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What motivates an athlete to work so hard? Athletics is as much a mental game as it is about physical ability. It’s no secret that to be dominant in a sport one must be skilled, have the physical strength and development to excel, plus they must have the agility or stamina to endure the competition. The rest is mental—like passion, attitude, desire, and coachability, which are all intrinsic motivations. Truth be told, we’re all motivated in different ways, but let’s check the pros and cons of some extrinsic motivation examples to see how they measure up.
There are generally two categories of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. We’re going to address both, and in some ways through the eyes of an athlete. Why athletes? Really, it’s simply because athletes are some of the most motivated individuals who consistently perform and achieve at a high level. They are often discussed as it relates to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation because they are perfect examples of relying on both forms of motivation through different stages in their life and career.
What Is Intrinsic Motivation?
It’s difficult to discuss extrinsic motivation examples without first addressing intrinsic motivation. This is the heart and soul, burning desire type stuff that calls people to accomplish amazing and unforgettable feats. It’s that special thing from within that is bound up in passion, heart, and a yearning to do ‘it’ just because it makes you feel good. There’s no check or bucket of cash at the end—just a rewarding feeling and a desire to succeed that fuels your drive. People feel good when they see others who are intrinsically motivated. It’s generally seen as a more powerful incentive for behaviors that require long-term execution.
In fact, it is crucial to success in sports and many other areas in life.
What Is Extrinsic Motivation?
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When we mention extrinsic motivation, we’re referring to an external form of motivation. It’s something outside of yourself. It’s a driving force that guides you to seeking a particular result or goal in order to attain something of value in return. This deals with matters beyond personal satisfaction or accomplishment. It may help to understand a reward-driven behavior by thinking of it as a tool used to modify, encourage, or discourage a specific behavior or desired result. As a young athlete, in most cases, intrinsic motivation guides you to excel. Maybe it’s the excitement of the game or the feeling of accomplishment. However, if you’re one of the few who makes it to the next level, that motivation to perform the same task, which may feel somewhat mundane, may now be driven by the millions of dollars that are waving in front of you.
How Effective Is Extrinsic Motivation?
Determining the effectiveness of extrinsic motivations is not quite so cut and dry. Without a doubt, there are many extrinsic motivation examples that can have varying influences or impact on an individual, both positive and negative. What do you think Beyonce would say if you asked her if money, praise or fame make her happy and good at what she does? Likewise, do you think money, praise, and fame have effectively motivated President Donald Trump? While we cannot speak for either of these individuals, we can say the extrinsic motivation tends to get a bad rep, but there are cases where it seems to be an effective motivator. Really, the biggest question is whether it is long lasting.
Best Uses of Extrinsic Motivation
Extrinsic motivators are best applied in situations where people lack basic skills to perform the activity or in cases where their interest has dissipated, and you are attempting to reignite the flame. In these cases, it is recommended to keep the reward small and directly tied to performing a specific behavior. When used appropriately, extrinsic motivators can be a useful tool, but excessive rewards can backfire on you. A positive example of extrinsic motivation is when it is used to get someone to complete a work task or school assignment in which they have no internal interest. Once some intrinsic interest has been generated and some essential skills have been established, the external motivators should be slowly phased out.
The Downside of Using Extrinsic Motivation
There’s always another side of the coin and there are plenty of extrinsic motivation examples where this holds true. First, it is not sustainable. It can be a thorn in the giver’s side when the person performing the task no longer wants to perform without the motivation. How many times have we seen professional athletes complain about salary issues? It’s not to say they don’t deserve a salary, but at the professional level, it isn’t simply about playing for the love of the game anymore. Another reason is it is tied to diminishing returns. Who really wants to work as hard if the rewards are the same, year after year. Plus, there’s a risk that overtime of being motivated by extrinsic factors can cause a person to lose their interest and desire to do it without the motivation.
Extrinsic Motivation Examples We Reviewed
While athletics provide a great example of how extrinsic motivation is applied in the real world, it is not the only one. We’ve reviewed some real-life extrinsic motivation examples that you should watch for because they can affect anyone. Let’s take a look.
Extrinsic Motivation Examples
- Trophies or awards
- Threat of punishment
- List Element
- Reward points or discounts
- Grades or reviews
Money is undoubtedly one of the most common extrinsic motivation examples. It is a definite motivator to get people to perform at work. In terms of money, it’s best to look at monetary incentives as a motivator.
- It is an easy and seemingly straightforward way to influence specific behaviors
- It does not require personalization
- Monetary incentives often help increase productivity or reduce problematic behaviors
- An incentive scheme can improve employee attitudes and improve the working atmosphere
- It is never enough
- Once people are being paid enough, money is no longer a motivator
- Over time, a bonus or other incentive can come to be seen as an entitlement rather than a motivator
- In the workplace, it can lead to an environment where employees are actively trying to out-do their colleagues
Trophies or Awards
This type of extrinsic reward is most commonly associated with sports. In fact, there has been a long-standing debate centered around participation trophies and earned trophies in youth athletics. Let’s see how trophies measure up as an extrinsic motivator.
