Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation

How to Identify and Harness Your Personal and Professional Motivators

What gets you out of bed each morning, ready to tackle the day ahead enthusiastically and purposefully? Is it the promise of an exciting new project at work? The opportunity to learn and grow? The desire to provide for your loved ones? Or the drive to build something meaningful that leaves a lasting impact on the world?

We all have our own unique blend of motivators – those intrinsic and extrinsic factors that fuel our ambition, creativity, and perseverance. Some are universal, while others are highly personal. But one thing is certain: understanding what propels you forward is the key to unlocking your full potential, both in your career and in your personal life.

Why Motivation Matters

Think of motivation as the engine that powers your success vehicle. Without it, you may find yourself stalled on the side of the road, watching others zoom past toward their destinations. But with a finely tuned motivational engine, you can navigate any obstacle and reach your goals.

Research shows that motivated individuals tend to:

  • Be more productive and efficient
  • Demonstrate greater initiative and ownership
  • Deliver higher quality work
  • Have stronger resilience in the face of setbacks
  • Report higher levels of job satisfaction and well-being

In short, motivation is the cornerstone of peak performance. So, how can you pinpoint those motivating factors?

Identifying Your Intrinsic Motivators

Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It’s the satisfaction you derive from the activity itself – the sense of challenge, the joy of learning, or the feeling of accomplishment when you’ve given something your all.

To uncover your intrinsic motivators, ask yourself:

  • What activities make me lose track of time?
  • When do I feel most energized and in a flow state?
  • What am I naturally curious about?
  • Which projects would I do for free, just for the love of it?

Your answers point to your innate passions and talents. And aligning your work with these intrinsic motivators is one of the surest paths to fulfillment.

Zeroing in on Extrinsic Motivators

Extrinsic motivators, as the name implies, come from external sources like rewards, recognition, compensation, or avoiding negative consequences. While intrinsic motivators are generally more useful in the long run, extrinsic factors can provide a potent short-term boost.


  • What types of incentives excite me?
  • How important is public acclaim or validation?
  • What standard of living do I want to achieve for myself/my family?
  • Which pressures or deadlines bring out my best work?

Used strategically, extrinsic motivators can amplify your intrinsic drives and push you through challenging stretches. But be careful not to rely on them too heavily; otherwise, you risk losing sight of your deeper purpose.

Crafting a Motivation Mix

The magic happens when you combine intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. For example, let’s say you’re a software engineer driven by the desire to create elegant, user-friendly applications. That’s a compelling intrinsic motivator. Now, imagine your company doubles the bonus for delivering the project early. Suddenly, you have an added extrinsic incentive to put more effort and hours into your work.

Of course, everyone’s ideal motivation mix will be different. The key is to experiment until you find the combination that reveals your best self. Keep in mind that your mix may need to change over time as your priorities and circumstances shift.

Motivation Maintenance

Like any engine, motivation requires regular maintenance to keep it running at peak efficiency. That means taking proactive steps to stoke your motivational fire before it starts to sputter.

Some proven motivation-maintenance strategies include:

  • Setting fresh goals and milestones
  • Celebrating wins, both big and small
  • Surrounding yourself with positive influences
  • Trying new approaches to keep things interesting
  • Building in recovery time to avoid burnout
  • Reconnecting to your deeper purpose

Most importantly, be kind to yourself when your motivation occasionally dips – it’s a normal part of life’s ebb and flow. Trust that you’ll find your spark again.

Your Motivational Journey

Discovering and activating your motivations is a highly personal journey. It takes self-reflection, experimentation, and a commitment to ongoing growth. There will likely be false starts and detours along the way. But with persistence and self-awareness, you will find your unique formula for success—however you choose to define it.If you’re struggling to discover your motivators, consider working with me. I can provide personalized guidance and support as you explore your motivations. You can book a free discovery session here to get started.