June 9, 2009
Why Pleasing Parents Too Much Can be Bad for Your Health by Eleanor Chin
What’s So Great About Intrinsic Motivation?
Self-motivation researchers Ryan and Deci say that intrinsic motivation is the internal driver for the deepest type of learning, curiosity, and exploration. It is our natural drive to be happy, interested and fulfilled and is therefore linked with a number of positive outcomes in children—including creativity, better task performance, and higher psychological well-being.
Think about this for ourselves. Don’t we do better when the task at hand is intrinsically motivating to us? My friend dislikes math, but when he wants to find money in the family budget for a fun family vacation, he dives right into running those numbers with gusto.
In the case of our daughter, we thought we knew what was best for her. And we did. There’s nothing wrong with wanting all the benefits of a team sport for your child. We just took the wrong route. As extrinsic motivators we were right about the goals and wrong about how to get there. In the end, noticing her interest in archery accomplished all that we had wanted soccer to accomplish. What’s more, she enjoyed it and needed less prodding to practice.
So intrinsic motivation is important to self-motivation, but too much of it makes us self-indulgent and not able to fit into society. That’s where extrinsic motivation comes into the picture.
What’s So Bad About Extrinsic Motivation?
Bitten Cookie What is extrinsic motivation? As children grow and develop, they become more aware of their place in larger contexts—first family, then school, community, and workplace. Gradually, their actions become increasingly influenced by other people and their environment. Our children find themselves responding more and more to external triggers—rewards, deadlines, threats, directives and social pressures. Extrinsic motivators start with the offer of a cookie and go on to the threat of being downsized.
Also as we mature, our behavior is influenced first by intrinsic motivation, then extrinsic motivation. If we are motivated only by pleasing others, chasing money, or other external rewards, we are guided primarily by extrinsic factors. We are in danger of losing a sense of identity. What inspires us? What do we value? What’s our own path to success?
So we need extrinsic motivation to survive in the larger world and to temper our more self-centered excesses. But too much is not good for our health.
Check back next week for the final chapter of this interesting article…