What is Intrinsic Motivation? Rewards & Importance

What is intrinsic motivation

Written By | Jai Dhuria

Hello, this is Jai Dhuria, the owner/founder of Greatapesworld.com or Great Apes World. I am from India, and by profession, I am an engineer. I am very fond of reading Indian Scriptures. So It's just an effort to give them such a shape so that you can use it in your personal as well as business life.

July 14, 2020

I asked you in the last article who you are. So in this article, I want to know; how old are you? The reason to know this is that the interest of the people varies with their age. Is the same with you? That varies because our likes and dislikes change with age. An 8-year-old child loves to play. And a 20-year-old person likes to use Instagram or Facebook. Have you yet thought that why I am talking about interest? Because you cannot be intrinsically motivated if you are not interested in that thing. The activity in which you explore your knowledge, abilities, and some facts. Without needing any external reward is called intrinsic motivation.

Is it an Addiction?

Have you ever spent time with a gambler? The gamblers are so interested in their game that even after losing, they keep trying to play. Just like an alcohol-addicted, even after having drunk, they want to drink it again and again. So what is it that motivates them even in wrong deeds?

Message me your thoughts on Instagram.

In simple words. The activities that bring pleasure to our senses. Without needing any external rewards, called intrinsic motivation. For example, imagine a situation in which a girlfriend invites her boyfriend to her home. But the lover’s house is 5 km away from his girlfriend’s house. To reach there, he has to go in his car. But he does not like driving, But he loves his girlfriend a lot. So what do you think, the boy will meet his girlfriend?

What is Intrinsic motivation?

In this case. Driving by the boy will be called external motivation. That is coming from intrinsically motivating pleasure to meet his girlfriend.

Do You Know About That?

Let me ask two questions before we start;
If you reward something, do you get more of the behavior you want?
If you punish something, do you get less of the behavior you want?

So, let’s talk about the study done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They took a whole group of students from the institute. And they gave some challenges to their students. Like memorizing the strings of digits, solving word puzzles, and some physical tasks. 

To encourage the performance of all these students, they created three levels of rewards. These rewards were like this;

  1. Small monetary reward for pretty well performance
  2. Medium monetary reward for medium-well performance
  3. If you were one of the top performers, you will get big cash prizes.

That happens in almost every organization. Does this happen in your organization as well? 

So, What Happened?

As long as the task involved only mechanical skills, bonuses worked as they were assumed. The higher the pay, the better the performance. But, as the job used rudimentary cognitive abilities. A large reward led to poor performance. Now that is strange. How can it possible? Such were their responses.

Two of the economists who have done this analysis are economists at MIT. One of them at the University of Chicago, and one at Carnegie Mellon. They all are the top tier in the economist profession.
So what was it that caused all these people to be surprised to see this result? 

The reason for this amazement was their conclusion. They all had studied in economics that the higher the reward, the better the performance. But the result of this analysis says that. When it comes to rudimentary cognitive skills in a task. The bonus does not work. 

When the same analysis took place in India, similar results came. And there were similar outcomes in other countries as well. 

In simple words. As long as the tasks are simple and straight-forward. Such rewards greatly influence them. As it is done with most of us, If you do this, you will get that.

Sometimes it happens. Have you been successful in the same way?
But, when a task gets more complicated or requires some conceptual and creative thinking. Then these motivators demonstrably don’t work.

Then What Should be The Motivation?

When it comes to a complicated task. We need to think more creatively and conceptually. But can you be creative and conceptual at that task that you don’t love? Can you give your best performance where your interest is more in rewards rather than the activity?

You become more creative and knowledgeable when you explore your interests. It does not matter how great the reward is. You do it because you enjoy doing it. But, what that joy is there that is greater than external rewards.


Let me share an incident with you. In the mid-1990s, Microsoft started an encyclopedia called Encarta. They paid professionals to write and edit thousands of articles and also set all the right incentives for their staff. They deployed managers to oversee the whole thing. Their task was to get all the work done on time and in the budget. 

A few years later, another encyclopedia started with a different model. The name of this encyclopedia is Wikipedia. There was neither a manager nor a professional in this model. Only volunteers were there. Today, 147,384 volunteers write and edit the articles. The surprising thing is that they do it for free

So, why people do these kinds of things just for free, even they can get paid? Because they get these intrinsic rewards;

  • Satisfaction
  • Internal Peace
  • Positivity in Soul
  • Self-love
  • Happiness;


Many of us see success as wealth and fame. Like nowadays it has many other forms, like a big house, big car, and more fans. Sometimes humans are successful in getting all these things. As Jeff Keller did, the writer of “Attitude is everything.” So, let me share something about him.

Jeff Keller had a dream to become a great lawyer since childhood. He used to study day and night from his childhood to fulfill his dream. And then one day, he becomes a lawyer.

Everything was going well, so he also gets married. But was that so? No.

After some years, he realizes that this work is not like that what he thought. He gradually started living sick, aged, depressed, frustrated, and tense. The surprising thing is that he used to earn 100K USD in a year. That is a high amount of money. So why did he leave this business even after gaining so much money, fame, and status?

Because, If your profession keeps you motivated by external incentives. Then you will struggle for lifelong satisfaction. 

As long as you keep working to fulfill external desires, you will never get internal peace. What will you do then when you achieve these desires?
“Therefore, work not only for wealth and fame but also for internal satisfaction.”


Do you know that? According to the World-Happiness Report. India is one of the top unsatisfied countries in the world. They gave a rating from 0 to 10 to judge how satisfied the people are of a particular country.

India has a rating of 4.011, and that is quite low. How can it possible even after being one of the top developing countries in the world.

Because, Nowadays people get attached to anything very quickly, Whether it is a child or a youngster. If you give a toy to a child, it does not leave it until it breaks. In the same way, youngsters get attached to the things that give them instant gratification. 

That happens because most of us get motivated by results. And the results are unstable. But nowadays people getting obsessed with outcomes more than efforts. Positive results come when we try steadily. And the only way to be steady is not to be enamored with the result of your endeavor.

“When you get attached to something unstable, you will always struggle to find internal satisfaction.”



The activity that gives you inner pleasure and satisfaction, called intrinsic motivation. In most cases, these activities are related to your interests.

As soon as a task requires creative and conceptual thinking, extrinsic motivation causes the worst result. Stated by the top economists of MIT. 
In the last, these are some questions that you have to ask yourself.

Are external incentives your compulsion or necessary?
Do you think about the external reward before trying anything?
Do you feel satisfaction in the senses or the heart?
Have you ever succeeded in a task in which you were not internally satisfied? If yes, then how?
Can you do anything for the long-term without any intrinsic motivation?

On April 30, 2020, I did a poll on Instagram, here is the result of that.

As you can see, people voted 100%. Now the same question for you, Is money necessary to be happy?

Write Your Queries or Feedback on: [email protected]

Images Sources: Freepik, Unsplash, and Pixabay

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