As humans, we have two motivational forces: intrinsic and extrinsic, in other words internal and external motivating factors. Usually, the things we do that make us most genuinely happy and the things that we do because they make us most genuinely happy. This is what is referred to as intrinsic motivation: the things we do which make us feel good on the inside. The things we really enjoy. The things we do just because we enjoy them. Activities we chose through which we are rewarded intrinsically are usually include things like our hobbies, recreational and leisure activities, volunteer work, or supporting a friend or family member in need. Things like that. Extrinsically motivated activities are those activities we chose to do because we will get some kind of concrete reward. Something on the outside will be given to us for our efforts. Things like a pay cheque or a letter grade or a horay horah. Usually the word work is involved when we talk about extrinsically motivated activities. Now that being said, it’s not to say extrinsic motivators are bad, evil, or awful. In fact they are necessary and good for us, however they are not quite a likely to generate genuine and authentic happiness deep within – even for those of us who really do like our jobs… a lot.
So, back to my opening statement, what this means is often when we start becoming extrinsically rewarded (with money or letter grades) our motivation tends to shift from doing something solely because we love and derive pleasure from it, to doing it to earn our keep. The shift may be more subtle in some situations than others, but I will bet you that if you love nothing more than to spend your Sunday afternoons engulfed in a literary classic and because of this decide to go to school to earn your PhD in English Literature, it won’t be long before you feel overwhelmed with the books you are required to read and the long essays you are required to write in order to earn that A grade.
Now some of you may be of the lucky few who love their work so much that they would do it for free – and I think that’s amazing. What a gift. For the rest of us, it’s really important to find things outside of work that we really enjoy, and chose to do just because they really, truly bring us enjoyment. And that’s it.