If you have heard any of the Brooklyn Strong Facebook rants recently (you are following us on Facebook, right?), you’ll notice my disdain for a lot of the Mindset and Motivation “guruism” out there. Particularly as this relates to motivation. With 2018 in full swing and the energy of the New Year beginning to wane, you may find your progress slowing down and feel as though you have “no motivation”. If this sounds familiar, this article is for you. Here, I will outline how motivation really works and clear up some misconceptions.
My primary framework when considering motivation is Self-Determination Theory (SDT), a theory of motivation introduced by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. Deci and Ryan differentiate between Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation and place it on a continuum. Contrary to what pop-psych books are peddling, motivation is NOT a “feeling” or some sort of imaginary “tank” that can be filled or emptied, but rather it is a reason for partaking in a particular task and it falls on a continuum based on if the motivation is external to the person or internalised.
TYPES OF MOTIVATION (EXTERNAL TO INTERNAL)
To make this easier, let’s list the types of motivation, from most external to most internal, and provide some simple examples.
Amotivation - This is, well, having no motivation. Without a driver, you’ll find yourself not even artaking in an activity, or doing it half-assed, at best.
Example: I don’t go to they gym because I have no good reason to and don’t give it much thought.
External Regulation - This is a form of extrinsic motivation that is the MOST external, relying on something outside the individual as the driver. Example: I go to the gym because Jeb and Jonny call me up and yell if I don’t show up.
Introjected Regulation - Still extrinsic motivation but the external factor is becoming more internalized by the individual, often as an internal “pressure”. Example: I am going to the gym today because I will feel bad if I let Jeb down.
Internal Regulation - Still extrinsic, but now we are consciously accepting the activity as necessary to reaching our goals. Example: I go to the gym because I know that lifting weights is really important to getting stronger and leaner.
Identified Regulation - Still extrinsic, but as close as we are going to get to intrinsic. In this case, we begin to identify with the activity as a part of who we are. When you hear me squawk about “congruency”, this is what I am talking about. The activity is in line with our values and morals. Example: I go to the gym because I am a lifter and active person. This is part of who I am.
Intrinsic Motivation - Doing for the sake of doing. Example: Lifting and exercise makes me feel great, so I do it!
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?
Having a reason for doing something is critical to actually following through, and the closer the motivation (driver) is to being internalized, the more likely we are to stick with the goal, perform better, etc.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that extrinsic motivation is a bad thing. As stated earlier, in accordance with SDT, we are on a continuum, as we may start with having an external driver (coach yelling, a reward, etc) in order to get us going. The key is that we are finding ways to move up the continuum and internalize the activity so that we are more likely to continue engaging in it (this is where I come in as a psych consultant). Good example of this is with kids: generally kids will start to read because an adult makes them, but through proper education and motivational techniques, they move along the continuum and (hopefully) internalize the importance of reading and continue to do it without prodding. It’s the same idea with any activity.
ALSO, it is important to note that one may MOVE BACK on the continuum due to life changes, commitments, changing values, etc. If you notice this happening, this is not a failure, but rather an invitation to find the cause and find a way to bring the motivation back to an internalized locus of control.
So, in plain english: Motivation isn’t a tank that can run dry, but rather a reason for doing something that fall on a continuum from external reasons to internalized, personal reasons. Like any other form of growth or learning, this is a “living” process that can continually change as you change. If you feel as though your reasons for staying in shape are starting to flounder, understand this process, and use self-awareness, effective goal-setting, and values clarifications - oh, and COACHING - to keep you moving forward.
- Jonny Pietruinti
Deci, E. L. and Ryan, R. M. (2000) Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 54-67.