How to Intrinsically Motivate Yourself

Posted on August 12, 2022 in Inspiration

Some work, like doing laundry or mowing the lawn, is relatively quick and comes with an evident, immediate reward (e.g. clean clothes to wear or a great-looking plot of grass). 

Other forms of work can be an exhausting battle, with little to show at the end of the day. Dopamine rewards from long-term grinds are often few and far between, with the evidence and pay-off of your blood, sweat, and tears left waiting much further down the road. It’s times like these when the ability to intrinsically motivate oneself becomes paramount to creativity and success.  

What is Intrinsic Motivation?

There are two different forms of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is the kind that comes from external rewards or motivators – things like money, recognition, or the need to meet a deadline. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from within your own mind. Intrinsic motivation pushes a person to engage in activities they find both interesting and challenging, driven by their own internal desires to learn, grow, and explore. 

In order to reach your highest potential, the motivation to push forward must come from within. Let’s find it.  

See Also: Five Easy Ways to Increase Your Productivity


4 Ways to Create Intrinsic Motivation

        1. Manage Mood and Attitude

“You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” is probably an expression you’ve heard before. Turns out, a mind full of vinegar isn’t good for much of anything. Mood is a huge factor for motivation, and forcing yourself to complete a task is an ordeal when you’re mentally encumbered with anger, depression, or anxiety. When the brain has these things to worry about, it’s not focused on how best to solve the task at hand – or it forces us to procrastinate as an attempt to self-sooth. Effective motivation starts with good mental health. Practice self care to stay on top of your emotions. Taking some time for yourself, spending time with loved ones and friends, meditating, or contacting a mental health professional are all great ways to cultivate a more positive life, and to in-turn cultivate more intrinsic motivation.   

        2. Follow Your Passions

No matter your mood, your lack of motivation might be due to your work being devoid of personal meaning. In order for an activity or task to be intrinsically motivating, the work has to be engaging and fulfilling. No matter how good you are at math, for example, you still won’t be a great accountant if the job simply “isn’t for you.” Find something powerful and meaningful to you, and pursue it, like Paul Kirby did when he realized he wanted to inspire others to pursue their dreams. 

Need a hand finding the way to pursue your passions? We can help. 

        3. Avoid Extrinsic Rewards

External motivating rewards and penalties can be extremely effective at producing motivation for tasks. Being rewarded for completing something feels great, and the fear of guilt or judgment for not doing something feels awful. It should come as no surprise that extrinsic motivation produces potent and noticeable results, however, these “carrot and stick” methods of motivation often serve as a crutch or a trap – when nothing is around to hold the carrot on the stick, your motivation disappears. 

For success no matter the scenario, you have to hold your own carrot and stick. Any life will always have its fair share of extrinsic motivators (you’ll probably always need to earn money for rent or a mortgage, for example), but it’s important to be aware of these extrinsic motivators, and limit them where possible. Meeting a deadline is an example of an often-strong extrinsic motivator, but if the deadline is your only motivation to complete a project, you risk procrastinating until the deadline begins rearing its head. Excitement for the project – an intrinsic motivator – would create a greater impetus to actually work on and complete the project to the best of your abilities. One of the best ways to strengthen your intrinsic motivational capacity is to identify and reduce the number of external motivators you rely on or use as crutches.    

        4. Measure Progress

How do you get better at something if you don’t know how you’re already doing? Take a page from a scientist or a weightlifter: make a record of your progress. A small notebook, a phone notes app, a spreadsheet – you can use whatever is the most convenient. This record of your progress and achievements will give you a better idea of your momentum, growth, and any limiting weaknesses to be aware of. Having this information written down will make your progress more tangible and easier to visualize. There’s another massive boon that comes from keeping a record: seeing a streak of continued progress and growth becomes its own method of intrinsically motivating. Once you’re on a roll of success, you won’t want to break your streak.  

Find Your Potential Within 

The ability to intrinsically motivate is one of the greatest capabilities we possess. When you free yourself from purely external sources of motivation and learn to fuel your own passions, you’ll be absolutely amazed at what you’re able to accomplish. Need a second opinion? Consider this piece of wisdom from ancient samurai warrior and philosopher Miyamoto Musashi:

“There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside yourself.”

Want to see for yourself how Paul Kirby motivated himself to achieve the extraordinary? Watch the award-nominated short film.


For more inspiration and tips on how to break through barriers, follow the Kirby Foundation on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And don’t forget to join the mailing list to stay current with every development! 

Are you interested in hearing the complete story of Paul and Dulcinea? Watch the video (nominated for Best Short Film at the 2021 Vail and Portland Film Festivals) for more info.

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