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Last Updated on April 8, 2021

What Is External Motivation and How Can You Use It?

What Is External Motivation and How Can You Use It?

If your boss gave you a 50% raise, would you be more driven and motivated to prove yourself? What about the situations when you go to the store and are able to cash in your credit card points? Does this make you more likely to keep spending? If you answered yes to these questions, you’re beginning to understand external motivation.

The above are just a few extrinsic motivation examples. According to studies, external incentives can’t quite measure up to their better half—the internal kind. This is what we are constantly being told by virtually everyone, from psychologists to coaches, gurus, career advisors, entrepreneurs, and the like. It still does the job to get us moving, but not quite at the same level as its twin, and not for long.

Simply put, extrinsic rewards don’t hold up for long, we keep hearing.

And yet, there is also no denying that external motivation works. This is why it’s still widely used today. It’s quick, tangible, it can often be specifically measured and adjusted (think bonuses), and it provides a decent push in the right direction.

Therefore, it can be rather successfully used to get things done, reach our goals, and even get us to take action.

What Is External Motivation?

Let’s take a quick step back and agree on what external motivation is and how it works.

External motivation (also known as extrinsic motivation) means that we do something not for the sake of inner fulfilment (because we want to), but to gain a reward or avoid a punishment. It may feel like more of an obligation rather than an activity that will bring you enjoyment or fulfilment.

External motivation comes from outside to motivate people. It stems from things like money, recognition, fame, or praise. For instance, a student who does their homework because they fear parental sanctions is motivated extrinsically. In contrast, if they do it because they find it interesting or believe that this will help them practice and improve their skills, they are internally driven.

Both types of motivation work to get us moving, but the intensity, desire, and quality of our outcomes can be different.

You can find out more about the different types of motivation here: 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams

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How Well Does It Work?

Research confirms over and over that internal motivation is the preferred way to go if a person wants to have a consistent drive to complete tasks, perform better, or improve themselves.

So, intrinsic incentives seem to be the winner, no doubt, but this doesn’t mean that we should abandon external rewards as being ineffective. External motivation is a good performer in its own right. When used properly, it can also deliver, but you need to read the fine print.

Firstly, external motivators are susceptible to the so-called Hedonic treadmill (aka Hedonic adaptation).[1] It simply means that we quickly get used to the good stuff.

Research tells us that if you get a promotion, more money, a new car or a designer purse, the “high” has a very short life span. Soon after, you need a new push to get to that top-of-the-world feeling. It’s never ending, exactly like running on a treadmill.

There is also some research to attest that when we are extrinsically driven, the quality of our performance, persistence, and creativity are not just as good as with the intrinsic motivators.[2] It likely has to do with the “want to” vs. “must” state of mind. You start from a different mindset, and you end up with a different result.

Finally, studies tell us that extrinsic motivation can interfere with the internal ones and actually decrease it. It’s a phenomenon called the “overjustification effect.”[3] Simply put, if you enjoyed doing something and started to get rewarded for it, your inner drive to do it will progressively go down.

Regardless, external motivators can still cause you to take action. After all, not everything you do can be highly enjoyable and fulfilling, right? However, if you need to accomplish something that you may not quite feel like doing, extrinsic rewards often can push you through that extra mile you need to get to the finish line, especially when it comes to the areas of academia (think grades) and work (job, salaries, and recognition).

If you want to know if external motivation would work for you, you can check out Lifehack’s Free Assessment: What’s Your Motivation Style?

Examples of Extrinsic Rewards

1. Money

When you’re listening to the radio, have you noticed that many talk shows offer monetary rewards for “calling in” or participating in this or that activity? This is an example of a reward causing external motivation to increase your interest in playing.

You can also see this is the raise you’re trying to get to get at work. The idea of that extra money is likely motivating you to work harder and impress your boss.

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2. Prizes

How much money do you spend at fairs or carnivals trying to win those silly little prizes the game booths offer? What about the fun prizes your friend offered for winning the games at her baby shower? Prizes are often great external motivators.

