Ep. 255 The power of intrinsic motivation


In this week’s episode, Anna considers the importance of finding an inner drive and purpose.

It can be so tempting to be distracted by external measures of success, in the form of both a carrot and a stick to make us work harder; and yet these external drivers are never going to be as powerful as intrinsic motivation.

In this week’s episode, we explore…

  • How a schooling system that makes us addicted to getting that ‘gold star’ doesn’t necessarily set us up for success in the real world
  • The power of intrinsic motivation versus external rewards in helping us achieve our most ambitious goals
  • The benefits that come with goals that are rooted in our values and what matters most to us, and not to others

Tune in to hear more on intrinsic motivation!

*Resources mentioned during the episode*

Free Assessment – Download this free assessment to consider what ‘success’ means to you across different areas of your life, evaluate where you are today, and prioritise the right goals to get you to where you want to be. https://onestepoutside.com/what-is-success/

Intrinsic Motivation

Hello, hello. So we are talking about intrinsic motivation today something I’m very intrinsically motivated to talk about. But um, and this is all around the mindset that we need to have as an entrepreneur, or rather how we all could do with thinking like an entrepreneur, whether we’re in a corporate organization or working for ourselves, we looked at self awareness to begin with last week, and I want to talk about intrinsic motivation today. So you may have heard me talk about before this good girl syndrome that I feel like I grew up with, and maybe I shouldn’t keep banging on about it. But it is one of my top pages on my website.

That’s a blog post I wrote a long time ago. And I think it’s, it’s still rearing its ugly head now. And again, for me, it’s this kind of people pleasing, looking for external validation, wanting people to say, good girl, and a well done, here’s your star. Yep, good. Workshop, you did a good job. Clap, clap, clap, you know, rather than having the intrinsic or internal motivation of, you know, I want to write this book, because I’ve always wanted to be a writer, it’s gonna feel amazing having that in my hand, it will be so rewarding, rewarding to work on that continuously, diligently over a year. And then to achieve that whatever happens in terms of people buying it or bestseller status or whatever, right? And rather than pushing for that kind of one day wonder of Amazon bestseller status, really caring about it as the process and the more meaningful achievement. And that’s something that, you know, I guess, again, I’m not relying on external validation here, but people tell me that I have in spades that oh, my gosh, you’re so motivated, and you’re, you know, head down, and you’re disciplined, and bla bla bla, and the truth is, of course I am.

I mean, I just love a challenge. I love learning.

I love every aspect, oh, gosh, I sound like such a loser. Every aspect of my business at the moment, you know, I will happily sit with my iPad, scribbling ideas, coming up with new episodes, workshops, I just love it, I just find it fascinating. So there you go. I’ve, that’s me, I’ve, I’ve done a good job, I think of designing something that I really enjoy. But also, that has evolved over time. And I think I have the benefit of finding most things interesting. So I’m sure there is a limit to to that. And we could test the hypothesis if you want to check with me if I’m interested in something. But certainly I can find a way to motivate myself. And that’s why I think is important, whether you’re in you know, it’s easy to blame a role, blame a, an employer or a boss or whatever. But actually, there’s so much power in creating a reason for yourself, even in that really difficult place. And in fact, not not really where I was going today. But Man’s Search for Meaning the book by Viktor Frankl, he developed something called logotherapy. And he, you know, survived the Holocaust. And his work is all around the importance of having meaning, even in the darkest circumstances, and especially, so, I’m raising that not because in any way, we’re talking about those extreme circumstances, but I think it is relevant and it mirrors the reality, you know, whether you’re unhappy in a stressful job, or whatever it is, right. So although far less severe and horrendous. But but that’s some really interesting work around the importance of meaning.

And that’s the intranet Trinsic motivation, having something to work for to believe in to strive for is so so powerful for for human beings. So intrinsic motivation, what happens when you don’t have it? Well, a little bit like the lack of self awareness, we stagnate we procrastinate, right, because I don’t really know where I’m going, I don’t really care so much. And then you know, somebody offers this opportunity to go, Yeah, I’ll take that one. Or, you know, someone likes this thing. And they tell you, Oh, you should do this. And then you go in that direction, there’s a lot of I should do this, or someone else is pulling you in some direction, rather than, you know, really looking for the best fit and the best goals for you, that will give you meaningful satisfaction. So it’s hard to take kind of to be proactive and to actually pursue goals with any enthusiasm, because you just don’t really, you know, you’re not really motivated. And I think there is that massive disconnect, we think that we need to make wait for motivation, Tila, which will suddenly strike and then we can take action, whereas really, we need to take action in order to get that motivation coming. So it’s a bit counterintuitive, but very much the case I’m afraid.

