Intrinsic Motivation: Example, Definitions and Tips for Work

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 11 October 2022

Published 25 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Intrinsic motivation refers to the internal influence that can motivate your behaviour. Many factors can affect your behaviour and motivation, and therefore, your performance at work. Being intrinsically motivated in your career can help you succeed in your role and enjoy the work you do. In this article, we look at intrinsic motivation, the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and the steps you can take to build intrinsic motivation at work with a few intrinsic motivation examples.

Related: 15 Ways To Motivate Yourself at Work and Improve Productivity

Intrinsic motivation examples in the workplace

Reviewing intrinsic motivation examples can help you understand this concept. Learning about the different types of motivation support you as you seek more opportunities to find a sense of work-related satisfaction. Here are some examples of intrinsic motivation in the workplace:

Sense of accomplishment

The sense of satisfaction and fulfilment you achieve after completing a task is an example of intrinsic motivation. When you finally complete a project and are reflecting on your hard work, the sense of achievement you feel is due to the expression of intrinsic motivation. This means you're likely to be more motivated to work hard and develop in your career.

Enjoyment

When you enjoy working and you're not simply focused on the result, this is a sign that you're intrinsically motivated. For example, if you work in outbound sales and your role entails making cold calls, you may enjoy talking to new people. When work doesn't feel like a chore, you're more likely to work hard and succeed.

Passion

If you feel passionate about the work you do, you're experiencing intrinsic motivation. For example, if you enjoying seeking new challenges at work and gaining as much knowledge you can about your field, it's a sign you're passionate about your career. Being passionate can keep you motivated towards achieving your self-development goals.

Desire to be a leader

When you feel a strong desire to become a leader or an innovator in your field, you typically endeavour to shine in your work and lead others. Although you may earn some external rewards along the way, receiving any external benefits is not your main focus. Instead, you're driven by intrinsic motivation.

Sense of purpose

You could be more motivated in your role because the job involves solving a larger problem. This could be problems such as assisting farmers to grow more food while using less water, reducing plastic waste or producing clean fuel. Solving problems such as these can give you a greater sense of purpose in your career.

Feeling of self-worth

The nature of some jobs could give you a greater feeling of self-worth. For example, if you work for a prestigious company, you may feel proud of yourself that the employer chose you to work for them. This can also increase your drive and motivation.

Personal achievements

Setting yourself targets based on your previous performance can help you to improve your skills. Each time you achieve a certain level, you may want to increase your goals for the next time. For example, if you work in sales, you can set your sales target at a higher number than what you achieved in the previous period.

What is intrinsic motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is an internal drive that can influence your motivation and behaviour. It enables you to benefit from personal satisfaction without needing external rewards. For example, you may enrol in an online programming class to learn a coding language because it interests you. Intrinsic motivation is key to developing a personal drive that can turn into a more fixed career path. When you recognise your intrinsic motivations, you are more likely to be able to create a set of core values to help you determine your career goals.

Related: Interview Question: "What Motivates You?" (With Examples)

Intrinsic motivation vs. extrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is the motivation that is created when you feel a sense of pleasure or fulfilment while carrying out certain activities. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is created by external rewards, such as money and praise. Here are some examples of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation that you may feel:

Intrinsic motivation

Here are ways you might experience or show intrinsic motivation:

  • Gaining an undergraduate or master's degree to get a job in a field that you're interested in

  • Continuing to work at the same company because you enjoy working there

  • Striving to perform better to improve your skills

  • Staying late at work because you love what you do

Extrinsic motivation

Here are some ways you might experience feelings of extrinsic motivation:

  • Gaining an undergraduate or master's degree to get a better paying job

  • Continuing to work at the same company to get a pension after you retire

  • Striving to perform better at your job to get a raise

  • Staying late at work for overtime pay

Why is intrinsic motivation important at work?

Intrinsic motivation is what can drive you to make some important decisions regarding your role. How you feel about your position and career is likely to impact your performance. Intrinsic motivation is important in your career for the following reasons:

It can help you achieve long-term goals

Intrinsic motivation can help you align your current job and career goals with your ultimate life goals. If you're intrinsically motivated, you're more likely to spend your time carrying out activities that give you meaning. This can help you advance in the skills and qualities that you need to achieve your long-term goals.

You have fewer distractions

Intrinsic motivation can motivate you to work without the need for external rewards. It can drive you to be persistent as an interest in what you do internally motivates you. For example, if you work in customer service and you like to solve problems, you could be more likely to help clients who have a problem.

You are less likely to exert yourself

If you find pleasure in your role, you're more likely to work more without feeling like you're overexerting yourself. Your perspective is likely to be different from others, such that you don't see your work duties as tedious work. Instead, you may view it as an opportunity to pursue an interest and grow your skills.

It helps you acquire knowledge

When you're intrinsically motivated, you're more likely to spend more time learning. Instead of letting mistakes discourage you, you may start looking at mistakes as an opportunity to learn and achieve your goals. As a result, you learn new things quickly and are eager to try new things.

It can boost your confidence

When you better understand why you're doing certain things, it can boost your confidence and trust in yourself and your ability. Recognising that you're doing it for personal satisfaction and fulfilment usually makes you more responsible and capable of carrying out your duties without the need for supervision. You understand the true purpose of what you do and you don't need to rely on reassurance from a third person.

You have a greater sense of satisfaction

When you're intrinsically motivated to carry out certain tasks, you may experience a greater sense of satisfaction and contentment. This contentment can further increase your motivation. With constant, high-level motivation, you may feel more inspired to reach greater heights.

Related: 16 Interesting Jobs for Introverts (With Salaries)

How to build intrinsic motivation at work

Intrinsic motivation typically comes on its own, but you can boost and strengthen it through certain methods. The following are a few of the many ways that can support you to raise your level of intrinsic motivation at work:

1. Find ways of making your work more engaging

It can be helpful to make your work environment and tasks more engaging to help you maintain interest in your role. If you can, try to make your environment more personal by adding pictures or plants. Aim to find a sense of purpose in your role and what you do to make your job have more meaningful. If you're able to find a sense of purpose in your work, you're more likely to build intrinsic motivation.

2. Focus on acquiring new skills from your current role

Acquiring new skills can help you stay motivated in your current role. For example, if you're working on a search engine optimisation team, you may want to learn new and effective methods of ranking a website so that it appears on the first page of a search engine results page. This can help give your role more meaning. The skills you develop can also support you in future jobs and your long-term goals.

3. Set meaningful goals

Aim to set goals that help increase your sense of fulfilment. For example, you may set a personal goal to meet a target that surpasses expectations to gain a sense of personal contentment. Setting your own goals for your job can provide you with an internal motivation to work hard.

4. Help your colleagues

When you can, help your co-workers to complete a task or project. Many people get a sense of gratification and fulfilment from supporting others to overcome a challenge. You may also learn a new skill as a result.

5. Take on additional responsibilities

Taking on more commitments at work can help you achieve a better sense of satisfaction in your career. It can also help you stay motivated to continue to develop your skills. This can increase your drive to succeed.

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