW, Lepper MR. Making learning fun: A taxonomy of intrinsic motivations for learning. In: Snow RE, Farr MJ, ed. Aptitude, Learning, and Instruction: Iii. Conative and Affective Process Analysis. Erlbaum.