How to Use Extrinsic Motivation to Reach Your Goals

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extrinsic motivation

What is the thing that drives us to achieve a goal or pushes us to do the things we do? Well, the personal gain would be the simple answer. However, the process is much more complicated than that. Several motivation theories function in our lives regularly. One of such popular theories is extrinsic motivation.

Most successful people use extrinsic motivation to motivate themselves effectively. What solidifies their overall chances of being successful is the skill of being able to start and finish tasks rigorously. However, does that mean that extrinsic motivation, which comes from outside of individuals, is better than intrinsic motivation, which arises from inside the individuals?

Well, this piece will discuss the benefits of both types of motivation and their range of respective impacts on behaviors. We will also look at how individuals choose to pursue goals. You can also check out our comprehensive discussion on some of the best books on procrastination.

Right now, let’s dig more into how to reach your goals using extrinsic motivation.

Human Motivation Explained

Human motivation is the process that maintains, guides or initiates goal-oriented behaviors. Motivation causes you to act, including gaining knowledge by reading a book or reducing thirst by getting a glass of water. Motivation entails cognitive, social, emotional, or biological forces that trigger behavior. Regarding common usage, the word “motivation” describes why an individual does something. Thus, motivation is the guiding power behind human activities.

Motivation involves the elements that maintain and direct these goal-focused activities, as it doesn’t only refer to the aspects that initiate behaviors. Therefore, our observable behaviors enable us to understand the motives behind people’s actions.

Motivation even depends on level-headed individual differences, including psychological needs and personality traits. But, ultimately, emotions take the same stand as motives.

1. Goal Motivation


The term “goals” will always come up when talking about motivation. A goal is a cognitive mental development and a spring-to-action feature that functions as a moving force, directing and energizing our behavior through purposive means.

Goals are similar to self-concept, expectations, beliefs, or mindset, and it is internal motives’ sources that come together to form cognition. These cognitive motivation sources entail thinking factors and unite several mental hypotheses that propel us into action.

Ironically enough, the ‘what is NOT’ is what generates goals. In other words, there is a discrepancy between our present situation and future events.

2. Drive motivation

The norepinephrine and epinephrine hormones the sympathetic nervous system produces also create energy for action. Therefore, we often conceptualize motivation as drives, referred to as internal states of being out of balance. With that, returning to equilibrium always activates the goal of pushing toward the desired end-state where the energy has been eliminated or reduced.

Internal motives are like needs that sustain, direct, or energize behavior. Needs cause strains required to maintain life like physiological needs and the well-being and growth promotion as in implicit and psychological needs.

The biological beginnings in sex, thirst, hunger as part of physiological needs can eventually manifest as a psychological drive in an individual’s subjective awareness. Thus, the biological events turn to psychological motives. Since only the psychological power has motivational properties, it is crucial to distinguish it from the physiological need.

What is Self Determination Theory?

Self-determination theory involves an individual’s ability to think independently, make positive choices, and manage themselves. It is also an inclusive theory of human personality and motivation. Thus, self-determination theory has to do with two huge factors: individuals’ intrinsic growth inclinations and the instinctive psychological demands of these same people.

The concept is essential in an individual’s overall psychological health and well-being, based on accomplishing independence through self-determination. Since people can be in the driving seat through self-determination, making them responsible and hypothetically liable for any consequences.

To this end, self-determination plays a significant role in motivation impact. People would be more than likely to discover sufficient motivation in anything they set their minds to achieve when they believe in managing themselves properly. Thus, the theory’s two crucial assumptions are:

  • The importance of autonomous motivation – the focus of self-determination is on the interplay between the intrinsic motive and human needs and the extrinsic forces acting on individuals. Generally, outside factors like fame, acclaim, and money, can motivate people. However, internal sources of motivation are the focus of self-determination theory, including proving yourself or gaining independence through learning.
  • The need for growth drives behavior – self-determination theory’s initial assumption is that human development needs to drive behavior. Essentially, individuals are actively seeking to improve and grow. Therefore, it is essential to gain mastery over challenges, whether old or new, for developing a cohesive sense of self.

