Reignite your intrinsic motivation

Written by Sharath Jeevan Wednesday 15 September 2021
Powerful insights to find your inner drive from a leading expert in intrinsic motivation. (None of them is about pay!)
A sprinter wearing trainers with flames coming out of them

We are in a motivational mess today. That mess extends across many of the key areas of our lives: work, study, relationships, parenting and more. And it’s become something of a crisis following the pandemic. Plus, it’s particularly pertinent in our working lives now, given that many of us are returning to offices for the first time in a long time.

All aspects of our motivation are interlinked. Demotivation in our work or study, for example, can often spill over into other aspects of our lives: how we parent, where we try to live our dreams through our children (which can create anxiety in their young lives), or it may lead to not providing the emotional safety that our spouse or committed partner needs. So, it’s important to get each pillar right.

If you’re in a bit of a motivation rut right now, know that it is possible to reignite your motivation for yourself, your organisation, family and wider community.

I would like to share some practical insights on how to reignite your drive and lead a more fulfilling and motivating life for yourself and the people you care most about.

External rewards won’t cut it, you need to look within

First of all, don't rely on external factors for motivation. We often think of external (or extrinsic) factors such as pay, status, and rewards as motivators; they motivate you to do something by way of an external reward. These things can reduce demotivation, but they can’t deeply motivate us – and their power also often fades over time.

So while it may be nice to return to a gleaming office and nice coffee machine, don’t rely too much on it for your motivation – particularly as you may only be in the office a few days a week.

Ultimately, we need to remember that true motivation comes from within. Across all areas of our lives, internal (or intrinsic) factors are much more important – they motivate us because we gain personal enjoyment or satisfaction from doing something rather than an external reward.

Intrinsic motivation has three key components:

  • Purpose. Our sense that what we do helps and serves others
  • Autonomy. Our sense of having ownership over our lives
  • Mastery. Our sense of developing into the best versions of ourselves.

We can all start by recognising and understanding these three elements, and then thinking about how to bring them into our lives and apply them for ourselves.

Seek out your internal motivators

Making a change doesn’t have to be a “big bang”. We can reignite our inner drive in small, reinforcing steps. This can lead to profound but practical changes in our lives, and allow us to start to live a more fulfilling life at all levels.

For example, in our working lives, it might mean thinking of developing a “personal company mission statement” for ourselves, or playing a “nurturing” role to others in our teams so they feel safer to be able to adapt to the new office realities.

In studying, it might mean focusing less on exam results and more on helping ourselves develop the skills linked to lifelong learning, which are important to both job and life success.

Don’t be afraid of having a conversation with managers and leaders in your company about making changes; if you’re a manager yourself, be open to having these conversations with your employees and finding out what their internal motivators are. There is more opportunity today for “job-crafting” – to create a job description that really tries to bring everyone’s unique strengths to the workplace and incorporate the three pillars of Purpose, Autonomy and Mastery into them.

Find more research-based insights and inspirational examples in Sharath’s book Intrinsic: A Manifesto to Reignite Our Inner Drive (Octopus, 2021).

Image: Shutterstock/Rocksweeper

Get more support

If your lack of motivation is affecting your mental health, CMI has partnered with Kooth, the UK’s leading online mental health platform, to provide our members with a free, safe and anonymous space for online support and counselling. Kooth also offers a free, easy-to-use goal-setting function to help you see the steps you’re taking to reignite your motivation.

Find out more
Sharath Jeevan

Sharath Jeevan

Sharath is one of the world’s leading experts on how to reignite the inner drive (or intrinsic motivation) in our lives. He is the executive chairman of Intrinsic Labs, which supports organisations all around the world to solve deep motivational challenges, and founder of STiR Education, an international NGO supporting education systems in emerging countries to reignite intrinsic motivation.

Don’t miss out - get notified of new content

Sign-up to become a Friend of CMI to recieve our free newsletter for a regular round-up of our latest insight and guidance.

CMI members always see more. For the widest selection of content, including CPD tools and multimedia resources, check out how to get involved with CMI membership.