We can use this to our advantage by promising to buy ourselves something nice if we complete a certain task or activity.

3. Grades

This is one of the most common sources of external motivation and one we will all recognize. Even if you weren’t necessarily motivated by the possibility of getting good grades, your parents probably were.

4. Promotions/Recognition

When it comes to extrinsic motivation examples in the workplace, the chance of getting a promotion at work is a huge source of motivation at our jobs. We like the idea of being recognized for the work we do and feeling appreciated at something that can feel drawn out when we’ve been working somewhere for a while.

5 Ways to Utilize Your External Motivation

Here is how to get a better use of the external drivers to enhance your performance, reach your goals and improve your life.

1. A Quick Hit to Make Yourself Do Something

How many times have you told yourself: “If I do X, I will treat myself to Y”? For instance, “If don’t cheat on my diet this week, I’ll allow myself a piece of cake on the weekend” or “If I work hard and get that promotion, I’ll buy a nicer car.”

The truth is, when we see the “carrot” close in sight, it can make us more determined to get it.

It’s called immediate gratification, and it ties into a concept in psychology and behavioral economics, known as “hyperbolic discounting.”[4] When it comes to human behavior, it’s our tendency to gravitate toward immediate rewards (I’ll take $50 today) vs. benefits expected sometime in the future ($100 in 6 months). In experiments, people consistently take the “now” option over the choice to have more but later.

The same applies to motivation—although internal incentives can give us much more in the long run, there is still a level of uncertainty because you often have to play the long game and wait for your passion to pay off, especially financially. There is also the question as to whether you can feel truly fulfilled to do things solely for your own gratification, even when no one recognizes your efforts, skills, or accomplishments.

2. Make Others (or Yourself) Do What You What

Convincing other people to do what we want is undeniably a priceless skill. One of the best ways to achieve exactly this is to give them a compliment. It can be in the form of positive feedback or praise, but it’s an immediate reward that can work wonders on people through external motivation.

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According to research, compliments have a similar effect on the brain as receiving cash and can improve performance.[5] Therefore, they are equivalent to a powerful motivational shot.

Studies tell us that receiving acclaim can also improve performance.[6] In addition, it can make you more productive, engaged, and likely to stick around with your company a bit longer.[7]

So, regardless if you are a manager who wants to give your employees a push, or to ask a friend to do you a favor, or even perhaps to make yourself do something you’ve been postponing—pay a compliment.

Of course, if you are always fishing for compliments or give yourself one too many, it may mean that you have a bit of a narcissistic streak running in your personality. This, of course, will make you very vulnerable to the Hedonic treadmill trap.

Alternatively, if you are trying to make others do what you want by playing to their soft side, you may be overstepping in the dangerous territory of Machiavellianism.

So, when you give others or yourself compliments, and receive them, make sure there is some truth in them. Unearned praise can backfire, research has discovered.

3. Show Me the Money

Remember this epic phrase from the movie Jerry Maguire? Money is a controversial motivator, a multitude of studies tell us. We all have heard of the magic $75K number[8] —the threshold after which more money doesn’t bring us more satisfaction and fulfillment.

Or, to put it in Arnold Schwarzenegger words:

“Money doesn’t make you happy. I now have $50 million, but I was just as happy when I had $48 million.”

And yet, money is still a powerful driver for many of us because of the many perks it brings to the table.

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Instead of focusing on a number (“I want to have a million dollars in the bank”), think in terms of the benefits from enhancing your financials—mainly, the freedom it will give you and the reduced stress and worry.

4. Carrots and Sticks

“Carrots and sticks” simply means that in order to go above and beyond at what we do, employers use rewards (increase in salary, bonuses, recognition, positive feedback) or punishment (negative feedback, pay decrease, demotion). It’s been a hot topic with organizational psychologists for a while now as to what works better and if the rewards-punishments approach is the best way to utilize external motivation.

There seems to be more evidence to support the rewards camp,[9]. These get better results as far as external motivators go.