What Is Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrinsic motivation is the individuals’ behavior to learn new skills and perform tasks due to the avoidance of punishment or external rewards. Essentially, you engage in conduct not because you find it satisfying or appealing or enjoy it, but because you intend to avoid something unpleasant or obtain a valuable reward in return.

Extrinsic motivation is when you do a task because you expect to get something out of it and not because you enjoy it. Therefore, restraint, obligation, or pressure characterize extrinsic motivation, not self-determination.

Extrinsic rewards have different types, and tangible rewards are the most obvious, including loyalty program discounts or paycheck earning. However, there are also many other intangible rewards like public recognition or praise.

Since you are motivated by an external factor to do something in hopes of avoiding a less-than-positive result or earning a reward, you are indeed extrinsically motivated. For example, it could be in the form of:

  • Cleaning your apartment to prepare for your friends coming over
  • Exercising to lose weight
  • Reading a book to prepare for a test

How Does Extrinsic Motivation Work?

Extrinsic motivation can work best for specific situations, particularly when no personal interest is attached to an individual’s task. For example, a car mechanic who doesn’t find working on trucks or cars interesting; however, he engages in it because of the paycheck. The extrinsic motivation of getting a reward from the job will push the auto mechanic to work every day even when this individual is not interested in the job.

1. When to Use and Engage Extrinsic Motivation

extrinsic motivation

Any situation can prompt extrinsic motivation quite easily since rewarding yourself or others is easy, including paycheck bonuses or treats, to complete the task. People can achieve goals using extrinsic motivation in various situations, including:

  • Encouraging people to increase production – employers use external motivators like bonuses or raise for their staff to work harder and increase production. However, extrinsic motivators have their limits because a more effective way is to increase the employees’ intrinsic motivations to improve work quality.
  • Completing uninteresting short-term tasks – a great way to encourage yourself for temporary jobs is an external reward for undesirable tasks, such as washing windows or sweeping.

2. Examples of Extrinsic Motivation

Research has shown that extrinsic rewards can harm your motivation. However, surveys have also demonstrated the essence of finding intrinsic motivation for long-term projects, tasks, and goals. Fundamentally, both extrinsic and intrinsic motivations can exist in parallel.

Imagine having a passion for the planet and care about the environment. Then, you are working on an environmental project. That is indeed intrinsic motivation. However, you will receive a reward when you complete the project from the project sponsor. That is extrinsic motivation. In this case, the two motivations work together. The situation may have an overjustification impact when the reward from the sponsor is significantly higher to reduce your central motivation.


  • Participating in a sports activity to win awards
  • Performing tasks to avoid judgment
  • Taking out your spouse for dinner since they hate staying at home
  • Reading books to prepare for tests
  • Looking for the incentive by participating in a survey
  • Looking for other professionals’ recognition by posting on LinkedIn
  • Purchasing stuff on sales because of the discounts
  • Trying to look good in public by completing tasks
  • Looking to impress with your skills by learning to play the piano
  • Trying to become the employee of the month by working extra hard
  • Exercising because of losing weight
  • Trying to keep up with your friends by buying branded clothes
  • You want to get a scholarship by competing in a contest
  • Resting at home because your doctor told you to relax
  • Going on a business trip since your boss tells you
  • Buying a new car since it looks perfect than the old one
  • Trying to make your parents proud by pursuing a degree you are not interested in
  • Paying your taxes to avoid a fine
  • Trying to post on Instagram by going to new places
  • Cleaning the apartment so that your roommate won’t get mad at you
  • Buying from the same shop since you benefit from customer loyalty programs
  • Volunteering since it looks good on your resume
  • Trying to get attention by doing a specific work
  • Hoping for praise from family or friends by helping others
  • Trying to get a good grade by studying
  • Going to work because you need to earn money

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

When you consider it in the first place, you will think that intrinsic motivation is better than extrinsic motivation since it would be perfect to accomplish tasks without needing anything or anyone motivating you. However, there’s nothing wrong with being extrinsically motivated since it is sometimes our nature.

