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  • Motivation is the experience of wanting something or wanting to avoid it.

  • When we study how we get motivated to learn, develop, and succeed, we can identify two contrary forces: extrinsic and intrinsic ones.

  • On the one hand, we want to belong, desire to be loved, and seek to get the attention we think we deserve.

  • We are motivated extrinsically by rewards in order to progress socially.

  • On the other hand, we strive to explore things that are satisfying in themselves, disregarding rewards.

  • We are motivated intrinsically by a natural curiosity which we follow because it feels right.

  • The opinions of others don't matter.

  • To understand why we probably need a good mix of both, let's imagine two four-year-old children.

  • Both grow up in families that want only the best for their kids, but have completely opposing views on how to motivate them to succeed.

  • Tom's parents believe that all their boy needs is love.

  • To not undermine his intrinsic interests, they never praise him or use rewards.

  • Eventually, they decide not to give him any feedback at all, fearing it could corrupt his free mind.

  • Over the years, Tom develops an immense capacity to imagine, spending most of his time playing by himself.

  • By being allowed to follow his passions, he learns what he likes and what he doesn't.

  • But Tom doesn't learn what others expect, and gets easily irritated when asked to do something in a particular way.

  • Mira's parents believe that their precious little girl needs clear rules about what's good and what's not.

  • They see it as their duty to help Mira learn by providing precise and actionable feedback on all aspects of her young life.

  • Mira spends her days in preschool, music, and ballet lessons.

  • Over the years, she gets exceptionally good at the things that please the adults around her.

  • However, since there is neither time to play nor to relax, she doesn't discover her own interests.

  • Being alone bores her.

  • At 14, Tom is independent and begins writing science fiction.

  • He realizes that he isn't quite like his friends, and spends most of his time at the library.

  • When he shares his writing, others can't quite relate.

  • At the same age, Mira is at the top of her class and has plenty of friends and admirers.

  • She knows what is expected of her, and makes sure to meet those expectations.

  • Sometimes the pressure becomes unbearable, although that's her secret.

  • By the day he turns 21, Tom has a unique perspective of the world.

  • He is intelligent but doesn't like to work for money, and hence is always broke.

  • He hates the idea of conforming to conventional norms and is annoyed if someone interferes with his creative expression.

  • At this point, Tom knows a lot about himself, but doesn't connect well with others.

  • To him, people seem to follow rules without questioning them, just like sheep.

  • Integrating into the society is difficult at this point, and he begins to search for Utopia.

  • Mira makes it into a top medical school, where she realizes she'll never be top of the class again.

  • Once that place seems out of reach, her motivation drops, and she wonders if medicine actually interests her.

  • Since quitting is no option, she takes up a second major and runs for student council president.

  • Soon, Mira will know everything about what others expect, but nothing about what she likes for herself.

  • All her life, she has just listened, driven by external feedback loops.

  • At this point, she's almost lost the ability to question the norms of the society she grew up in.

  • Listening to our heart can tell us who we are, but not how to be happy among others.

  • Listening to others can motivate us to be a part of their world, but doesn't teach us if that world is ours.

  • This is why it's probably good for the two to go together.

  • Then we can learn what we want, and get the feedback we need in order to stay motivated to explore new roads into a better society.

  • A large body of research shows that balancing the two forces is not straightforward.

  • One meta analysis of 128 studies examined the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation.

  • While most rewards significantly undermined our intrinsic interest, positive feedback, which is an extrinsic motivator, inspires us to keep going.

  • Put simply, honest words of encouragement get us going, while money or gifts undermine our inner drive.

  • What about you?

  • Do you listen to your heart, or to the voices of society? And from your personal experience, which of the two eventually takes your decision?

  • Share your thoughts, and check the description to dive deeper into the topic.

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Motivation is the experience of wanting something or wanting to avoid it.

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Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation: Are You Listening or Following Your Heart?

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/11/07
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