Meditations on Intrinsic and Extrinsic Goals

One of the things I have been thinking about is intrinsic goals, extrinsic goals, along with intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. One of the issues I have is simply saying do your best tends to produce worse performance than a highly specific goal such as a swim time. Now this begs the question is a swim time an intrinsic or extrinsic goal? Well some might say that because it is outside yourself it is extrinsic and others might say that because it is under your control it is intrinsic.

Next what about the issue of motivation. Take the swim time, you are motivated to achieve a certain swim time and so how does your motivation work? Are you motivated because the achieving of the swim time helps you to become healthier, actualize your potential, grow and improve or are you motivated because achieving that swim time could bring you fame and fortune?

Another issue, does stacking both intrinsic and extrinsic together yield a better result than either separated? A lot of evidence takes a negative view of extrinsic motivation, but I think it can help in some instances where you haven't been able to get yourself to do something using intrinsic motivation.

So what is the best approach is it:
> Intrinsic and extrinsic goals, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
> Intrinsic and extrinsic goals, intrinsic motivation
> Intrinsic goals and intrinsic motivation
> Intrinsic and extrinsic goals, extrinsic motivation
> Extrinsic goals, extrinsic motivation
> Extrinsic goals, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation

Well I think if they are all equal in emotional intensity (that is to say you do not have an extrinsic goal where you die if you dont succeed but the intrinsic motivation is just being a better person). Then I think we can eliminate extrinsic goals, extrinsic motivation I haven't seen any evidence for that. Same with extrinsic goals, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Now the tricky part, is it good to have extrinsic goals? Well that depends on how you define them. For me I have found in things like weight loss, if the goal is to lose weight you are far better off focusing on the intrinsic behaviors like running and healthy eating, than on the outcome of weight loss.

I might say it has to be either intrinsic goals, intrinsic motivation or intrinsic goals, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation with the caveat that planning can involve extrinsic goals. For example you might have the goal of making a million dollars, but I would argue you are far better off trying to achieve that goal by ignoring the goal of making a million dollars and focusing completely on the behaviors that would lead to making a million dollars. I say this with the caveat that you would have to be absolutely certain that the behaviors would lead to achieving the extrinsic goal.

In my own life I have found that some extrinsic motivation can help push me over the edge to build a habit I have wanted to build, but have struggled to achieve in the past. Such as rewards and punishments to do something I really want to get myself to do, but have lacked the discipline for.

Right now my current stack works like this: Extrinsic or Intrinsic Goal

Planning to turn that goal into a set of intrinsic goals based on behaviors that would lead to the goal

Focus completely on those behaviors. Motivation is based on intrinsic motivation.

There is a cool article here which points out that there are actually fine gradients of extrinsic motivation and it is about using the right mixture to produce the desired motivation. 


Popular Posts