Two guys are camping in the woods. They’re sitting around early in the morning drinking coffee. They can see for some distance and they see a bear coming at them from afar. It’s moving pretty fast.
One of these guys looks at the other and says, “Let’s get out of here.” The other guy starts to slip on his tennis shoes.
The first guy says to him, “What the hell do you think you are doing? You can’t outrun a bear.”
The second guy says, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you.”
I like this joke because it helps me make a point.
Their goal might be simply to get away from the bear. That’s extrinsic motivation. Both guys are going to run to get out of there. But they don’t have to like it.
What if they looked at it a different way – if they could in a situation like this? They could look at it like they were running toward life. That would be intrinsic motivation, assuming they valued life.
What do you want?
You will do a lot better at being motivated to do what is important to you naturally than you will ever do for an external reward. In my last post, I wrote that sometimes we can be motivated by things we want to move away from and that we can also be motivated by things we want to go toward. This post is about two other dimensions of motivation.
Inside (Intrinsic) and Outside (Extrinsic)
Intrinsic motivation comes from the inside. Intrinsic motivation is a well-tailored suit. Your goals fit you like a glove. It’s almost like they were made for you. When you wear this motivation, you look good, and you know it it because you are following what you love. It means that you made your goals of your own volition.
Extrinsic goals, thus extrinsic motivation, will always exist. But they are not where powerful motivation emanates from. There are those who survive, even thrive when extrinsic goals are the chief motivator. I just think it is much less likely. As I mentioned in my last post, it’s hard to bring your a game when you’re not doing it for love of the game.
Theresa Amabile, in a study on creativity, showed that were rewarded for a project were deemed less creative (and from that I would say less motivated) than those who were told to do the project for its own sake.
Doesn’t it make sense that you’d be more motivated if you were ‘following your bliss,’ to paraphrase Joseph Campbell?
That’s intrinsic motivation, the kind that shows up when you’re working from the inside out, working for your own ‘motives.’
And that brings me back to the question that began this post.
What Do You Want?
Think about answering this next question, too. What gets you up in the morning? No, not the alarm clock. What is it that you would hop out of bed in the morning and yell, “Hell, yes, gimme some more of that.”?
When you find the answers to these questions, you are starting to hit on what you value in life.
You’re starting to put together the big story of your life.
So, what do you want?