What Motivates Your Client?: Intrinsic Vs Extrinsic Motivation

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You know that feeling when you can’t WAIT to get out of bed in the morning, to get to the gym to train. When you have your mind set on a goal, and NOTHING is going to stop you from achieving it. Your motivation is at an all-time high!

But did you know there are different TYPES of motivation? And depending on the TYPE of motivation that drives your client, it can affect how satisfying they find reaching their goal to be? These different types of motivation are ultimately the ‘WHY’ behind what we choose to focus our efforts on.Let’s have a look at the two MAIN types of motivation that will drive your client to reach their goals.

‘Intrinsic Motivation’ – What exactly is it?

As the word ‘intrinsic’ implies, intrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from ‘within’. When you are intrinsically motivated to complete a task, you do it because you find what you are doing to be enjoyable, rewarding, satisfying, or fun.As an example, someone who is intrinsically motivated might choose to enter a bodybuilding competition as they find they experience personal growth and satisfaction from the prep process.

For example…
A client who is intrinsically motivated might go to the gym as they enjoy physically challenging themselves, or may find it helps to boost their self esteem. A overweight client who is intrinsically motivated to lose weight might do so because they want to feel healthier. A client who is intrinsically motivated to train is more likely to jump out of bed in the morning when their alarm goes off, rather than hitting the snooze button.

So what is ‘Extrinsic Motivation’?

Extrinsic motivation is driven by external rewards. If your client is ‘extrinsically’ motivated, they are likely to be participating to please someone, to get praise, or to be rewarded. They are not necessarily doing the task because they actually enjoy or WANT to do it – although this may also be the case!

Let’s use the same examples as before…
A client who is extrinsically motivated might enter a bodybuilding competition to try to win a prize. Someone who is extrinsically motivated might go to the gym because they have a physical fitness test coming up at work.  A overweight client who is extrinsically motivated to lose weight might be doing to to impress their spouse. Someone who is extrinsically motivated is also more likely to hit the snooze button, before dragging themselves out of bed and to the gym.

Which type of motivation is better for our client to have?

A study conducted by Di Domenico and Ryan on motivation in 2017 (1) shows that intrinsic motivation improved performance, general well being, learning, and creativity. Research has also shown that if you are already intrinsically motivated to complete an activity, and are offered an external reward for doing so, this activity may become less satisfying for you. This is known as the over-justification effect. Due to this effect, it can be best to use extrinsic rewards sparingly, so not to dampen current levels of intrinsic motivation.

How can we help promote intrinsic motivation?
The intrinsic motivation a client experiences can be affected by their level of automony, competence, and relatedness to an activity – which is also known as the self-determination theory.

By feeling competent when it comes to performing an activity, your client is going to feel happy, and a sense of accomplishment. This will give them an increased level of internal motivation to do it again. An example of this would be a competitor feeling accomplished after ticking off their goal of stepping on stage.

By your client CHOOSING to complete the activity by their own free will – this also increases intrinsic motivation. An example of this would be your client CHOOSING to go to the gym because they want to train.

Relatedness is not NECESSARY for intrinsic motivation, although it can can play a role in influencing a client’s level of motivation. It refers to how cared for, connected, respected and secure a persons feels. If a client is participating in an internally motivating task, and someone is showing interest in them doing so, it can help drive the client’s internally motivated actions. Eg. Your client working out at the gym with a training buddy.

Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can be used simultaneously, although it is more beneficial to use intrinsic motivation as a driver when working towards a goal. Extrinsic motivation may be useful tool for a client to use to reach a goal when they are struggling with their own internal motivation.

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  1. Di Domenico, S. I., & Ryan, R. M. (2017). The Emerging Neuroscience of Intrinsic Motivation: A New Frontier in Self-Determination Research. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 11, 145. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00145. Retrieved 31st August 2020.
  2. Ryan RM, Deci EL. Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist. 2000:68-78. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.55.1.68. Retrieved 31st August 2020.
  3. Santos-Longhurst, A. (2019) Intrinsic Motivation: How to Pick Up Healthy Motivation Techniques. Retrieved 31st August 2020 from https://www.healthline.com/health/intrinsic-motivation#factors
  4. What is Intrinsic Motivation & How Does it Work? Retrieved 31st August 2020 from https://www.parentingforbrain.com/intrinsic-motivation/
  5. 52 Helpful Examples of Intrinsic and Extinsic Motivation. Retrieved 31st August 2020 from https://mindmonia.com/intrinsic-extrinsic-motivation/ 

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