What's the Difference Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation? PART 1
10 Jan

What's the Difference Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation? PART 1

As the New Year begins, we see a frantic search for new goals and/or new resolutions. As you go through this process, it's extremely important to understand what is driving these goals and why they are important to you. In this blog, Coach Sam Smith form OPEX Fitness Headquarters, takes a deeper look at Intrinsic (inspired) and Extrinsic (motivated) Motivation. As you finish up your goals for 2019, you can use this guide to really connect to Inspired and Long Lasting Goals.

From the Big Dawgs Blog:

What’s the difference between motivation and inspiration? Between extrinsic and intrinsic drives? Or are those the same thing?

In this post, we are going to break down the differences between the two, see which one has more long term value, and how we can identify areas in our lives that hold deeper value and purpose.

Everyone at some point in their life has felt “motivated.” A state where you feel pushed into doing something on a regular basis to attain a goal or reward that holds significant value. This force is welcomed and causes you to align your behaviors and lifestyle as best as possible to attain said goal. This can also be categorized as an extrinsic drive. Where we do something for external rewards and/or to avoid negative consequences. Some examples could be:

  • Qualifying for a competition
  • Winning a competition
  • Completing a challenging project
  • Finishing a daunting task
  • Improving your presence on social media (you can interpret this a multitude of ways, if distilled down, there’s a drive to gain something that we don’t already have)

However, this external force, or motivation, is fleeting and quickly diminishes once the reward or goal has been reached or ceased. Same goes for extrinsic drives, once the task or object has been reached, we find solace in knowing our energy and strain can be relieved.

Now have you ever felt “inspired”? Take a moment to think about a time when you experienced this feeling. Some might describe it as a state where an internal force is pulling you forward. Very similar to being “motivated” in the sense of incessant drive towards something but there is a deeper force from within that is influencing us. This can also be categorized as an intrinsic drive. Where we do something because it is a part of us. We aren’t forced into the journey, the journey is within us. It transcends our superficial desires and wants. Some examples could be:

  • Doing something where time ceases
  • Doing something that no one will ever have to tell you to do
  • Having a sense of joy, presence, and fulfillment in the midst of an activity
  • When talking to others about a specific topic, they can see and feel your passion for it, it becomes an extension of you

If we look closely at those short descriptions of being motivated and extrinsic drive, compared to being inspired and intrinsic drive, there are some significant differences between them. Let’s unpack those and figure out which approach carries the most utility long-term.

First, literal definitions of each:


  1. belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing
  2. originating and included wholly within an organ or part


  1. not forming part of or belonging to a thing : Extraneous
  2. originating from or on the outside


  1. a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation (read: transcending oneself)
  2. the act of drawing in


  1. the condition of being motivated
  2. a motivating force, stimulus, or influence : Incentive, Drive

I highlighted key words within each definition to draw your eyes towards them. We see a common theme where motivation/extrinsic drive is coming from a place “outside” ourselves. Pushing us towards a goal. In comparison, inspiration/intrinsic drive is coming from a place “inside” ourselves. Pulling us towards a goal. In another light, we can view this as our highest values. The items in our lives that automatically utilize the majority of our focus and energy. So, how can I identify my intrinsic drives/highest values? Let’s find out what they are with an easy exercise.

7 Basic Questions:

  • What makes you feel alive?
  • How do you spend your time?
  • What's in your personal space?
  • Where are you organized?
  • What engages you?
  • What do you love to take about?
  • What goals do you have?

Source: Dr. John Demartini

For each question, list the top 3 things that come to mind.

*One rule, you can’t use specific people in your life or feelings (IE- your spouse or love). The selections need to be particular things, activities, etc. that best fit those questions for YOU.

Then, take those responses, tally up the numerical count and highlight the top 3. Those responses are the pieces in your life that are of the highest value to you. They inspire you from within. You don’t have to think about them, you do them. They are a part of you. If some of those responses are not what you expected, that is ok. Some of our responses can change over time, but most of them will remain fairly the same. And that is why I would recommend you complete this exercise 3-4 times per year to check in and see where you actually are relative to where you think you are.

Take some time to self-reflect on the results. Are there a few values that you wish to adjust knowing the impact on your life would be much greater? Highlight those pieces. In the next blog post, I will breakdown how we can realign our values, and/or goals, to adjust our behaviors towards a more fulfilling future.


Concepts discussed above are amalgamations of research and knowledge gleaned from the sources below, amongst others. Please refer to them for future understanding and deeper discussion on this topic:

  • Values Factor by Dr. John Demartini
  • Maps of Meaning by Dr. Jordan Peterson
  • 12 Rules for life by Dr. Jordan Peterson
  • Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck

Source: www.thebigdawgs.com

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