I think when you’re not motivated, you also lack resilience, which is, you know, a trait that we’ll talk about in a few weeks explicitly.

But if I really have that, you know, sort of internal strength and determination because I have this purpose in the future and I know what I’m working towards, then I can much more easily bounce back from setbacks and, you know, respond or not take things too personally because I’ve got my path and I won’t be so distracted by other people, you know, shiny objects and so on. I’ve got my, my bigger mission and working towards and unfortunately, I think if we don’t have that inner inner motivation, if we have and quite clarified what that goal is, then it can be easy to sort of be dragged down by the inevitable failures along the way. But then what is the failure? If we don’t know what we’re working towards? You know, what would failure be? It’s an odd question. I also think that you know, passion for your work for your career for your business is inevitably going to really dwindle over time, if you’re not intrinsically motivated. And if you don’t know your why, if you don’t understand what you’re doing, why it’s important to you, then you’re going to be super disconnected from the purpose and you’ll just suddenly go, oh, hang on a second. I’ve been working so hard on this for so long.

And I think maybe that happens more when you’re sort of a founder of business or you’re working way for an employer where you perhaps don’t share their values.

I like to think and certainly, that’s been my experience, that when you’re designing a business, around your own values, and so on, then then you know, that’s so intrinsically connected to who you are, and what’s important to you, that doesn’t happen so much. But that’s something to be aware of. So, you know, stagnating and procrastinating, struggling with those setbacks along the way, and just not feeling particularly passionate, that’s not really where we want to be. So what happens when you can really tap into that intrinsic motivation? Well, it really brings you infuses you with a sustained sense of enthusiasm for your work, right, it’s long term, we have to be in it for the long term, long haul. And maybe that’s a trait in itself as thinking like an entrepreneur, you need to be much more positive, and allows you to be much more positive, and have that kind of deep sense of purpose, to propel you forwards, even when things are really difficult. So you’ve got enthusiasm, not just when you’re like, Hey, I’m really excited about this idea. lost interest, I’m bored now. Or I’m too tired, or it’s too hard. But really, yeah, I’m so motivated by this idea that I’m going to keep working even when it gets tough. Even when people aren’t showing up. As much as they thought they were they’re not buying and selling, I’m going to find a way to make it work. So that’s really powerful. It’s also easier to kind of tap into your creativity and be more innovative and explore ideas and take risks and so on and find solutions.

Because you’ve got this intrinsic motivation, right motivation, that’s a funny way to set motivation. So I’m so intrinsically motivated, I’m speaking very quickly, so apologies. But you’re far more likely to do that, if you’re feeling motivated and driven to learn to find solutions to find these creative ideas and projects and solutions, and so on, right. And above all, and this is what I think we should care selfishly mostly about most about is that it really brings a deep sense of personal fulfillment by definition, because you’re aligned with your values and passions, you have that deeper sense of contentment, I suppose. And yes, happiness, because you’re working on something that you love. And you know, that’s, that’s so powerful. Work, as I say, always is is just a part of life, but it is an important part. And again, it becomes sort of inextricably linked to who you are when you’re designing something so closely linked to your passions and so on. And that’s, that’s a good thing. I think, as long as you have boundaries, it really keeps you going. So in terms of how you can apply this and amplify your intrinsic motivation, right, you, you need to start with self awareness. So go back to last week’s episode, and then set yourself meaningful goals that are aligned with who you are, who you who you want to be what you want to do, right, what your values are, when your goals really resonate with your core beliefs, your identity, then the motivation to achieve them is going to become a driving force for you.

You also want to be cultivating that positive mindset, if you can nurture and we’re going to talk about this soon as well, that growth oriented mindset that’s really going to help you to embrace challenges, rather than see them as sort of roadblocks along the way.

