Motivational Psychology Explained - Find Out What Drives You

Artwork of a psychological consultation, with a woman seated in an armchair speaking to a therapist who is attentively noting her expressions and words.

Understanding what drives us in our work and personal lives is key to finding satisfaction and fulfilment. The essence of motivation can often be distilled into two primary categories: internal and external. Internal motivation stems from our desires and interests, like hobbies or social activities, while external motivation arises from obligations or expectations set by others, such as work tasks or household chores. However, the intriguing interplay between these motivators can transform how we perceive and engage with our daily activities, especially in the workplace. This article delves into the dynamics of motivation, exploring how, under the right conditions, work can shift from being a mere duty to something as enjoyable as play.

There are three things that can make work seem more like play.

There are basically only two drivers for doing anything:

1. Wanting to – internally motivated

2. Someone else wants you to – externally motivated

The Internally motivated category can consist of activities like hobbies, eating, going on holiday or socialising. The externally motivated category can consist of activities like doing the dishes, studying or going to work. The reason for the slightly ambitious language like “basically only two” or “can consist of” is that internal and internal motivators can overlap.

You might enjoy what you do for a living but you probably wouldn’t do it for free. My partner wants me to do the washing up, but would I have done it anyway?

When work becomes play

Also, what used to motivate us internally can turn into only being an externally motivated task. One example of this is where your passion becomes your career and over time becomes a chore (it’s rare, but it happens). The opposite can apply here also where something we were paid to do becomes something we love doing.

The latter of the two is very interesting and most likely occurs because the activity being performed is satisfying one or more of the human needs.

Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan are both eminent motivation scientists who claim that there are only three factors at the base of intrinsic motivation:

Being competent. To be good enough at something that is just difficult enough to give a sense of achievement. Being autonomous. Having the freedom to thrive. We don’t like to be controlled. Relatedness. People are social and need to be able to connect to one another.

You will be able to become internally motivated if you address these three needs in any task that you set out to achieve.

I hope you found this post useful and I’ll see in the next one!

Thom Gardner,

Content Manager

The journey from viewing work as an obligation to experiencing it as a pleasurable activity hinges on fulfilling three fundamental human needs: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Recognising these elements can be the key to transforming our attitude towards work and other tasks that traditionally fall under external motivation. When we find ourselves competent in a challenging task, enjoy the freedom to make decisions, and feel a connection with others, our internal motivation can flourish. This shift not only enhances our work experience but can also positively impact our overall well-being and job satisfaction. The transformative power of intrinsic motivation is a fascinating aspect of human psychology, one that has significant implications in both our professional and personal lives.

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