Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

Maybe you are here because you are suffering from motivation fluctuations or you are demotivated. If you know what motivation is, you can apply motivation factors and tips.


What is motivation? Here are a few examples:

Motivation comes from needs, among other things. Maslow's pyramid of needs shows different levels and facets of motivation. If basic needs such as sleep, contacts and a good diet are missing, the body will get what it deserves:

Bedürfnispyramide nach Maslow | Maslowsche Bedürfnispyramide. Grafische Darstellung unserer Bedürfnisse, um Bedürfnis- und dadurch Motivationsfaktoren zu erkennen


We can harmonize our body and mind for different areas of life.

Body and mind work together and can both be motivated. The mind is determined by your thoughts, goals and worries, while the body is influenced by stimuli such as hunger, thirst or the urge to move.

  • Mental goal = get fitter
  • Physical goal = exercise

For example, you can choose the path of motivation from the inside out. This way you can set the start in your mind and bring your body in balance with it. In other words, let the body follow the mind. It is also possible the other way around.

If you want to go to the gym, but you can't get motivated to do it, then set yourself the goals and possibilities to motivate yourself mentally for the sport. Go to the gym and observe how you feel afterwards.

Rarely will you think to yourself, "I wish I had stayed home." At least that's what I've found for myself.


How motivation arises

Our motivation is determined by motives, needs and incentives. They determine why we do or do not do something. Our actions can be traced back to motives.

One motive, for example, can be the achievement motive. It aims at experiencing one's own competence. For example, you want to increase your endurance so that you can run the next marathon at full speed!

There are hundreds of motives. The three basic motives are:

  • Achievement motive = increase ability and competence. Hope for success
  • Power motive = need for control, responsibility, influence, strength, fame or superiority.
  • Connection motive = feeling of success when socially connected (feeling socially included).
Stimuli: Anything we can perceive with our senses is called a stimulus. Stimuli to which we respond, that is, to which we react with a behavior, are called incentives.
If one wants to motivate oneself or change one's behavior, the individual factors of motives, needs and incentives must be analyzed and changed.

Types of motivation. Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation described in brief bullet points: Intrinsic (person factor)

Intrinsic (person factor)
  • From within
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Fun
  • Meaningfulness (your why)
  • Own values
  • Self-realization
  • Hobbies, art, creativity


Extrinsic (environmental factors)

  • Arises from external factors
  • Financial incentives (salary)
  • Wealth, power
  • Rewards
  • Praise, recognition and appreciation
  • Expectations of other people
  • Fear, consequences and disadvantages
  • Social affiliation and status


The difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation explained:

Intrinsic motivation describes the motivation that arises from oneself to devote oneself to something because one is interested in it, finds it challenging, or considers it very meaningful. We can easily work on something for a long time. It is the joy and the inner drive to devote oneself to this thing.
You can think of it like a passion that you want to spend hours or days on. It does not need any form of rewards and external factors to set the drive. Intrinsically motivated people want to do one thing and devote themselves to it completely. And they do it for their own pleasure.
Extrinsic motivation is the opposite of intrinsic motivation. Here, the drive is set by external environmental factors. Fear of being fired, financial incentives or belonging to a group are external motives. We can illustrate the difference very simply with an example:
An intrinsically motivated person will orient his job search towards a profession in which he is interested, sees a purpose or enjoys.
An extrinsically motivated person, on the other hand, will be guided, for example, by the subsequent earning opportunities and the opinions of his environment (e.g. his parents or friends).
The two types of motivation are not mutually exclusive. We can, for example, pursue an activity that gives us meaning and interests us, while environmental factors are given or serve as an incentive for our performance criterion.
Pursuing an activity only for external or financial reward will impair intrinsic motivation because there is little or no identification with the activity. Outstanding performance comes from a connection or passion to an activity.

How can you boost your motivation?

  • Clarify the meaning of your work
  • More fun means less stress
  • The right mood or atmosphere can bring big positive changes
  • Find daily motivation on social media through quotes, motivational videos or inspiring people and images


With caution:

  • Poor communication at work or in everyday life
  • A permanently pessimistic attitude
  • A permanent feeling of pressure
  • Wasted time or unrealistic expectations
  • Unclear goal setting

Your thoughts can become a trigger for demotivation, in which your inner dialogue may look like this:

  • I can't do it...
  • I'm just making mistakes...
  • How do I get started...?
  • It's not perfect yet...
  • I have to... I have to... I have to....
  • It has to be perfect. As good as possible is not enough for me....


There are numerous motivational killers. Many may be floating around in your mind as well. But there are also numerous motivational boosters that drive:

  • Right now is the time to act
  • I will not give up!
  • I will win!
  • I can do this!
  • I have earned it!
  • I have everything it takes to do this!
  • My goals, my strategy and my patience are focused on my path
We usually live our lives from the inside out. What our thoughts see as right and wrong, we transfer to our life and our external environment. If a negative basic attitude towards a profession, a project or a self-employment is already set, the actions related to this thing are in a negative light. That is exactly why it is important to be able to identify ourselves with our profession or project, in order not to disregard the fun factor and at the same time great motivating factor.
Why are there people who work voluntarily for not a single cent on a cause? It is the joy of doing and the activity itself that creates the satisfaction. The joy of accomplishing something positive or important from one's own perspective.
Read our post "Who am I, what do I really want and where do I want to go?" for important insights to help you find and walk your path in life.



Relying solely on extrinsic incentive is not a long-term solution. A job that you didn't enjoy with a net income of €2,000 won't be fun for you with a salary of €4,000 either, because the general conditions and the inner connection to the job don't change. Topics that occupy or interest me give me experience, in which I deal with them and then bring changes into my life. Every one of us goes through a demotivated phase of life.
I think of motivation as a cell phone battery. Motivation needs energy, but it also gives energy. We can divide our 100% energy and act with it while pursuing our goals. However, only the 100% energy is available to us every day because we also need to stimulate our basic needs, such as sleep.
  • How do I use my energy?
  • Which energy guzzlers are superfluous and need less attention?
  • Why am I motivated for one and demotivated for the other?
  • What are the personal and environmental factors in relation to the activity and what can they be in the future?
  • How do these factors relate to me and my activity?
All questions that have given me the answers I was looking for to understand and change my current situation.
I hope that the article could give you comprehensive knowledge or you can rekindle your inner fire now. If you would like to learn how to deal with stress or negative emotions, you can find our eBook here.

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