What makes the difference between those of us who will procrastinate until we can’t function and the people who tackle obstacles for fun? Were they born with some super gene that keeps them going? Do they have access to some illegal energy drink that we don’t?
I can’t vouch for the entire population but there is one factor that psychologists have pin pointed. A difference between the go getters and do-it-laterers. Why we are motivated. Why do you want to go to the gym? What is the point in eating healthy? Why are you waking up early? Are you doing these things to avoid something? To gain something? Then you are being extrinsically motivated. Extrinsic motivation is carrots and sticks, rewards and punishments. It is an outside force motivating you. Those super powered beings? They are generated by intrinsic motivation, the desire to do something because they want to. It is motivation generated from the motivatee. Here’s an example; why am I writing this article? Am I writing it because I want to be a famous blogger or am I writing it because I enjoy it? If I’m writing it to be famous that’s an extrinsic motivator. Because extrinsic motivators can be intangible, like receiving praise or recognition, or avoiding shame. If I’m writing it because I enjoy it then I’m intrinsically motivated.
Now a lot of us have been convinced that rewards and punishments are always the way to motivate someone but this is not true. Extrinsic motivation can sometimes help but really once you put a price on something it loses that inner reward. Once you lose that inner reward well, no bribe or threat can really replace it. Intrinsic motivation gives us that push that even money can’t. Now after I learned about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation I kind of started to freak out. Everything I did was extrinsically motivated. I tried to read certain books to seem smarter. I went to the gym because I didn’t want to get fat. I worked my job because that’s just what grown-ups do. Everything I did was done because that’s what grown-ups do.
Then it dawned on me. Screw being a societal grown up. Screw doing anything because that’s “what you’re supposed to do”. I’d rather talk about magic than politics. Running around playing tag is always more fun than on a treadmill. Working a million jobs to avoid working one job I hate is worth it. I don’t care if I look like a responsible adult. Everything I did was extrinsically motivated because I had taken all of my intrinsic motivation and shut it down. My little spark was dying. My spark of curiosity and challenge, of passion and awe. I had allowed other people and outside ideas to determine what I should do. When I couldn’t force myself into that image, I felt inadequate. The thing is, I was never inadequate, I just had to actually be me.
When you’re trying to motivate yourself to do something, stop. Ask yourself; why am I doing this? Is this something I want? Do I enjoy this? Are these actions reaching towards a goal I made? Take the time to listen to your brain, instead of always stuffing it with more nonsense. Put down the so under ground it’s cool interest. Walk away from the images of what other people have told you to be. Find your little spark, and then make it a fire. Delve into the things you love and you will find yourself burning up with motivation. Keep that childlike wonder in everything you do. Turn to the challenges that you want to win. Chase after the things you are passionate about. Curiosity will take you farther than any candy bar could.
Whether your spark reaches for fantasy books, ultimate frisbee, knitting, or even world domination just go with it. And tell me about it! I would love to hear about your crazy dreams or geeky interests. I would especially love to hear how you feel about this post so let me know!