Motivation : Intrinsic vs Extrinsic

Motivation – we all wish we had it, but have you ever considered the different types of motivation? And that one might be healthier than the other? Enter intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.

Emma Carr health coach works on a desk at a computer

Intrinsic motivation

Comes from within us. When you’re intrinsically motivated you engage in that activity because you enjoy it and get personal satisfaction from it. You find it internally rewarding₁.

Extrinsic motivation

Comes from outside us – external factors. When you’re extrinsically motivated you do something to gain an external reward₁.

Often one activity can be an intrinsically motivating activity for one person and an extrinsically motivating activity for another. Let’s look at working out as an example. If you’re working out to loose weight and look good (external factors) then you are working out because you’re extrinsically motivated. On the other hand, if you work out because you enjoy physically challenging your body (personal satisfaction) then you’re working out because you’re intrinsically motivated.

Whilst both methods of motivation can be effective, research suggests extrinsic motivation should be used sparingly due to the over-justification effect*. Personally I find when I am intrinsically motivated I am much more likely to commit to something than if I am extrinsically motivated. Looking back at the working out example – in which situation will someone most likely still be ‘working out’ in say a years time? Yep, the intrinsically motivated person. Why? Because they enjoy it. Also, if the extrinsically motivated person has reached their ‘goal’ then they are likely to stop.

*over-justification effect = Studies have demonstrated that offering excessive external rewards for an already internally rewarding behaviour can reduce intrinsic motivation₂.

Which is motivation best?

Most studies show people who are intrinsically motivated are more likely to stick to, and achieve a task₂. Moreover, being intrinsically motivated is better for our mental health as it leads to more satisfaction and reward.

That said there is a time and a place for extrinsic motivation – for example, when a person simply has no internal desire to engage in an activity (e.g. maths as school). Rewards when rightly administered can motivate high performance and creativity (such as scholarships, good grades and jobs)₂.

What are your thoughts on motivation? Are you able to tell when you’re intrinsically or extrinsically motivated?

Love Emma x


  1. Healthline, 2019, Intrinsic Motivation Theory : How to Pick Up Healthy Motivation Techniques,
  2. VeryWellMind, 2020, Differences of Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation,

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *