The Harmful Effects of Extrinsic Motivation

Please excuse the lack of blog yesterday, I was preparing a post about the recent clinical research on psychedelics but it ended up getting lengthy. I will finish it soon with lots of interesting facts and uses, along with further reading links. For now, enjoy this warning about extrinsic motivation.

An extrinsic motivator is something outside of ourselves which we want to attain. For instance, money, grades, avoidance of punishment, trophies and status are all examples of extrinsic motivators. An intrinsically motivating task is a task which is worth doing for its own sake (sports, board games, or work for some).

The motivation literature suggests that the two motivators, extrinsic and intrinsic, don’t mix well. For example, a study was done on young children who liked drawing. The parents and friends agreed to pay the children for their art, 1 dollar per piece of art. The children quickly picked up their craft to make more money, which was great because their skills were improving, but when the parents and friends stopped paying the children quickly lost interest in drawing altogether.

A similar situation often occurs with students in university or Law School. Children who once loved to read all of sudden because adolescents who must read for grades. It is not uncommon to see students who lose all interest in reading because of the stressful associations created in school.

Something intrinsically motivating can quickly become extrinsic, and when the extrinsic motivation leaves, the intrinsic often fails to return. This observation is one of the reasons why I do not monetize my blog. I love writing, working through my own thoughts, and sharing useful information with people that I care about. I don’t want to lose that sense of joy and satisfaction when I write to thinking about what is marketable.

The common piece of advice that, if you are good at you might as well get paid for it, is not as obviously beneficial as one might think. If the money does come in quickly, you may find yourself without any motivator at all.

Hustle it up!

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