52 Helpful Examples of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

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Verified by Mindmonia

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A key ability of super successful people is the fact that they know how to motivate themselves effectively. It wasn’t the idea, luck or intelligence that has made them successful, but the ability to start things and finish them rigorously. If extrinsic motivation, such as money and prestige, doesn’t matter to you because you reward yourself with intrinsic motivation instead, you manage to stay motivated permanently.

The founder and former CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, once said in an interview:

“You’ve to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing… because it’s [founding a company] so hard that if you don’t, any rational person would give up… if you don’t really have fun doing it… you’re gonna give up and that’s what happens to most people.”

In other words: you must have plenty of intrinsic motivation to become successful and to endure difficult times.

If you do something out of intrinsic motivation, then you are doing it because of your inner will. A good example of intrinsic motivation are hobbies since you like pursuing them and do it from within yourself.

When you do something out of extrinsic motivation, you do it because you want a reward or want to avoid punishment. For example, if you solely go to work to earn money.

This does not mean that extrinsic motivation is always bad.

In this article, you will learn about the two types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic. We will also cover the differences of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation and give you an extensive list of 52 examples. Finally, we will show you four proven steps to permanently increase your intrinsic motivation to improve your life in the long run.

Jump ahead to any of the sections below:

What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

Hippster happy at work

A definition of intrinsic motivation is:

“Intrinsic motivation refers to the desire to seek, of one’s own will, tasks and challenges, to expand and train one’s abilities, to explore and learn, without the needs of external reward.”

Simply put, if you are intrinsically motivated, you do things by and for yourself without expecting a reward. It’s more about personal growth, sense of duty, and the recognition of purpose, while extrinsic motivation is more about financial incentives, status, and public recognition.

A 2017 conducted study on motivation proved that inner motivation has some real advantages. For example, it improves learning and performance, increases creativity and increases general well-being.

Finding the right motives help you in your daily routine, such as learning, working and in your relationship, as well as in setting long-term goals. Once you have found an intrinsic desire in tasks and goals, it becomes easier to work on them. Especially in the long run.

A classic example is getting up in the morning. If you only go to work for financial reasons, you will certainly use the snooze function a couple times. However, if you have a real interest in what you are doing and believe in it, it’s much easier to get out of the bed in the morning.

The Japanese call this Ikigai: the feeling of doing something worth getting up for in the morning.

The examples in the following section will give you further clarity.

Examples of Intrinsic Motivation

  1. Doing sports because you enjoy feeling alive
  2. Staying longer at work because you believe in your work
  3. Using positive affirmations because you want to change your mind positively
  4. Investing money because you want to become financially independent
  5. Traveling because you want to explore different cultures
  6. Working in a team because you like the synergy effects
  7. Learning about personal development because you want to become the best version of yourself
  8. Meditating because you want to release stress
  9. Going to the playground with your children because it makes you happy
  10. Drinking smoothies because you want to live healthy
  11. Learning a new language because you want to connect to people from other nations
  12. Studying for school because you are curious about the topics
  13. Crafting a vision board because you want to internalize your life goals
  14. Trying to be a good leader because you want to inspire
  15. Cooking because you like trying new recipes
  16. Helping other people without rewards because it makes you appreciate your life more
  17. Arguing because you find it intellectually stimulating
  18. Showing love to your partner because you like to see him or her happy
  19. Reading a book because you enjoy the storytelling
  20. Cleaning your home because it makes you feel clean
  21. Writing because you enjoy the process of creating things
  22. Doing laundry because you like wearing fresh clothes
  23. Working in a low paying field because it’s your passion
  24. Playing a strategy game because you like effortful thinking
  25. Working out because you like being active and fit
  26. Practicing mindfulness because it helps you making better decisions → click here for our Mindfulness Newsletter

What Is Extrinsic Motivation?

Two business people talking seriously

A definition of extrinsic motivation is:

“Extrinsic motivation refers to the behavior of individuals to perform tasks and learn new skills because of external rewards or avoidance of punishment.”

Extrinsic rewards motivate you for a task in which you were not previously interested in.

In reality, it is almost impossible to avoid extrinsic motivation or not being motivated by extrinsic rewards. For example, getting a degree is part of college and earning money is part of work. Both factors are extrinsic. However, you should at least try to be intrinsically motivated to some extent.

Unlike intrinsic motivation, external rewards are good if you have no interest in something at all, but the specific task has to be done, or you need to learn a new skill but fail at the initial stage.

One of the most common dangers of extrinsic rewards is called the overjustification effect. If you are intrinsically motivated for a task and also get motivated by external rewards at the same time, there is the danger that you will lose your intrinsic motivation for this task.

There is a study in which one group of infants received a material reward during a treatment phase and the other group did not. The group that received a material reward was less helpful in treatments at a later testing stage. The group without a material reward was just as helpful later.

Thus, extrinsic rewards negatively affect your motivation. It also shows the importance of finding intrinsic motivation for long-term goals, tasks, and projects.

