Key Intrinsic Motivation Examples That Impact Behavior

Intrinsic motivation is one factor that impacts your daily behavior. This type of motivation involves how you feel or how your actions impact your self-image. Read some examples of intrinsic motivation to better understand what might drive you.

Intrinsic Motivation Person Making BedIntrinsic Motivation Person Making Bed

Definition of Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic means anything “natural or inherent; not dependent on external circumstances.” Something that is intrinsic comes from within you. Motivation means, “the reasons why you do something,” or “the level of desire you have to do something.” 

When you put these together, intrinsic motivation can be defined as, “The incentive to undertake an activity based on the expected enjoyment of the activity itself.” Basically, when you are intrinsically motivated, you do something just because you like doing it or it will make you feel good. 

Examples of Intrinsic Motivation in the Classroom

Students who are intrinsically motivated are not performing an activity to get a certain grade, reward from the teacher or parent, or approval from others. Intrinsic motivation in the classroom involves doing things because you’re genuinely interested in them or they help you achieve a personal goal. 

  • You choose to learn French because you want to tap into your heritage.

  • You read a book because you think it sounds interesting.

  • You make a drawing for your teacher because it makes you feel good to give things to others, and you like drawing. 

  • You participate in gym class with full effort because it gives you energy.

  • You complete your homework assignment because it is a goal you set for yourself and achieving your goals makes you feel accomplished. 

  • You share your crayons with another student because it makes you feel good. 

  • You make a list of your academic goals because you want to push yourself to your full potential.

  • You ask a question because you want to know more about the topic.

  • You volunteer to feed the class pet because you love animals.

  • You make flashcards for your vocabulary words because you want to beat your best test score. 

Examples of Intrinsic Motivation in the Workplace

While you do get paid at your job, and that’s an extrinsic motivator, there are many things you do at work because they make you feel good, successful, or like you belong with your coworkers. 

  • You ask to work on a team because working with others opens your creativity.

  • You bring a salad to work for lunch because it is good for your body.

  • You take a leadership class because you want to be a good leader.

  • You keep your desk area tidy because it makes you feel calmer.

  • You take a job that doesn’t pay a lot because you’re passionate about the work.

  • You take a walk with a coworker after lunch because it gives you energy and makes you feel connected.

  • You stay late to finish a project because it makes you feel accomplished.

  • You volunteer for a difficult task because you enjoy challenging yourself. 

  • You take an unpaid internship because you want to learn a new job skill.

  • You attend the company Christmas party because it gives you a sense of belonging. 

  • You create a spreadsheet schedule for the week because being organized makes you more productive, which makes you feel successful.

  • You look forward to your annual performance review because it is a chance to learn how you can improve yourself.

  • You start the coffee pot because you like helping others. 

  • You shower and dress in business attire before starting your remote job because it gives you energy and makes you feel professional. 

  • You use a standing desk because it is good for your health. 

Examples of Intrinsic Motivation in Everyday Life

Much of what you do on a daily basis is thanks in part to intrinsic motivation. 

  • You write in a daily journal because it helps you release stress.

  • You change your flat tire on your own because it makes you feel empowered and independent.

  • You weed your garden because you like seeing your plants grow.

  • You play a video game with your son because it helps you connect with him.

  • You serve your family dinner because it makes you feel good to take care of them.

  • You take your dog for a long walk every day because the exercise is good for you.

  • You call your mom every day because it helps you feel a sense of belonging with your immediate family.

  • You listen to a podcast your friend recommended because it sounds interesting to you.

  • You make your bed every day because it makes you feel accomplished. 

  • You shovel snow from your neighbor’s driveway because you enjoy making others’ lives easier. 

Intrinsic Motivation vs. Extrinsic Motivation

While intrinsic motivation comes from within you, extrinsic motivation involves rewards that come from the outside. These examples illustrate how intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation would look in similar circumstances. 

  • Internal: You learn French because you want to tap into your heritage.

    External: You learn French because your mom says she’ll give you $20 if you learn it.

  • Internal: You stay late to finish a work project because it makes you feel accomplished.

    External: You stay late to finish a work project because your boss threatened to fire you if it’s not finished by the morning.

  • Internal: You listen to a podcast your friend recommended because it sounds interesting.

    External: You listen to a podcast your friend recommended because she’ll get mad at you if you don’t. 

Motivate Yourself

Intrinsic motivation is one part of motivation that you have a lot of control over. Having strong positive internal motivation is a personality trait that can keep you happy. Look at your daily behaviors and make a list of all the things you do that are intrinsically motivated. 

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