To to go, yes, that can do attitude, right. So yes, I can, you know, okay, I don’t know how to do it yet, but I will figure it out. Oh, this was a bit disappointing. Oh, I’ve got some negative feedback there. What can I learn from that to make it better next time and really fuel your internal drive. And then finally, it’s so important, and I still struggle to do this myself. But that’s why you have other people, coaches, mastermind pals and, and friends and family. And so and hopefully, that often, people within your industry within your space are more likely to understand how hard it is and what what celebration really should look like. But celebrating even the small achievements, right? Not looking for the external validation, but having people around you, help you remind you and help you see that you’ve done an amazing thing. And again, it’s to do with your input and the effort you’ve made. I’m not saying it’s just about trying because of course we do need to have the outcome as well. But if you’ve shown up and recorded videos for the first time or gone live for the first time, if you run a workshop, it takes a huge amount of effort and courage to do a lot of these things that something to celebrate, even if you haven’t yet got to where you want to be ultimately, and let’s face it, we’ll never get there because we’re constantly raising the bar. So you really need to acknowledge your progress along the way, and your successes so that you stay motivated and committed to your journey, right? You’ve got those little base camp, milestones along the way to the top of Everest.

And I’ve been talking mostly about, you know, having your own business here. But again, as with last week, and I think this is the whole point of this series of thinking like an entrepreneur, whatever your role in an organization, you know, finding this intrinsic motivation not being only driven by the promotion or salary increase, which may not come. And in my experience, which when it does come isn’t as rewarding as you thought. And then you just go Okay, now what I’ve got that thing that I was working towards, what do I do now. And fortunately, that’s when I think people look elsewhere and go somewhere else, because they’re not having the challenge. So whether you’re a manager, a leader, and wanting to really empower your team, to feel intrinsically motivated, or and or you should also be thinking about yourself, it’s about finding how you can align with your own and your team’s strengths and values and what they care about what you care about. So that you’re working towards something that’s meaningful to you and not just waiting for the external validation feedback. All this comes, you know, and if you want to have a look on my LinkedIn, let me check on it was wrote an article was back in June, on cultivating intrinsic motivation, there’s a bit of more science a bit there from so Maslow, I’m sure we’re all familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, of course. And in conjunction with that Hertzberg talked about the hygiene factors and the motivating factors. So the hygiene is sort of the lower levels of Maslow that, yeah, you need the kind of job safety, security, income and pay, that’s kind of the almost a given because we’re very privileged, if you’re listening to the podcast, I believe you are to that we have a certain will be it in the going cost of living difficulties, you know, not as, as easy as otherwise. But certainly, we have a certain level of stability and safety and security, right. And that’s the kind of hygiene factors, that’s what we need to even be considering an employer, let’s face it, if they’re not paying us, we probably wouldn’t consider that employment, right.

And then you’ve got the more motivating factors, like the esteem, the recognition, opportunities for advancement in personal growth.

And in fact, the external versus intrinsic motivation comes from something called self determination theory, thinking about that external motivation that we’ve been really, it’s been drilled into us, right school grades, and ratings and incentives at work, and so on. And we care about what other people think it’s our status in society. But really the inherent interest, curiosity, sense of purpose, autonomy, mastery, purpose, as Dan Pink would talk about in the book drive, these are the things that drive us a sense of belonging and connectedness with other people. So again, really understanding who you are, what matters to you, there are these commonalities for all of us as human beings, and then designing and building your business and career and goals in life to align with those. So that’s the importance of intrinsic motivation. So I’d be curious to hear from you, you can chat with me, LinkedIn, Instagram, wherever we’re connected. And about what what drives you? Are you intrinsically motivated? What is it that’s driving you to, you know, to succeed in your current role, and in the next phase of your leadership? Again, whether you’re an intrapreneur, or rather running your own business, I’d be really curious to hear from you. And what can get in the way of that, right. Because sometimes, ironically, the external rewards kind of belittle in a way sort of take away the intrinsic motivation. If we were doing something for the fun of it, or for the generosity if someone then kind of Yeah, ruins that almost by rewarding us externally. It’s quite an interesting dynamic. But there you go, intrinsic motivation. And that’s what today and then next week, I’m talking about courage. Yeah, courage, in the context of decisions, doing the right thing, not the easy thing. Getting out of your comfort zone, all these important things that are very much close to my heart as well. So I’ll see you next week. Bye for now.


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