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The Star Mentality Post

  • Writer's pictureRifat Hussein

The Secret to Lasting Motivation: Understanding Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Motivation is an essential aspect that contributes to your success in achieving your goals. It’s the guide behind your behaviors and the driving force that keeps you going even when facing challenges.

However, every athlete has struggled with motivation and hit a slump at one point in their career. It’s common to lose momentum along the way, even if you love what you do. In such cases, it’s important to understand not all incentives are created equal. Knowing the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic factors is the secret to lasting motivation.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It's your internal desire to become accomplished in your sport. It’s based on passions, beliefs, and fulfillment. You find competing self-rewarding and enjoyable.

Here are three advantages of using motivation from intrinsic sources:

1) Improved performance: By striving for personal fulfillment, you are more likely to work harder, practice more consistently, and take greater ownership of your training. Over time, you are more likely to develop a stronger and more dynamic skill set.

2) Greater resilience: When you are driven by your purpose, you are better able to cope with the stress that comes with competing. You are likely to cultivate a growth mindset and better manage negative emotions, such as performance anxiety and self-doubt.

3) Higher levels of creativity: You are more likely to be more innovative in your approach to training and matches. You will be more open to feedback and seek different ways to add to your game, which will lead to new ideas and techniques that give you a competitive edge.

As you can see, possessing a good level of intrinsic motivation is a powerful tool. It will significantly aid your athletic development. You will have the ability to stay focused and experience more confidence as you compete.

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, refers to external factors that influence your behavior. You want to do well in your sport to achieve a reward or avoid punishment.

For instance, you are driven by the trophies, attention (recognition from fans and media), and accolades. As well as to avoid the negative consequences of a poor performance. This can include worrying about disapproval from the coach, fans, and your family. Hence, these types of athletes are mainly focused on the outcome, in particular winning.

Here are three benefits of being influenced by extrinsic motivation:

1) Increased competitiveness: You will have this extreme drive to outperform your opponents. This will help you train harder and push past your limits, contributing to your success.

2) Achieving specific goals: When striving for rewards and accolades you provide yourself with a clear direction. This can help you put in more effort in improving your skills to get there, enhancing your focus.

3) Opportunities for recognition: Winning trophies, medals, and achieving on the big stage can give you greater visibility. This can help bring more eyes to your sport, lead to better financial opportunities, and helps advance your career.

Extrinsic rewards are a strong source to help you maintain your motivation. It pushes you to put in more effort during matches and allows you to stand out amongst the crowd.

Which is more effective, intrinsic, or extrinsic motivation?

Both sources of motivation are essential for your athletic development. However, it is important to look at the potential disadvantages of internal and external incentives before deciding which one will provide you with more value.

Here are the downsides of intrinsic motivations:

  • Difficulty in setting goals - You may find it harder to track and measure concrete targets.

  • Lack of competitive drive - When focusing on the enjoyment of your sport, you may have a reduced desire to win.

Here are the negative factors of extrinsic drivers:

  • Pressure and stress ­- Tying your success to rewards can lead to performance anxiety and eventually burnout, especially when you don’t achieve the desired outcome.

  • Short-term focus - Goals are usually more immediate and tangible, hence less concentration on athletic development in the long run.

Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators have their drawbacks. Although the evidence suggests being predominately driven by internal goals helps you become a more successful athlete, solely relying on it may not allow you to reach your full potential. The same can be said when becoming too dependent on external ambitions.

Therefore, if you want to achieve long-lasting motivation, you need to merge both intrinsic and extrinsic drivers. By doing so, you can minimize their weaknesses and further strengthen their advantages.

For example, let’s say you do your sport for the love of it, and you enjoy the process of improvement. However, now imagine they took away the prizes, the fans, and the accolades. It would be like football with no trophies to play for or boxing with no winner at the end of each contest. Eventually, your intrinsic motivation will die out as there will be no true gain in the progress you make.

In accordance, it’s important to find the right balance between internal and external incentives. By combining both sources, you can create a symbiotic relationship that supports and fuels your efforts. With this approach, you can compete at the highest level.

How to find the right balance

It can be difficult when trying to decide what the right balance is. It’s crucial to acknowledge your sporting needs and be aware of the type of athlete you want to be.

Here are some tips to help you out:

1) Focus on the process, not just the outcome: Instead of solely being driven by the result or receiving a reward, try to find enjoyment in the process of working towards your targets.

2) Use external rewards strategically: Rather than heavily relying on the accolades to motivate you, use them to reinforce positive behaviors. Provide yourself with a treat after a win, hitting a new PB, or achieving a milestone.

3) Re-evaluate your goals regularly: As you progress on your athletic journey, take time to reflect on your goals and make sure they still align with your values.

4) Find meaning in recognition: Try to derive the significance beyond the immediate benefit when receiving rewards. Think about how your work contributes to your personal growth or helps you make a positive impact on your audience.

Use these pointers and take the time to explore what truly motivates you, until you strike the ideal balance.

Integrating both internal and external drivers will help you succeed. By being mindful of your priorities, you can become the athlete you aspire to be while enjoying the journey along the way.

Take Home Messages

Recognizing the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic incentives can help you sustain your motivation while pursuing your goals. Internal factors, such as enjoyment and personal fulfillment, provide a strong foundation, while external factors push you past your limitations.

Identifying your passions, embracing the process, and continuously learning can help you consistently perform at your best. So, the next time you feel your motivation slipping, take a moment to reflect on your values and find the right balance that works best for you.


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