7 Keys to Building Intrinsic Motivation

For those who’ve served in the United States military, the expression ‘own it’ is a cultural touchstone that encapsulates a valuable mindset. But the idea behind the phrase isn’t exclusive to the armed forces; it’s a universal principle that can benefit anyone striving for success. It means assessing the situation and accepting responsibility for your actions without shifting blame.

The question then becomes: What does it take to own it? The answer lies in self-accountability, self-discipline, and self-motivation—or what experts call intrinsic motivation. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a student, or a professional seeking advancement, owning it is essential.

Each person strives to achieve their definition of success, but it’s often challenging to navigate. The foundation of this journey lies in two essential components: accountability and self-discipline. These factors are paramount to taking responsibility for your actions, making the right choices, and staying focused on your goals.

At its core, accountability is recognizing that you’re in control of your life. It means owning your decisions and actions, whether they succeed or fail. This practice also fosters strong self-awareness, allowing you to identify, analyze, and learn from your mistakes. This approach minimizes the likelihood of repeating past errors, and this level of honesty helps build trust with others.

Self-discipline is a prerequisite to owning it. It involves regulating your behavior based on intrinsic motivations rather than external influences. Sticking with your goals and always doing the right thing, even when nobody’s around, are hallmarks of self-discipline. This practice lets you maintain focus even when distractions and challenges arise.

While owning it is an approach that can be challenging to adopt, the rewards are undeniable. You can take control of your life, make better decisions, and ultimately achieve success.

Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation

Motivation is the propelling force that drives us toward our goals and fuels our aspirations. Psychologists have identified two primary types: extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivation relies on external rewards or punishments to encourage a desired action, behavior, or outcome. For instance, a child is motivated to perform well in school with the promise of a good grade or avoid a chore at home to evade punishment. However, the downside is that it causes individuals to focus on the outcome rather than the process.

In contrast, intrinsic motivation relies on internal factors such as enjoyment, interest, and personal growth to elicit an action. An example of intrinsic motivation is a child performing well in a particular class because of their genuine interest in the subject. Intrinsically motivated individuals engage in activities because they find them profoundly satisfying or meaningful. This type of motivation is associated with higher creativity, engagement, and persistence.

The differences between the two are significant. Extrinsic motivation fades once the leverage is removed and is inconsistent, unpredictable, and unreliable. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is self-sustaining, long-lasting, and more fulfilling since it aligns with our values, interests, and purpose. Some people possess natural intrinsic motivation, while others develop it over time. Here are seven tips for cultivating and nurturing intrinsic motivation:

  1. Identify your passion: What excites and energizes you? While it may be a hobby, a skill, or a career path, pursuing it will motivate you and leave you deeply satisfied.
  2. Set meaningful goals: Establish challenging yet achievable goals that align with your passion, values, and purpose. Make sure these goals are personally meaningful and you clearly understand why you want to achieve them.
  3. Focus on the process: Rather than fixating on the outcome, focus on learning and growing. Enjoy the journey and embrace the idea that obstacles and failure are opportunities to improve your abilities and skills.
  4. Practice autonomy: When you control your choices, decisions, and actions, you’re more likely to be motivated and engaged. Seek opportunities to exercise control over your environment, such as choosing projects, setting deadlines, or designing routines.
  5. Celebrate progress: While small wins may feel insignificant, together they result in massive victories. Celebrating your progress and milestones can keep you motivated and engaged. Although Rome wasn’t built in a day, it became the center of one of the world’s greatest civilizations and helped sustain the Roman Empire for more than 1,000 years.
  6. Build positive relationships: Surround yourself with people who support, encourage, and inspire you. Positive relationships can enhance motivation, confidence, and self-esteem, providing valuable feedback and guidance.
  7. Cultivate curiosity: Curiosity is a powerful intrinsic motivator. You’re more likely to explore, experiment, and learn when curious about something. Ask questions, seek new experiences, and be open to different perspectives.

At its core, owning it is about seizing the reins of your life and assuming responsibility for your destiny. By embracing the challenges, opportunities, and uncertainties that come your way, you can shape your future and attain success in all areas of your life. Americans have long valued the principles of self-reliance, hard work, and personal responsibility. Developing a sense of intrinsic motivation allows you to carry that torch forward, fueling the eternal flame of our nation’s proud tradition. It’s up to you to unlock your full potential, achieve your goals, and pave the way for a brighter future.

So, the question is, are you ready to own it?

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