Saturday, 14 May 2016

Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation

Do you wonder where your "get up and go" got up and went? Well there are two kinds of motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic Motivation

This is where any action is based on an external reward or punishment. From cleaning your room to doing a sport to win an award, this external view point is based around pain and pleasure; punishment is based on pain and shame, and pleasure is based on praise or a reward.
The world of laws and religion is very good at this kind of motivation. Schools and even other education providers can use this heavily.

Intrinsic Motivation

This is personally motivated act. It often comes from a place of curiosity, joy or fascination. It is a deeper level of pleasure than a prize or gift. It is the satisfaction of the act it's self. From love of playing a game, or solving a puzzle or the enjoyment of finding out something new.

While both kinds of motivation have a place, intrinsic motivation is often sidelined, repressed or damaged by extrinsic motivation. This is a problem as it is the current model of motivation in most cultures.

When we look at how most people numb difficult or painful feeling (like pain and shame) it would explain why that might remove or damage the intrinsic motivation. Yet it would be surprising that praise and bribery has the same effect.


When we understand motivation it explains the de-schooling process. It is one of shedding the extrinsic and discovering our intrinsic motivation. It is dealing the feelings attached to that motivation (shame, guilt, blame) as well the trauma of being in school. The captivity of our children can be really damaging.

Authentic Self

This maybe why some people seem to have no motivation. (Although some near the autistic end of the spectrum struggle with this). It is that your innate authentic curiosity and joy in the world has been threatened, shamed and punished out of you.
Reclaiming the authentic self and cultivating personal joy and pleasure is a rebellious act but a necessary one.
How can we cultivate the authentic self if we have no idea what makes us happy? What our passions are? 

When is come to how I live my life it is the authentic self, this passion for life, the intrinsic I seek to reclaim in myself and others and to preserve in my daughter. She commented recently that she "doesn't need to reclaim her wild, because I never allow the world to crush it in the first place".

More callings and less jobs. More dancing however "bad". More art and music. We have a responsibility to ourselves be cultivate happiness. In so doing we silently give permission for others to do the same. This idea that we need extrinsic boundaries and rules to be good people is based on the idea that if we could do anything we would do terrible things. I would argue that people who are going to do terrible things will do so, regardless of the rules. That the bureaucracy of being a human in this modern age has to change.

This has an impact from school and work places, from community groups and spiritual collectives. Especially when we internalise these extrinsic models of punishment and praise. It robs of something beautiful (and I would argue sacred) out the self.
It is the "should". I know I "should" do X because I would be punished or not praised if I don't. It is the parents "should's" consciously or unconsciously handed down. Yes sometimes it is a useful crutch in doing things that are needed but used too often it robs us of all motivation even the extrinsic one.

Home education is far too important to be taken seriously!

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