Internal Motivation vs. External Reward

I’ve been finding the motivation to write hard to come by as of late, and while I know that I should just write it’s easy to get into the mindset of, “What do I get when I finish this?” I feel like I should instead be saying, “I enjoy writing a lot, and because I enjoy it I should just write regardless.”

Unfortunately, the human brain sometimes functions on a reward based cycle. This person is considered successful because they’re doing x element of this aspect of their dream, and everyone collapses in awe and wonder and glorification of said person. Another person struggles to even take a step towards their goal, but no one was there anyway, so why should it matter? I would like to say that it matters because it’s a dream. The internal motivation comes from the dream.

I would like to say that the external reward motivates you beyond all shadow of a doubt, but I think that if anything it just makes you more aware of your own ego. I’m getting rewarded for this, so I must be amazing, and so I shall continue to do it for the reward. It’s a cycle of increasing rewards. What happens when the reward and recognition power plug is pulled and you no longer have these rewards coming in? In an ideal world, we would immediately turn back to our dream and draw energy from it.

We don’t live in an ideal world. It is extremely hard to pull effort from internal motivation, but it is rewarding. Maybe not rewarding externally, but sometimes the first steps of chasing your dream never are. Sometimes it takes a few days, weeks, months, or years in the mud, blood, sweat, and tears to begin to feel like you’re succeeding, and those days, months, weeks, and years are when your internal motivation gets tested the hardest. I’m not saying it will never get tested again, far from it, I’m just saying that it may feel like a slog.

Carol Dweck sums up this idea when she talks about mindset. According to her, people have either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. People either really on internal motivation (growth) or external rewards (fixed). These sometimes cross over, but very rarely.

My words to you, reader, is that you would not be afraid of your dream. Don’t be afraid of external reward, it is nice to be recognized, but also don’t be afraid of the effort that will go into your dream. The question I sometimes ask myself (It may look like rotten eggs sometimes), how can I grow if I am constantly being rewarded externally? I wish I asked myself this question more than I do, because it is really easy to get disheartened, but it’s about picking myself back up off the ground and moving forward regardless.

I’m sorry if I’ve rambled on about this too much, or if I’ve rambled on about it before. I think it is a crucial thing to remember no matter where we are in chasing our dreams. It’s crucial to remind people that the dream is still worth going after.

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