Posts Tagged External Versus Internal Motivation

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 … >>>


The Gift of Internal Motivation

When people, especially the young, learn the difference between external and internal motivation, they become empowered to resist bullying and victimhood thinking, and to make responsible choices. The Levels of Development explains the difference between external motivation and internal motivation. Even young children can understand these concepts.

Although technically all motivation is internal, being able to articulate something outside of ourselves that prompts or motivates will help us make more responsible decisions. Keep in mind that it is the effect of the Levels of Development—how people grow—that makes learning the levels (concepts) so valuable. Think of the Levels of Development as rubric or reference for making decisions in life.

Internal Motivation Prompts Change

Additionally, when children learn both of the … >>>


An Easy Way to End Stressful Relationships

Are you tired of stressful relationships where you feel you are always nagging, threatening, or bribing the other person to do what needs to be done?

Social scientists have determined that people accept inner responsibility for their behavior and actions when they think they have CHOSEN to perform it in the absence of outside pressure, such as a large reward. In other words, while the incentive may get people to perform a certain action, it won’t get them to accept inner responsibility for the act. Consequently, they won’t feel COMMITTED to it.

The same is true of a strong threat; it may motivate immediate compliance, but it is unlikely to produce long-term commitment.

What Stressful Relationships Look Like

You may … >>>


How to Praise Children the Right Way

We all want to praise children for doing good things. But not all praise is created equal. The following points address how to effectively praise children.

1. If you would not use the same praise to an adult, resist using it with a young person.

2. Eliminate starting with, “I’m so pleased that….” The inference is that the youngster’s motivation is to please YOU.

Here is an alternative to praise: acknowledgments. They are more effective than praise and accomplish what you want without praise’s disadvantage.

(Please keep in mind that I am NOT suggesting NEVER praise children; just keep it to a minimum and acknowledge more.)

Saying, “I’m so proud of you for doing your work” implies that the student … >>>


How to Move Away from Rewards in Discipline

Here is a communication I received from a teacher that is definitely worth sharing about discipline and rewards.

“I am a fourth grade teacher who desperately wants to move away from students only working for rewards that is the nature of the discipline ‘behavior plans’ at my school. After implementing a few of your strategies in my classroom, I am pleased with the way my students have responded. Because I, and all their previous teachers, have used rewards, I am unsure how they will react if I do away with all tangible rewards.”



Use principle two, CHOICE, of the three principles to practice.

Rather than stopping the use of rewards, give your students the CHOICE. It sounds … >>>


Aim for Responsibility, Not Obedience

The mindset of current educational approaches regarding student behavior focuses unfortunately on obedience, the source too often of reluctance, resistance, resentment, and even rebellion. Simply stated, OBEDIENCE DOES NOT CREATE DESIRE. However, when the focus is on promoting responsibility, obedience follows as a natural by-product.

The reason is that motivation to be responsible requires a DESIRE to do so. The motivation must be INTERNAL. Many schools use EXTERNAL motivation in the form of rewards, threats, and punishments. However, these approaches (a) foster compliance rather than commitment, (b) require an adult presence for monitoring, (c) set up students to be dependent upon external agents, and (d) do not foster long-term motivation for responsibility.

In addition, when students start collecting rewards—as in … >>>


The Best Approach to Instill Discipline

People sometimes ask me if I’ve ever given thought to structuring the levels in the Hierarchy of Social Development in the reverse order so that A is the highest level. These people think it’s odd to have students strive for A work and D behavior in the school system.

This concern is the most common challenge … for adults. It’s just not a problem for students. The structure and advantage of the hierarchy is that it prompts and challenges people—regardless of age—to achieve at the highest level.

A simple way to make it clear is to put it in context, since any meaning is always within a specific context. For example, when do you use “to,” “two,” or “too”? It … >>>


The Truth About Discipline

In her book The Caring Teacher’s Guide to Discipline: Helping Young Students Learn Self-Control, Responsibility, and Respect, Marilyn Gootman writes that discipline is teaching self-control, not controlling or managing students. 

And as Richard Sagor notes in his book At-Risk Students: Reaching and Teaching Them, an effective discipline program requires three particular, vital educational functions:

  • The maintenance of order
  • The development of internal locus of control
  • The promotion of prosocial behavior

All three are accomplished in an approach where the student acknowledges ownership of behavior, where the student self-evaluates, and where the student develops a plan. In the process, the student grows by becoming more self-regulated. As Sagor notes, the locus of control is internal.

This is in contrast to … >>>


Behavior and Motivation

When you teach youth a procedure, the expectation is that they will have the self-discipline to follow it (Level C on the Hierarchy of Social Development). This is external motivation where many of us live our lives most of the time. However, if a student does something that is anti-social because of a desire to fit in with a gang, then that incentive is external.

On my Levels of Development Poster (click here to view), Level C lists “Conformity” in yellow while “Cooperation” is in green. The goal of Level C is to have young people become aware of and resist the strong desire to fit in when the behavior is irresponsible.

When youth understand that their motivation is … >>>


Rewards Hinder Childrens’ Creativity

Relying on rewards to influence behavior changes the motivation in children. Teachers of upper elementary grades through high school know this truth by the most common questions students ask: “Will the material be on the test?” and “Will this count on the grade?” Rather than being motivated by curiosity, the challenge, or the enjoyment of learning, the students’ motivation turns toward the external reward—the grade.

The motivation is to do well for the teacher’s evaluation, rather than for the learning itself. In addition, and this is rather obvious, the more emphasis placed upon the external reward of the grade, the more students look for the easiest way to obtain it.

Here is a paradox. Many studies have shown that the … >>>