Intrinsic Motivation Pt.1: The Power of Self-Drive to Reach Your Personal Goals

Feb 24

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We’ve all heard one of the most common statistics there is about New Year’s Resolutions: 80% of those of us who make them don’t last through February. Reading that, it’s easy to conclude that goal-setting at the start of the year is a fruitless exercise. But let’s think about this for a moment. What is the number one reason why most of us fall off the wagon by Valentine’s Day? One way or another, the problem often seems to come down to a lack of motivation otherwise known as intrinsic motivation.

There are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. We’re going to cover intrinsic motivation over the next couple of articles. In this first part, you’ll learn what it is and how to tap into it to reach your personal goals. In part two, we’ll focus more on employee motivation strategies. If you’ve set 2021 goals that have already fallen by the wayside, keep reading to learn how to get your fire back. 

Understanding intrinsic motivation 

Intrinsic motivation occurs when we take action without any noticeable external rewards or consequences driving our behaviour. In other words, when we work towards a goal simply for the sake of our interest, happiness or satisfaction. This differs from extrinsic motivation, which is when exterior forces prompt our efforts. 

For example, if you take a skills-boosting course to feel more empowered and confident at work, that’s an example of intrinsic motivation. However, if you take that same course because you’re afraid of not measuring up to the competition, that’s extrinsic motivation.

Harnessing the power of self-motivation

To successfully reach many of your goals, you’ll need to get to a place where you’re driven mainly by your personal values and standards. Here are three tips for applying the power of an internal reward system:

Review (and possibly tweak) your goals

“If you truly want to learn how to stay motivated, you need to understand what drives you – and what you really don’t care about.” –  Life Hacker.

Have you ever set a goal because it was a popular trend or sounded good, not because you actually cared about it? Maybe you signed up for the office marathon because everyone else completes it each year or aimed for a higher position at work because it was the next natural step in your career. 

To operate from inherent motivation, set objectives that stem from a personal, genuine desire. Take a look at your current goals. Are they sincerely meaningful to you? Do they truly resonate with who you are and what you want to accomplish? If not, it’s time to do some tweaking. 

Redefine success

As previously mentioned, we’re used to measuring our progress based on clearly identifiable rewards, such as positive feedback. Not getting them can make us feel like our efforts are futile. One way to avoid disappointment (and thus loss of motivation) is to redefine success. How? By focusing on actions rather than outcomes. In other words, make steps taken towards the goal victories in themselves. 

For example, a common New Year’s resolution is to get in better shape. Instead of focusing on the scale or waiting for everyone else to notice your progress, consider each workout or healthy meal choice a small triumph. 

Focus on long term personal development 

We often set goals with “finish lines”. It’s an effective motivational tactic, but it can also cause us to rely too heavily on external gratification. Combat this by setting objectives that build on themselves and contribute to your personal growth over the long run. This will help shift your attention to finding signs of internal progress. 

How self-drives leads to success

External motivators certainly have their place. But as you’ve probably discovered, they have limited ability to keep you going. Here are a few of the many benefits you’ll enjoy once you learn how to implement an internal reward system:

Increased happiness and satisfaction

When your goals connect with your soul and resonate on a deep, personal level, accomplishing them naturally leads to greater joy, contentment, and overall emotional wellness

Greater productivity

Internal motivation makes it easier to find your flow and become more easily immersed in your work. That’s far more enjoyable than counting down the hours until it’s time to call it quits for the day!


Passion is a powerful force that helps you overcome even the hardest of obstacles. A personal investment in a project or task will help you find creative solutions to all sorts of problems.

Tools and resources that can help 

We tend to think of self-drive as a trait only some are born with, while others just have to struggle through. But intrinsic motivation is a skill like any other, which means we can all learn it with the right resources. It requires us to shift our attention from outward to inward measures of success. Want to learn how? Check out our  Breakthrough Mindset and Success Mindset workshops to understand how to identify your core beliefs, recognize negative thinking patterns, and shift your focus to achieve significant results. 

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