- A trophy lets us compete and then be rewarded if we do a good job
- Trophies encourage dedication and commitment
- Trophies prepare children for the world that they’ll enter as soon as they grow older
- It raises the stakes and we challenge ourselves more
- A trophy may encourage an unhealthy amount of competition
- People are worried that awards do more harm than good
- It can negatively affect a child’s self-esteem and self-worth if they are not awarded
Threat of Punishment
The threat of punishment is one of the most serious extrinsic motivation examples as it can be applied to anything from corporal punishment in schools or capital punishment in prisons. Either way, there are pros and cons to both.
- Loss aversion—we are more inclined to avoid an actual loss than to strive for conditional benefits
- It’s one of the quickest and most effective ways to discipline
- Instills a sense of right and wrong
- Violence promotes more violence
- Negative psychological impact can be longstanding
- Increasing the severity of punishment does little to deter crime
Some believe sex is one the most powerful motivators for humanity. It is necessary for procreation and the continued existence of our species.
- Species need to reproduce for the survival of their species
- Pleasure is known as the biggest motivator for sex
- Stress relief
- Negative emotions such as loneliness can motivate someone
- Can result in unwanted outcomes
- It can create false attachments
Millions of people are after this every day. They want to start and stop the show, be the center of attention, and have their face and name in lights. Fame is a great motivator which you can see by the increasing number of YouTube stars and Hollywood types popping up every day.
- Fans love you
- You may receive wonderful opportunities that were once unimaginable
- When you walk in the room, everybody knows your name
- When it ends, it can be psychologically devastating
- Sacrifices to attain it can be great
- Lack of privacy
Again, this extrinsic motivation example is closely tied to athletics, but it is also common in the workplace.
- Competition can reduce indifference
- Competition can be an incentive to find innovations that would otherwise not be found
- Competition creates a fun and positive environment that engages
- Some may find it to be frustrating, threatening, stressful, or tiring
- Co-operation between employees may also be negatively affected
- The morale may deteriorate if employees begin to look for dubious ways to do better
This is one of the most common types of extrinsic motivation examples in any environment. It has been successful for as long as we can tell. Even if the prize lacks real value, in most cases, people are excited about the idea of getting something for free.
- Improved employee and customer retention
- The use of small rewards could spur behavioral change
- It can increase morale
- It may condition recipients to have unrealistic expectations
- It may actually decrease motivation
- It can be expensive to sustain
Reward Points and Discount
Reward points and discounts are commonly used in businesses to monitor the buying habits of customers. These incentives serve to build the relationship and encourage continued support. Many rewards points programs are used by credit card companies and may be based on purchase you’ve made with a partner company.
- Encourages repeat business
- Effective reward systems help an organization be more competitive
- Retain key employees or customers and reduces the likelihood they’ll go somewhere else
- People tend to overspend and make unnecessary purchases to receive reward points
- In some cases, it makes users have to wait to collect—there’s no instant gratification
- It can be expensive to build rewards since, again, the rewards are usually so low
Grades and Review
In school and in the workplace, grades are the most commonly used methods to document and assess performance. There is much debate over this topic, particularly as it relates to the school grading systems.
- It is a standardized measuring tool to assess performance
- If provides immediate and easily understandable feedback
- It can be somewhat subjective
- It may lead to cheating to get the result
- Learning for the sake of understanding is no longer the objective
- It may not always reflect the aptitude and potential of a student
Praise is an often overlooked extrinsic motivation example that packs a big punch. It can have an impact in a marriage, team dynamics, and the workplace. It provides confirmation that someone is doing a good job and is recognized by their boss or coach as a valuable asset to the team.
- It can boost the employee’s ego and confidence
- People work harder if they feel appreciated
- It is costs nothing to share a few encouraging words
- Some verbal praise is nothing more than hollow words
- An employee who is told that she is doing an exceptional job all the time might be prone to thinking that there is no room for improvement
- It may create a divide between workers/teammates if it is given selectively
What Does This Mean?
Extrinsic and intrinsic motivations exist in athletics, but they clearly extend well beyond the playing field and into the workplace or other areas of your life. Understanding what motivates you takes honesty and transparency. There’s a chance that you may not like what you uncover about yourself. That’s okay, because knowing puts you in a position to adjust your mindset and priorities. By making your motivation sustainable despite your situation or circumstances, you will find yourself surrounded by others that will believe in you, support your efforts, and join your mission.