But punishment also works. For instance, you are afraid you may fail your test, this may push you to study harder. If you are scared of getting unfavorable feedback at your annual review, you will try to perform above average during the year.

You may not be happy or feel joy in doing these things, but the point is that you will likely do them anyway. Scaring yourself a little can be beneficial—as in “If I don’t study hard, I will flunk the test” or “If I don’t start eating healthy, I may have a heart attack.”

Although not the most pleasant ways to seduce ourselves into doing what must be done, punishment can also do the trick when it comes to motivation.

Final Thoughts

External motivation does quite well in certain situations and with certain people. It can be used to spring ourselves into action or make others do what we want them to. It can also yield rather predictable outcomes.

What’s more—it’s not shameful to be driven by extrinsic rewards. Of course, the intrinsically rewarding sources are better and more sustainable in the long run, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your goals if you rely on external incentives. Because they seem to be more straight-forward and can bring foreseeable results, we all can and should use them to our advantage.

You simply have to be mindful that doing something purely for the glory, fame, or money is not going to last. Remember the hedonic treadmill?

Maybe true success can only be found at the crossroads of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. That is, enjoy what you do and reap the benefits of recognition and respect.

More Tips for Finding Motivation

Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Evelyn Marinoff

A wellness advocate who writes about the psychology behind confidence, happiness and well-being.

What Is External Motivation and How Can You Use It? Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It) How to Define Your Personal Values and Live By Them for a Fulfilling Life How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life How to Stop Struggling with Instant Gratification and Reach Your Goals

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Last Updated on April 14, 2021

No Motivation? 7 Great Ways to Overcome Loss of Motivation

No Motivation? 7 Great Ways to Overcome Loss of Motivation

No matter who you are, you will have moments where you feel like you have no motivation to do anything at all. Even highly effective and successful people will have times when they feel a lack of motivation. However, it is the way they deal with this “down” time that keeps them moving forward and helps them to accomplish great things.

Motivation is one of the keys that will push you into taking action and keep you moving each day. If you find yourself saying “I have no motivation,” you will tend to procrastinate on the things that are supposed to get done. Eventually, you will put things off and give up on your project or task.

This is what’s happening to many people out there. They say they want to become rich by investing or running their own business on the Internet. However, whenever they need to study the company report or build their website or write an action plan, they can’t get motivated to work. This is where most people give up.

Fortunately, there are solutions to this. Here are the 7 great tips to try when you have no motivation.

1. Remember Why You Want to Do It

If you feel a lack of motivation when you want to type an article, try to think about why you want to do it in the first place. The reasons you do something are the driving force behind everything you do. It is only when your reason is strong and emotional enough that you will do whatever it takes to accomplish the task.

When you feel no motivation at all, it is because the reason behind what you’re doing is not strong enough. Think about it: why do people stop smoking? Most of the time, people stop smoking because they have a strong reason; if they continue to smoke, they may suffer serious health problems or lose their loved ones.

So why do you do what you do? Do you know why you want to achieve your goals and your targets? Make sure your reasons are strong and emotional. When you have no motivation, think about the purpose why you want to do it.

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2. Envision the Success If You Do It, and Feel the Regret If You Don’t

Visualization is a very powerful tool that is available to us, and it is free of charge. You can think and imagine whatever you want, wherever and whenever you wish to.

If you think that visualization does not work, try to imagine vividly that you walk to your kitchen, open your fridge door, see a big yellow lemon, and take it out. After that you take a knife and cut the big yellow lemon in half.

Imagine this vividly and with as much detail as possible. After you cut the lemon, take the half up and squeeze the lemon so that the juice drops into your mouth. Feel your hand’s pressure, hear the sound it makes while being squeezed, and imagine the sour lemon juice going into your mouth. Now, do you feel more saliva in your mouth or nothing?

Chances are, if you follow through and visualize it vividly, you will have more saliva in your mouth. This is because your mind cannot differentiate between what is real and what is imagined.

