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The Best Way to Get Motivated

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The Best Way to Get Motivated

By Jeremy Hunter, Ph.D.

A friend of mine, Charlie, is the swim coach at the university where I work. The other day at lunch we got to talking about why he decided to go into coaching. It turns out that he originally was interested in law, but a summer internship at a firm changed his mind.

Talking with his hard-working co-workers revealed that many of them liked being lawyers because of the many perks like a high salary, and the ability to get nice cars and take exotic vacations. Of course, there are plenty of lawyers who genuinely love what they do, but at this firm, rarely did anyone indicate they actually enjoyed practicing law. It seemed to Charlie that his colleagues were slogging through 48 weeks of the year to savor the four weeks of vacation.

Coaching, on the other hand, which Charlie was also doing on the side, brought daily rewards as he worked with young people to develop their best abilities. While it paid less, it was a great deal more satisfying and energizing to him on a deep level. In the end, although the external rewards of practicing law were tempting, the internal motivations of coaching proved much more convincing.

Ins and Outs

Charlie’s example highlights the differences between two types of motivation recognized by social scientists: extrinsic and intrinsic. When we do things because of an expectation of a reward, prize or social approval, or any other external reason, we are acting extrinsically.

Conversely, when something seems worth doing regardless of the potential outside rewards, we are acting intrinsically. Another way of thinking about intrinsic action is that the “reward” one gets is the feeling of enjoyment, satisfaction or contentment while you are acting. This “prize” doesn’t depend on what others think or offer you in return, but rather how your actions bring about a positive internal experience.

Next: How to channel intrinsic motivation

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6:17PM PDT on Jun 9, 2012


6:30PM PDT on Mar 27, 2012

Ta for posting.

8:31AM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

thanks for sharing

12:30PM PDT on Mar 15, 2012

I definitely agree. What's the point in a goal if you don't enjoy the journey getting there? You might get hit by a bus tomorrow and never reach what you were after, and wouldn't it be a shame to do all that slogging for nothing?

3:35PM PDT on Mar 11, 2012

Thanks for that article.

10:57AM PDT on Mar 11, 2012

fantastic article!

5:19AM PDT on Mar 11, 2012

I ask myself, in the different phases of my life, "What is it that I want most of all? What is my goal for this time period?"

Once I know what my major goal is, I line everything in life up by that goal. It's easy to get motivated. I just remember what I want most of goal, my purpose.

If the excitement of reaching for my goal phases out, I go back to the question "What is it that I want most of all? What is my goal for this time period?"

Works for me.

4:40AM PDT on Mar 11, 2012

Love it!

11:04AM PST on Mar 9, 2012

I totally agree that if you don't enjoy the process of reaching your goel, you're not going to be happy with the outcome, and the work you did along the way will be low quality and confused. As a consummer would you want a distracted lawyer, Dr., Dentist, banker, server, cook, anything? I find it odd that our culture seems to pay the most to those who bring the least conscious attention to their work, and little or nothing to mothers/homemakers and teachers of our kids, small organic growers and others who do very important work.That's not always the case, of course, but it would be interesting if people only got paid when ever their brains registered a high degree of joyful involvement with what they were doing.

6:44AM PST on Mar 9, 2012


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