Psychology lesson: intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation

November 3, 2015

A quick lesson in psychology will explain the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and which one we should really be helping the next generation develop for successful, happy lives.

Psychology lesson: intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation

Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation: what's the difference?

The best gift to give a child is for you to trust their inner guidance and allow them to lead their own schooling with autonomy and special attention to their interests and passions.

  • This will teach them to trust their own inner guidance and it will teach you to trust yours, too.
  • A child who is doing something fun yet incredibly productive, something intrinsically rewarding yet focused, something that comes naturally and feels like what they're most meant to do -- this is a child that is more engaged, learns fully, and knows what they want out of life.
  • The world needs more people who operate from this mindset.
  • This method of learning through play is born of intrinsic motivation, and it's quite unlike the extrinsic we're used to.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation arises from within -- it's the stuff of hobbies, passions, and dreams.

  • It's what compels an artist to learn her craft.
  • It's the reason the one with all the questions strives to answer them.
  • It's what compels a leader to recognize the potential in others and guide them to see it in themselves.

A method of education called unschooling utilizes a child's natural intrinsic motivation to turn learning into play.

Typically, these students don't need as many external factors to discipline them.

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation is another animal entirely.

  • It's seen in the pressures by parents, teachers, and other authority figures to get good grades, make good money, and achieve according to predefined standards.
  • Today's education system operates on this principle.
  • Though effective at conditioning and to some point standardizing, it does little for motivation, for the sheer joy of learning, or for creating self-driven, passionate members of society.

Making our dreams a reality

Let's face it: many of us would love to make our dreams a reality, to have a fulfilling career where our passions come to life -- to lead a life based on intrinsic motivation.

  • If we have children, well, of course we'd love it if they could be happy doing what they most love, but we don't understand how they could provide for themselves this way.
  • How will they keep a job and discipline themselves without a manager? This reflexive mentality is due to the conditioning rooted in extrinsic motivation factors; basically, as children ourselves, we weren't taught to trust our inner guidance and live by it.


Just now, we touched on a method of education called unschooling.

  • This form of schooling gets out of the way and makes way for the students: the unschoolers.
  • These self-driven, strongly motivated students trust their inner guidance throughout self-guided education and well into adulthood.

Intrinsically motivated students make excellent entrepreneurs, CEOs, college students, professors, homesteaders, artists, parents, and leaders.

  • These unschoolers don't have to worry about just getting by--the resources they need come to them because they work hard for everything they get.

Well-rounded individuals

  • Intrinsically motivated unschoolers become well-rounded individuals, fitting into the society they live in because they understand the personal responsibility they must take to adapt to changes, innovations, and opportunities.
  • Because they've been taught to trust their own inner light, they'll trust the inner light of others, believing strongly in the intrinsic capabilities of other human beings.

This is what makes them excellent leaders, whether their role in leadership is obvious or they blend into the fabric of society itself.

  • Intrinsically motivated students form dedicated teams and accomplish their goals, or work independently if they prefer.
  • By default, they make the money they need to pay their bills.

What's more impressive to an innovative company than a creative, self-starting, intrinsically motivated, and mature adult who is up for the challenge?

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