In a world where success is often measured in terms of tangible rewards and external recognition, there’s a secret ingredient that drives people to reach their full potential: intrinsic motivation.

This powerful internal engine is the fuel that ignites passion, persistence and the desire for personal and professional growth, driving individuals and organisations to thrive in the pursuit of a common goal.

What will I read about in this article?

What is intrinsic motivation?

At some point, we’re all assigned work that we find tedious, irrelevant, uncomfortable or too difficult. If we don’t figure out how to turn these activities into interesting and challenging issues, we’ll put minimal effort into completing those tasks, which will in turn sabotage our success and growth at work.

There seems to be a scientific explanation for this. Our brain rewards us when we spend mental energy on expanding, learning new things or acquiring new knowledge. But it rewards us even more if we conserve it, which is why we find it hard to engage in activities that do not immediately arouse our curiosity.

One skill that can help us achieve that is intrinsic motivation. This is the internal drive that leads a person to do an activity or task for the satisfaction it brings, rather than to seek external rewards or avoid punishment. In other words, it’s when someone is motivated to do something simply because they find it interesting, challenging or rewarding in itself.

Intrinsic motivation is closely related to passion, curiosity and the desire to learn, and is often a key factor in success and persistence in long-term tasks and projects.

un hombre trazando el camino de sus metas con un lapiz gigate para despertar su motivación intríncesa

“Intrinsic motivation is the internal drive that leads a person to perform an activity or task because of the satisfaction it generates”.


How can I awaken intrinsic motivation?

Tasks assigned to us at work are often a small part of the solution to a larger problem or a step on the way to the ultimate goal. Harvard Business Review points out that keeping in mind that this activity is indispensable to a larger goal can help us to awaken our intrinsic motivation. By working towards meaningful goals, people will feel more engaged and motivated to do their best.

Imagine being asked to alphabetise a spreadsheet with hundreds of data. Hours and hours of repetitive, mechanical work. Boring, isn’t it? But, thanks to all that time, the information will be much more accessible to the people in your company. A useful job that adds efficiency and comfort to the rest of your colleagues. Let’s say that our tedious task serves a greater good. Experts say that when we assign a purpose to our tasks, they become relevant and interesting.

Another way to make a task more interesting is to change its focus. Because we’re energy-saving creatures, we often stop challenging ourselves and start performing tasks in the same way repeatedly out of habit. This leads to boredom because, over time, tasks become less challenging.


“When we give purpose to our tasks, they become relevant and interesting.


Turning frustrations into solutions

It is normal to feel frustrated from time to time at work. But letting negative feelings overwhelm us is the kryptonite of intrinsic motivation and will ultimately prevent us from achieving our goals.

Our emotional resources have a survival purpose, but also a developmental and growth function. Of course, you have every right to feel frustrated with the way things are. Who likes to spend time solving problems and dealing with tasks that don’t interest them? But is it the right approach, or do they become even more unbearable as our negative feelings increase?

According to some studies, negative thoughts and feelings, when left unchecked, slow down the brain, increase stress levels and make it difficult to solve problems. This is why it’s essential to learn skills related to emotional regulation. Emotional regulation is the ability to manage emotions to our advantage.

una persona agobiada con el trabajo en la oficina descansa con la cara cubierta de posit con mensajes para despertar su motivacion intrinseca

It ranges from rethinking a challenging situation to reduce anger or anxiety or hiding visible signs of sadness or fear, to focusing on reasons to feel happy or calm. It does not mean suppressing or avoiding emotions. Rather, it means trying to develop the emotional regulation skills to influence the emotions you feel and how you express them.

External rewards can only help us to a certain extent. We cannot always live on the appraisals of others, and we certainly cannot make our emotions dependent on this. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, evolves with us as we grow and helps us develop our own incentives to do good work.