This does not mean that both types of motivation cannot exist in parallel.

Imagine working on an environmental project because you care about the environment and our planet (intrinsic motivation). If you successfully accomplish the project, you and your team will receive a reward from the sponsor of the project (extrinsic motivation). In this example, both approaches work in parallel. The overjustification effect would only apply to this example if the sponsor’s reward is so high that it eliminates your inner motivation.

Examples of Extrinsic Motivation

  1. Going to work because you must earn money
  2. Studying because you want to get a good grade
  3. Helping others because you hope for praise from friends or family
  4. Doing a certain work because you are looking for attention
  5. Volunteering because it looks good on your resume
  6. Going to the same shop because you benefit from customer loyalty programs
  7. Cleaning your apartment because you do not want your partner to get mad on you
  8. Going to new places because you want to post it on Instagram
  9. Paying taxes because you want to avoid a fine
  10. Pursuing a degree you are not interested in because you want to make your parents proud
  11. Buying a new car just because it looks nicer than the old one
  12. Going on a business trip because your boss tells you
  13. Staying at home because your doctor told you to relax
  14. Competing in a contest because you want to get a scholarship
  15. Buying branded clothes because you want to keep up with your friends
  16. Exercising because you want to lose weight
  17. Working extra hard because you want to become the employee of the month
  18. Learning to play the piano because you want to impress with your skills
  19. Completing tasks because you want to look good in public
  20. Buying stuff on sales because they are discounted
  21. Posting on LinkedIn because you want to get recognized by other professionals
  22. Participating in a survey because you want the incentive
  23. Reading a book because you have to prepare for a test
  24. Taking out your partner for dinner because he or she does not want to stay at home
  25. Doing tasks because you want to avoid judgment
  26. Participating in a sport because you want to win awards

4 Proven Steps to Increase Intrinsic Motivation

Woman happy at the beach

There are different ways to increase your intrinsic motivation. We would like to introduce you to a scientifically based process: the self-determination theory.

The self-determination theory (SDT) is a motivation theory for intrinsic motivation, which consists of three steps:

  • Autonomy
  • Competence
  • Relatedness

A similar theory can be found in the well-known book called “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us“. We at Mindmonia have read this book and we can highly recommend it to you if you want to dig deeper into the topic. In his book, the author names the three key points:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery (equivalent to competence)
  • Purpose

If these two theories are combined, a four-step approach to the development of intrinsic motivation emerges:

  • Autonomy
  • Competence / Mastery
  • Relatedness
  • Purpose

Step 1: Autonomy

Autonomy or self-determination means that you make (all) decisions without being influenced by others. Choose the job, the tasks, the destinations and the partner that inspires you.

Align your life according to your wishes.

A pretty important step for more inner motivation. The statement of Steve Job’s video, that we posted in the introduction of this article, complements it well: “if you don’t really have fun doing it… you’re gonna give up and that’s what happens to most people.

Step 2: Competence / Mastery

Once you know what you want to do and how to do it, you build up your competence to perfection.

The feeling of improvement is very motivating in all areas of life.

If you have ever hit the gym consistently for a few weeks, you know what is meant by that. Especially in the beginning, you will be able to lift more weights and do more repetitions every single time. If you only manage one more repetition and recognize your actual progress, you will come back to the gym again.

Professional bodybuilders get motivated by the feeling of perfection even after decades of hitting the gym.

Therefore: measure your progress and make yourself aware of your successes in order to stay motivated in the long run.

Step 3: Relatedness

People are social beings and feel the urge to belong to a group.

A healthy relationship with family, good friends, nice colleagues and ideally a functioning and loving partnership give you the feeling of belonging and security.

If you have a certain goal in mind that you cannot share with any of your friends, join an online community. There you can motivate yourself by interacting with like-minded people to continue working on the things you enjoy.

That being said: look for a way to be socially involved.

Step 4: Purpose

The last step is fulfilling your purpose. When you have a vision or life goal in mind, the tasks will be much easier to conquer.

Try to see the meaning in all things. You will immediately notice that the small and inescapable, tedious tasks will seem different.

Take the four steps – autonomy, competence/mastery, relatedness, and purpose – seriously and you will experience for yourself how this process will have a lasting influence on your motivation.


Motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic. The main difference between the two types of motivation is whether you are interested in the task from your inner self, without external reward or not.

  • Intrinsic motivation means you do things from within and without external rewards.
  • Extrinsically motivated means you do things to earn a reward or avoid punishment.

Both types of motivations can exist in parallel.

In any situation, you should first try to motivate yourself intrinsically and only use extrinsic motivation if you really can’t motivate yourself in any other way.

Finally, we have introduced you to an intrinsic motivation theory with which you can achieve a permanent change of your life in four easy steps: autonomy, competence/master, relatedness and purpose.

Learn more about how to achieve your goals through motivation and mindfulness and subscribe to our newsletter right under this article. We are looking forward to welcoming you to our community. Thank you for reading.

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