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Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is the motivation to gain something external from yourself. Extrinsic motives include money, scholarships, praise, accolades, recognition, fame, rankings, and trophies. External motivation can be in the form of punishments as well. For example, you can be motivated to avoid punishments such as being yelled at by your coach, losing your ranking, or losing money.

External motivation is common because most people need tangible rewards in order to survive as well as to feel pleasure and self-esteem. Some people want these external rewards so much, that they become powerful motivators and lead to great work ethic and success. However, there are some major issues with external motivation. First of all, they only motivate you as long as they remain provided. If the rewards stop coming, you may lose your motivation to work hard. If you want more reliable motivation, you need to be intrinsically motivated as well. You don’t want to become too dependent on extrinsic motivation.

Also, extrinsic motivation can create a fear of failure since you cannot completely control whether or not you get your rewards or avoid punishment. This uncertainty can make you nervous in games. This can hurt performance, since many sports require your mind to be calm and focused in order to execute fine-motor skills such as throwing and shooting.

The third negative aspect of extrinsic motivation is that it’s not a lasting source of happiness. Extrinsic rewards such as winning and money make you feel good at first. However, this feeling doesn’t last long and you’ll soon be dissatisfied. It isn’t a good idea to place your entire source of happiness on external (and sometimes superficial) things that you don’t have complete control over. Extrinsic motivation can also suppress your natural love for the game. When you only play sports for extrinsic motives, the game itself starts to feel more like work instead of play, so it’s less fun.

Intrinsic motivation:
Intrinsic motivation comes from yourself and not from external sources. Intrinsic motivation is doing something for the sake of doing it. Having fun and being “in the zone” are examples of  intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation also includes autonomy (having control over your decisions/life), mastery (the satisfaction of self-improvement), purpose (making a difference in the world), and the love for others. Intrinsically motivated athletes use their mind and attitudes to draw their happiness and motivation from themselves, needing very little externally.

Unlike extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation is reliable and sustainable because you have complete control over your ability to use it and gain its satisfaction. Because of this, intrinsic motivation creates no fear of failure, therefore it helps you stay relaxed and perform better in games. Also, it is a more lasting source of happiness because it is process-oriented rather than outcome-oriented. It’s always available in the here and now.

There are exceptions, but in most cases, intrinsic motivation alone doesn’t provide enough motivation needed to reach greatness. The athletes that only play for fun and self-improvement can be passed by more extrinsically motivated athletes.

Therefore, I suggest using both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation wisely. No single motive is perfect. The best athletes have a wide range of intrinsic and extrinsic motives. However, finding this balance can be difficult because overemphasizing one kind of motivation can suppress the other. But still, it can be done! You can use both extrinsic and intrinsic motives in ways that complement each other and make up for each other’s shortcomings. Extrinsic motivation can help you train hard while intrinsic motivation can prevent burnout and improve your performance and mental health. To fully gain the best of both worlds, I recommend making intrinsic motivation your foundation, while using extrinsic motives when you need an extra boost of motivation and discipline. 

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