Change Your Life by Focusing on Internal Motivation

For many people, the start of a new year is a time for change and fresh beginnings. But before making any life change, you need to be aware of your motivation for the change. Are you trying something new because others are pressuring you to do so (external motivation)? Or are you making a life change because it’s something that will bring you great satisfaction (internal motivation)?

Internal motivation really is the key to lifelong change. When you focus on what brings you joy and satisfaction—on what makes you feel good—you’re more apt to continue the behavior. To prove my point, consider the five questions below. They prove Aristotle’s conclusion that an emotional outcome like happiness is the appropriate end of all behaviors because it is internally satisfying.

Questions about Motivation

Question 1: You are given the responsibility of a project. Which would you prefer to hear?

A) Your team will be assigned to you.

B) You can choose the team that you wish to join.

Question 2: Which would be most effective for your own improvement?

A) Your supervisor tells you what you did was wrong.

B) You realize what you did wrong—without hearing it from someone else.

Question 3: You throw a wad of paper across the workroom. Your boss sees it leave your hand. Which would be more successful for controlling yourself in the future?

A) The boss tells you to pick it up.

B) Your boss doesn’t say anything, but you pick it up.

Question 4: You notice a wastepaper basket on its side. Which would give you more satisfaction?

A) Having someone suggest you turn it upright.

B) Turning it upright without anyone’s saying anything.

Question 5: You are a teenager and you want to visit a friend on a school night. Which would you rather hear from your parent?

A) No, you cannot go until your homework is completed.

B) Of course you can go—as soon as your work is completed.

For all these questions, most people choose option B. Why? Because…

  1. Choice empowers.
  2. Self-evaluation is essential for lasting improvement.
  3. Self-correction is the most successful approach for changing behavior.
  4. Acting responsibly is more satisfying through internal rather than external motivation.
  5. Positivity is more constructive than negativity.

Internal Motivation is the Key

In short, people choose answer B because of two dynamic motivators, both of which are internal. The first involves integrity and a sense of “It’s the right thing to do.” The second carries with it a sense of control, which is closely related to choice and empowerment. Deprive people of choice and you often deprive them of motivation.

Tip: We all have the power to change our life for the better. As you make daily choices, focus on internal motivation, as it will lead you to your desire results.