The Secret to Motivation

Aug 08, 2017 09:29:00AM

When external and internal rewards aren’t enough to keep you going, this motivating factor will!

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle isn’t the easiest task, especially when those around you don’t live a healthy life. It’s tempting to break healthy habits and to stay motivated when you smell fresh baked bread or the waft of french fries when you’re driving by a fast food place. If you’re looking for motivation or inspiration to move on, you should first ask yourself why you’re living the lifestyle you do.

Traditionally, motivation falls into two categories: extrinsic and intrinsic. Whether the rewards are great or small, both these categories won’t keep you motivated for very long. But there is a third category that researchers have found to be very effective.


Your daily tasks such as work, school, exercise, or chores are most likely extrinsic motivations. Whether you actually like the task or not isn’t the motivating factor: it’s the rewards that come from performing the task itself.

Shawna Clark, owner of Clark Executive Coaching, a leadership development company. Clark describes extrinsic motivation as, “...doing something for the external rewards you get from it. In your career, this can include financial gain, benefits, perks and even avoiding getting fired.”

Your boss might be an awful person, but if the job pays well and you have excellent benefits, that’s the reason you keep on working. If you hate kale salads, but you want to lose weight, you’re motivated to eat the salad over a hot-pressed panini  because you want to be skinny.


According to, “Intrinsically motivated behaviors are performed because of the sense of personal satisfaction that they bring.” Traditionally, intrinsic motivation is seen as superior to extrinsic motivation because you’re rewarded with more satisfaction than you would with extrinsic motivation, or physical objects.

Maybe you think kale salads are decent and are you’re more motivated to eat it over a hot-pressed panini because you know that the salad not only has wonderful benefits, but it tastes better to you and you can eat more of it if you’re still hungry. Maybe the taste isn’t amazing, but you tend to focus on the nutrition density, the other toppings in the salad, or even the satisfaction of knowing how to practice self-control.

However, intrinsic motivation still depends largely on external factors. For example, if you’re not passionate about healthy foods or you have diabetes, it’s hard to stay intrinsically motivated. You might be used to the bitter taste of kale, but the intrinsic value might wear out overtime. 


Right when you think the flame of passion has turned into an ember, there’s one more category of motivation that will help you rise from the ashes: it’s family motivation.

The Academy of Management Journal conducted a study on factory workers whose job consisted of mundane tasks with no benefits or rewards for their hard work. In fact, this job was so boring, that the researchers were certain that it would be impossible for these workers to feel any extrinsic nor intrinsic motivation. While the researchers were right, the factory workers who lacked extrinsic and intrinsic motivation were motivated by something else: their families.

If extrinsic and intrinsic fails to motivate you to live a healthy lifestyle, thinking of your family is a great motivating factor. Ask yourself these questions: Will this lifestyle benefit my family? How will my overall health affect my family in the future? What will I miss long-term if I don’t start being healthy?

Maybe you’re motivated to be healthy because you love the feeling and benefits it brings, or maybe you want to show off how much weight you’ve lost since you started a diet. Ultimately, if you’re working hard to be healthy for your family, you’ll be more compelled to stick to your lifestyle, even if that hot-pressed panini is still tempting you.

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