This is what makes visualization such a powerful tool. Think about it, if your dream is to drive a Mercedes Benz, imagine the vivid picture of you driving. Imagine the model you want, the color, the smell of the seats, feel the steering, and hear sound of the engine roaring. Do you think your mind will eventually make it real one day?

The point is that when you imagine and visualize things in your mind, you will feel more motivated to do it. When you dream about the car you want, you will create the motivation from within. Try to do this when you feel like procrastinating and have no motivation.

You can learn more about using visualization in this video:

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3. Create a Supportive Environment

Do you know that your surroundings and your environment can affect your mood?

You will become the people you are around. If you are always surrounded by successful people who talk about their growth and learning, you will learn and join the conversation as well. This is how you can overcome a lack of motivation and use your environment to boost your energy levels.

On the other hand, if you are surrounded by negative people who always gossip and talk about other people, you will feel negative and have no motivation to work as well.

Ensure your work space is a good and supporting environment, so that you will want to wake up each morning and go to work.

Remember, your environment is important and can affect you. Change your environment instead of letting it manage you.

4. Change Your Physiology and Stay in Action

Motion creates emotion. Whenever you feel down and have no motivation to do your work, change your physiology. Try out this exercise:

Try to feel sad by thinking about all the sad things that have happened to you, and notice your physiology. Notice your breath, your shoulders, and your facial expression. Where are your hands, and do you look up or do you look down?

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When you are in a sad state, your physiology will change to reflect it in the short term, affecting your motivation level. Conversely, if you are feeling good and energetic, your physiology will reflect that. For most people, when they feel great and motivated, their breathing will be faster, their hands gesture will be active, they talk faster, and their eyes look forward[1].

This is why it’s often easy to tell whether someone is upset or happy just by looking at their body language. When you change your physiology, you change your emotional state, as well.

5. Let Others Motivate You

Reading a book, listening to music, or watching something inspiring can help when you have no motivation. What you can do is spend a minimum of 30 minutes each day reading an inspiring book before you start your day. This way, you will make sure you start in the right state of mind and are able to go through the day, even if you face challenges

Videos and audio can be very helpful in helping you find motivation, too. For example, when you are down and feeling no motivation, spend time watching something inspiring on YouTube or listen to a motivational speech. You will be pumped up in no time and ready to go.

6. Dream Big, Start Small, and Act Now

This is a very powerful principle if you are struggling with motivation and feel overwhelmed. When you dream, you have to dream big so that your dream can inspire you. However, when you start, you have to start small because you want to make it into a habit so that you will automatically take action consistently every day.

When your motivation is gone, start small. You want to build up the momentum from there. Once you start to take action, the motivation will come, and you will be able to continue to do more.

Take baby steps, and gradually increase from there on. For example, if you want to exercise and work out five days a week, try to schedule it and start small. Even if it is just five minutes a day, commit to it.

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The key is to build the momentum and make it easy for you to start. Once you get the engine started, gradually increase your motivation.

For more tips on taking action, check out Lifehack’s Free Guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen.

7. Take Breaks When Needed

Sometimes you just want to take a break when you have no motivation. Remember, success is not a destination; it is a journey that you need to go through for a long period of time. Many people mistake success as doing one great thing and think that success will come over overnight.

However, almost all the successful people who have accomplished amazing results are able to do so because they persist long enough. They take action consistently and never give up. Real success takes years to build.

Make sure you get enough rest and take a break when you need to. Understand your own capabilities and how much you can do. If you have done your work, you can reward yourself and take a break. You will notice that after resting, you will feel more energetic, motivated, and ready to take on the world again.

The Bottom Line

If you find yourself asking, “Why do I have no motivation?” it may be time to take a good look at how you’ve aligned your priorities and where you can make changes each day. Overcoming a lack of motivation means finding what matters on a daily basis and taking small steps toward it when the energy you’re given.

More to Boost Your Motivation

Featured photo credit: Agnieszka Boeske via unsplash.com

Reference

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