What is Motivation?

The word motivation can be analyzed from its root “move”. Motivation is what moves you, compels you, or inspires you to move forward with a plan, goal, or action. Motivation can be as simple as the motivation to eat for hunger, or can result in complex behaviors such as practicing meditation for the desired end result of clearer thought, calmness, and being at peace.

Actions and behaviors can be stimulated by intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is when the motivation is purely on the basis of personal satisfaction, pleasure, or out of curiosity. Extrinsic motivation is when behaviors are exhibited for some type of external reward, such as praise, money, social acceptance, or to attain or keep employment.

Sometimes we are motivated by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors, but most often the intrinsic motivators are more powerful and lasting. For example, I may enjoy reading about art, but if I have to read about art to pass a course with a grade outcome, then the intrinsic motivation can be diminished by the pressure to achieve an external reward. If you observe a child playing house with a toy vacuum, it is merely play and pretend, but if you tell them they must vacuum in order to go out to play, they may resent having to do the task as a stipulation for being able to play. You may know someone with a talent that you believe they could do for money, but they are not interested in doing that. Innately, they know their hobby or passion would quickly turn into a chore or lose its appeal due to external pressures to perform.

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