We often talk about how people are motivated in very different ways. Actually, that isn’t exactly true. If we want to more precise, we would say that people are motivated the same way, differently. Here is what we mean.

There are two major types of motivation; intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic motivators are things that come from the outside from carrots (praise, pay, prizes, recognition) or sticks (threats, negative feedback, fines, punishments). These extrinsic motivators can get us to do something, but they aren’t very sticky. They are like drinking a big cup of coffee in the morning for the caffeine boost. It works for a short time, but when the boost wears off, the person not only isn’t motivated anymore, but there is even a backlash.

Intrinsic motivation comes from something that is inside every human. We are all hardwired with something called self-determination. It is a fundamental drive within all of us to assert ourselves on the world to impact both ourselves and the world around us. Self-determination has 3 components: Strengths, Autonomy, and Purpose. Every human is well motivated when all 3 components are present. Think about it. Aren’t you probably pretty motivated when you are doing something you are naturally good at, with some level of control over how it goes, and towards a common purpose that you believe in? This is a universal trait.

Intrinsic motivation is like a super fuel. It keeps us going for long periods of time and doesn’t wear off as long as all 3 components are present. If you have ever lost your motivation at work, think about these 3 components and I’ll bet one or more fell off somewhere along the line.

What makes it complicated is that we all have a unique set of strengths, experiences, and knowledge to apply. We also have different visions of a good purpose where we can spend our time and energy. This makes us all motivated the same way, but differently.