Although we talk a lot about motivation and try to inspire ourselves to be more passionate towards our goals, in reality, there are lots of theories and approaches surrounding motivation. The major theory being internally motivated or being motivated by external factors. So, let us cut through all these and directly jump into internal and external motivation.

What Is External Motivation? 
External motivation is when a person is motivated to implement a behaviour or engage in an activity in order to earn a reward or avoid some type of punishment.
Some examples of behaviours that are the outcome of external motivation include:

  • Cleaning your room so that you don’t get scolded by your parents
  • Studying well because you want to get good marks
  • Competing in a contest so that you can win a prize
  • Participating in sports to receive medals and awards

In each of the above examples, the behaviour is motivated by a yearning to gain a reward or avoid an unfavourable result. When it comes to external motivation, people engage themselves in a certain activity or behaviour not because they enjoy it or find it satisfying, but because they wish to avoid something unpleasant or to get something in return.

What Is Internal Motivation?

Internal motivation is when a person engages in an activity or behaviour because it is personally rewarding for that person. Which essentially means doing an activity for the person’s sake rather than being driven to do it for external rewards.

Some examples of actions that are the result of internal motivation are:

  • Solving a puzzle successfully because you like challenges which are fun and exciting
  • Playing a game or sport because you find it interesting
  • Pursuing a hobby as a career because you have passion towards it

In each of the above occasions, the person’s behaviour is driven by an internal desire to participate in a certain activity for its own sake and not for anything else. In this case, essentially, the action itself is its own reward.

While internal motivation is often seen as the most ideal, both external motivation and internal motivation are equally important ways of driving a certain behaviour or action. To understand how these can be best utilized, it is important to understand some of the key differences between the two types of motivation including the overall impact that each can have on behaviour.

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