Both Internal and External Motivation are Part of Life

Image of street signs saying Internal and External

When it comes to motivation, many people believe that internal motivation is the only one that’s important. That’s not necessarily true. Both types help us live our life to the fullest.

The Levels of Development highlights both internal and external motivation. And it’s important to realize that we live our lives on all levels of the Hierarchy of Social Development.

Rich Lowry, in his book “Lincoln Unbound” (2013), states that some people convinced Lincoln to run for the Illinois state legislature in 1832. He was just 23 at the time. This was certainly external motivation. I had similar experiences when a colleague suggested I become a high school principal. (At the time, I already had served as a high school assistant principal of supervision and control as well as an assistant principal of curriculum and instruction). I again had a similar experience years later when a college professor urged me to earn a doctorate.

The Real Difference

We are certainly influenced by external factors. However, a main point in teaching the levels of social and personal development to young people is that SATISFACTION IS GREATER FROM INTERNAL MOTIVATION. Something external may prompt the idea (and this is certainly important), but the most satisfaction comes as a result of the effort invested toward achieving the goal.

In terms of the Hierarchy of Social Development, having young people learn the difference between external motivation (behavior to receive or avoid something) and internal motivation (doing something because it is the right thing to do), leads to more responsible behavior, more self-satisfaction, higher self-esteem, never having a victimhood mindset, easily confronting bullying, and strength in resisting negative peer influences.

Tip: Realize when each type of motivation is in effect in your life. Use external motivation as the starting point and then let your internal motivation lead you to your desired results.

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