Why We Win When You Love What You Do (And you Should, Too!)

Person on Mountain

What drives our motivation?  There was a study that measured two kinds of motives for engaging in any activity:  internal and extrinsic motivation

Internal or Intrinsic Motivation: engaging in behavior because it is personally rewarding.  In essence, engaging in an activity for one’s own benefit and not a reward.

  • Participating in a sport because you are passionate about the sport
  • Committing to a job because you love what you do

Instrumental or Extrinsic Motivation:  Motivated to perform a behavior in order to win a reward or avoid punishment.

  • Studying for a test because you want good grades
  • Working extra hours to get that promotion
  • Participating in a sport because you want to win the trophy

In order to study motivators, researchers from Swarthmore and Yale analyzed data from more than 11,000 cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Their Goal?

To find out which are better predictors of achievement, external motives (instrumental motives ) or intrinsic motives (internal motives)  For example, an instrumental motive would be making more money later in life thanks to a West Point pedigree, while an internal motive might be something like a strong sense of duty to one’s country.

The results?

Not surprisingly, cadets who had strong internal motives were more likely to graduate and become commissioned officers.

Last week, my youngest son graduated from kindergarten. Yes, they had a graduation ceremony for kindergarten.  Cute?

Anyways, after the ceremony, parents went back to their child’s classroom for a celebration.

My son’s teacher showed us a video that showed key moments of the entire year.  At the end of the video, she could not continue because she was emotionally choked up.  She had tears in her eyes and had to take a moment before continuing.  Despite probably having made dozens of these videos throughout the year, she still got emotional while presenting.

What went through my mind?  “My son was lucky to have a teacher who was passionate about the profession”.

It was clear to me she taught because she loved what she did.  It showed in the quality and care she took in her lessons as well.  She was the teacher that had the highest positive feedback from parents.  Teaching was clearly an internal motive.


[bctt tweet=”To be successful, the first thing to do is fall in love with your work.
 – Sister Mary Lauretta –”]


What does this mean?

If you are looking to hire an employee, rather than focusing on offering the candidate a financial bonus for hitting certain performance goals, spend your time finding someone who loves the job.  Then reward that person for doing the job well.


Please share an example of an Internal Motivator for you?