You will probably be extrinsically motivated through a potential commission or raise when you need to complete a project, even if you do what you love. As a student, you need to learn a foreign language since you are extrinsically motivated by the grade you will get from studying, even when you like practicing and studying it.

Therefore, both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are good. The essential fact is to know why you are motivated to do some tasks or projects and promote both motivation types.

1. Using Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation plays a significant role in our daily activities in specific settings. When using extrinsic motivation as a team leader or manager, you need to have strategic rewards to offer. You must provide your team with the resources required to take on tasks and skills they are passionate about even though you can motivate them to hit a quarterly goal, take on a new challenge or learn a new skill.

While it is great to work for good rewards, you need to know your limits and take the necessary breaks. Ensure also to set aside time to explore your vigorous activities and skills to learn new things or for the sake of enjoyment.

2. Using Intrinsic Motivation

intrinsic motivation

You can apply intrinsic motivation in several ways. One of the best means of increasing motivation is receiving and providing positive feedback. You must be intentional with your feedback to support intrinsic motivation among your workers. Therefore, people will understand your expectations and standards through empowering and specific positive criticism.

Consider sharing when or how your leaders’ or managers’ feedback helps your motivation always. In addition, offer positive feedback when you benefit from their guidance. You will be extrinsically motivating your managers to continue managing you successfully when you provide positive feedback about what motivates you.

Essentially, both extrinsic and intrinsic motivations are crucial means of driving behavior. When you can figure out the two motivation types, you will know how to encourage people.

How Can You Use Extrinsic Motivation to Reach Your Goals?

It is critical to learn how to master extrinsic motivation. You have two-way options to figure out the issue if you find it hard to get the motivation to work for the goal that you want to achieve. These two ways are:

  • Develop extrinsic motivation
  • Develop intrinsic motivation

This piece section will be on extrinsic motivation, and you can achieve your goals, become more productive, and boost your external motivation through some of these ways.

1. Get the Required Accountability

You can raise your commitment level when you want to increase your extrinsic motivation. You can achieve your goals by finding friends or social support partner that will hold you accountable. Essentially, you will become more committed since your reputation is at stake when you have an accountability partner to monitor your progress.

You can imagine the changes in your commitments when your friends learn about your intention to buy your dream car next year. You will start feeling the pressure almost instantly since you are accountable for your actions and what you say. As such, you will need the boost to the next level by increasing the external motivation when you get the accountability you need. Lastly, your accountability partner will give you the positive stress to achieve your goals.

2. Celebrate Your Victories

celebrate extrinsic motivation

Ensure to celebrate your victories, no matter how small or big. It is critical to learn how to transform your extrinsic to intrinsic motivation by learning how to celebrate your wins, just as you reward your effort. You must celebrate all the time you complete a task – pat yourself on the back. Jump up and shout in excitement. You can even perform a fist pump and enjoy it!

Feel good about your progress and train your brain about it. You will get more wins to celebrate when you celebrate more of your successes. Remember that it is a cycle; you achieve more and get more momentum and enjoy more momentum when you achieve more.

3. Reward Your Effort

Your progress deserves a suitable reward. Therefore, choose the right one. You intend to reward yourself for your effort. As such, ensure to reward yourself whether you fail or succeed at hitting the target. You should learn to reward your efforts if you want to make execution your habit.

For example, you must reward yourself after every exercise session. Ensure also to reward your effort even though you can’t lose the fat.

