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What Is Extrinsic Motivation And Does It Lead To Happiness?

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Summary: What is extrinsic motivation? Learn about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and which of the two is more suitable for long lasting happiness.

Have you ever asked yourself why you do the things you do, or why you want the things you want?

Well, when you get down to it, the overriding reason why any of us wants anything in life is almost always because we think it will make us happy.

Whether it’s physical beauty, social recognition, or financial success, we are conditioned by modern society to believe that for us to be happy we need to attain these things (extrinsic goals).

This brings us to the subject of extrinsic motivation.

In this article, we’ll look at what extrinsic motivation is and if it can truly lead to lasting happiness and overall life satisfaction.

Extrinsic Motivation

So, what is extrinsic motivation?

It refers to behavior that is driven by external factors such as rewards (praise, money, status) or avoidance of negative outcomes such as, getting fired from a job.

This type of motivation arises from outside a person in contrast to intrinsic motivation, which originates within a person.

Extrinsic Motivation

When we are extrinsically motivated, we perform acts and services, that we might find tedious or even emotionally draining in exchange for rewards which may be tangible (salaries, promotions, trophies) or psychological (praise, recognition, fame).

This type of motivation can be instrumental in helping us to establish comfortable lifestyles for ourselves and our dependents, for example when we work for a certain amount of hours each week in exchange for a paycheck at the end of the month.

It can also stimulate us to chase after our dreams with our end goals in sight. Such as when we undertake studies that might be boring and hard in order to acquire the necessary skills to become eligible for employment.

Will It Make You Happy?

So, extrinsic motivation can play an important role in our lives, but can it lead us to happiness in the long run, or enable us to experience lasting satisfaction in our lives?

The answer is no.

Because happiness and lasting life satisfaction are inside jobs. They can’t be influenced by outside achievements, no matter how great or fantastic those achievements are.

Yet, many of us still spend our lives chasing material success, working long hours in tedious jobs we hate, and tolerating unscrupulous people all in the misguided belief that once we get the piles of money, the mansion, the recognition, then we will live happily ever after.

But the perfect time to start living happily will never arrive.

The Pursuit Of Happiness

There will never come a time when we can say, I’ve received all I ever wanted──because the more we achieve, the more we always want.

According to Bronnie Ware, a palliative nurse and the author of the best-selling memoir, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, this way of living is at the end guaranteed to lead us to one of the deepest regrets of the dying.

Extrinsic Motivation

“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

This is a wake-up call for us to start course-correcting our lives while we still can so that we avoid getting to the end of our lives weighed down by guilt, regret, and sadness.

If extrinsic motivation will not lead to happiness, then what will?

The opposite of extrinsic motivation is intrinsic motivation.

In contrast to extrinsic motivation, when a person is intrinsically motivated, they are driven to perform a specific task or service from internal forces like intuition, a need for personal growth, or a natural desire to engage with others.

In other words, intrinsic motivation is inspired by natural ability, love, purpose, and self-belief rather than external rewards.

Intrinsic motivation, therefore, is a more powerful catalyst for stimulating happiness and well-being than extrinsic motivation.

It is also a great incentive for ventures that require long-term commitment and execution. This is because it’s neither dependent nor outside stimuli biased toward outside influences or threats.

Moving From Fear To Love

Fear is what drives most of our material desires. Because we’re afraid of feeling ‘left out,’ or being seen as losers and therefore undesirable. So, we go to great lengths to try and fit in.

Moving From Fear To Love

Working an unholy amount of hours and neglecting our health and loved ones. Just so we can buy some shiny trappings. Things we believe will buy us acceptance into the ‘right’ circles and thus raise our social status.

This Is A Dead-End Road

This state of trying to keep up appearances leads to nothing but feelings of loneliness and despair.

Far from delivering us the desired outcome.

Fortunately, there is a more effortless way for you to experience happiness and life satisfaction. And you can do so without compromising your values and sense of self-worth.

That is by increasing your intrinsic motivation so that you start doing more of what comes naturally to you and that originates from that intuitive space within you.

This is the fountain of all love and wisdom. If you can learn how to be happy now, no matter your circumstances.

Then everything else you desire will start showing up effortlessly in your life.

This is the law of attraction.

And remember:

Making money isn’t the backbone of our guiding purpose. Making money is the byproduct of our guiding purpose.

If you’re doing something you love, you’re more likely to put your all into it and that generally equates to making money.

── Warren Buffett.

When you go straight for happiness by pursuing intrinsic goals (authentic and from your core), then success will naturally follow as a by-product. 

Do more of what you love or learn how to love what you do and you will begin to experience happiness on your journey.

Rather than waiting to experience it when you arrive at your desired destination.

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