4. Set Empowering and Exciting Goals

Goal setting is a powerful technique you need to put to good use. In addition, you can make a plan to achieve the result you want by setting goals. Goal setting can allow you to identify your target. Essentially, you can become more successful in life through your goals that work as an external reward. Setting goals enables you to seek results and gives you a clear idea of what is required to get the result. In addition, it also helps you identify actionable steps and milestones.


While extrinsic motivation has its good and bad, it can be a powerful tool to achieve your goals when applied correctly. Of course, nothing is wrong with extrinsic motivation, and you can use it as a powerful tool to help accomplish what you want in life when you understand how it works.

Remember that changing your life for the better and achieving your goals doesn’t happen overnight. You can expect small step progresses when you set out to accomplish a big goal. Always remember all the concrete activities you can take to prevent crashing or giving up too quickly when you feel a dip in self-motivation.

Ensure always to stay positive, practice self-care, get guidance from wise people in your circle, and turn to your friends. When you become successful using extrinsic or intrinsic motivation, don’t forget to celebrate your success. You need to know that you are worth it because it is not easy pursuing a big dream.

Also, check out our review on the best books on procrastination to take your goals to another level!

FAQs Regarding Extrinsic Motivation

FAQ extrinsic motivation
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

1. What is extrinsic and intrinsic motivation?

Answer: Extrinsic motivation comes from outside, while intrinsic motivation arises from within. You will engage in a task solely because you enjoy it and get satisfaction from it when you are intrinsically motivated. However, you do something to gain an external reward when you are extrinsically motivated.

2.  What are the types of extrinsic motivation?

Answer: There will be a difference in extrinsic motivation type when you have differences in contextual factors. As such, you can still motivate someone when they are not intrinsically motivated when you are aware of the extrinsic motivation type. Therefore, here are the types of extrinsic motivation.

Integrated Regulation

There will be integration when an individual has wholly taken in the motive behind the action, essentially when the person has discovered the cause to be compatible with their needs and values after they have examined it. With that, they have self-initiated the action. Ultimately, it is not something an external cause controls anymore, nor is it autonomous.

Regulation Through Identification

This type of extrinsic motivation is less controlling. It means that someone believes that the action is crucial and values a goal through identification. Essentially, such individuals are not compelled to do what they do.

Introjected Regulation

Introjection is when you do not fully accept a specific task after taking in the cause of doing it. It is like someone who takes time to practice the piano for a recital because the person needs to do it well, and people will look down on them if they don’t play well.

External Regulation

External regulation is when you perform a task to receive an externally imposed reward or satisfy an external demand.

3.  What are three extrinsic motivations?

Answer: The three types of extrinsic motivation include social and affiliation motivation, power motivation, and fear motivation.

4. What is intrinsic and extrinsic motivation examples?

Answer: Intrinsic motivation is performing a task without any obvious external rewards. You act since it is exciting and enjoyable to you. Some of the examples are:

  • Trying to be a perfect leader since you intend to inspire
  • Seeking knowledge since you are curious about the topics
  • Visiting the playground with your children because it makes you happy
  • Learning about personal development since you want to improve yourself
  • Working in a team because you like collaboration

Extrinsic motivation is the individuals’ behavior to learn new skills or perform tasks because of avoidance of punishment or external rewards. Examples of extrinsic motivation are:

  • Going on a business trip since your boss ordered you to do so
  • Pursuing a specific degree since you want to make your parents proud
  • Paying taxes to avoid a fine
  • Trying not to get your partner mad by cleaning your place
Mandy Schmitz
Mandy Schmitz
Mandy Schmitz is a freelance consultant and project management expert with 10+ years of experience working internationally for big brands in fintech, consumer goods and more. Join me here on to learn how to optimize your business operations and find the latest product & software reviews.


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Mandy Schmitz is a freelance consultant and project management expert with 10+ years of experience working internationally for big brands in fintech, consumer goods and more. Join me here on to learn how to optimize your business operations and find the latest product & software reviews.

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