External Vs. Internal Motivation: Part 2

This post is part two of a post on internal and external motivation. Last week we tackled what external motivation is, the pros and cons of it, when, and how it should be used. We deduced that while there are reasons that we can benefit from it, it falls short on more fronts. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the post I did last week on external motivation. It will give you a more in depth understanding on this discussion. Also be sure to check out the CrossFit Invictus post where I originally got my inspiration from.  Because of the reasons we discussed above, we want to limit our use of external motivation to shorter term goals. Ideally, we want to avoid using it for things that will have life long impacts, things like our health. For our long term goals we want to use something more sustainable, and that thing is Internal Motivation.

Internal motivation is when you are driven by your own desire to perform actions, or pursue goals, without the motivation from outside sources. Because of the intrinsic drive, our chances of success are greatly increased if we can utilize internal motivation. Unlike external motivation, it does not rely on validation from others, obligations we have to meet, or demands imposed on us. You simply do something because you want to do it. This is the type of motivation we want to strive to use when it comes to accomplishing important tasks, especially in the case of our health.


Despite being plagued with various injuries, Lones always finds a way to stay motivated!

To give on example of internal motivation, I am going to revert back to a similar example I used during the external motivation post to emphasize the contrast between the two. Lets say you feel like you want to clean up your diet and exercise at least five days a week, because you know overall you would become more healthy. You pursue this without getting any push from anyone else, you simply want to be a fitter, healthier human being. You end up losing fifteen pounds and you feel more fit than ever before! But nobody notices………..but you don’t care, because YOU feel better. You pursued and accomplished this goal for your own satisfaction. Even when the diet got monotonous, even when you had to wake up extra early to get into the gym on some days, you never wavered from your goal because you wanted to become your best self. If you called upon external motivation for this goal, you more than likely would have abandoned it after experiencing hardships.This is where the power of internal motivation comes into play. It allows you to display resiliency during tough times. This is why it is the much preferred choice when it comes to things that really matter.

Another positive reason to be motivated internally is it allows us to better appreciate the process of reaching our goals. The article I read had a great quote about this subject, it compared internal motivation to, “seeing the end result as a cherry on top, not the whole dessert.” I loved this quote because it is a very good reminder of how we need to view our goal achieving process (not just because it talks about dessert). Focusing on the process rather than the end goal increases the likelihood of staying on track with our goals. We see constant progress along the road. rather than just a start and finish line. A good example would be if you wanted to learn how to play one of your favorite classic rock songs on the guitar. You know its a tough song so you’ll have to practice for months and learn new techniques in order to play it, but overall you know it will make you a better guitar player. While learning the song you are forced to learn new techniques you had not known before. While challenging you realize you get better every time you practice. After a while, you get the song down! Now you can play one of your favorite tunes, but you remember thats just the cherry on top. In order to have achieved this goal you needed to learn new scales, chords, and picking techniques, all in order to play this one song. While you managed to meet your end goal, you realize the skills you gained during the process have made you a significantly better guitar player. This was all a result of you appreciating the process of becoming a better you, rather than something else forcing you to be better.

Don’t let the flashy letterman jacket and sweet stunna shades fool you, JB is a great example of someone who is internally motivated!

While all this talk about internal motivation sounds fantastic and that it will always lead to instant success, we have to realize it can be tough to find. In order for something to internally motivate ourselves, it has to be important to us, something we want to do. You cannot fake internal motivation. Finding it might require you to take some time for self reflection. Take some time and have a conversation with yourself. What are your goals and why are they important to you? Is it something you want to do, or is it something that you have to do? In this situation we need to be selfish, and thats okay! Its not that we want to forget about the needs of others and put ourselves before them, its that we need to be the best versions of ourselves before we try and help others do the same.

To revert it back to health, we need to be healthy so we can live our best lives. If a loved one, child, or friend calls on you for help, we need to be able to help them. If we face something physically or mentally stressful, we need to be able to handle that. Think if you couldn’t play with your child, if you couldn’t help your friend with a tough move, if you were constantly getting overwhelmed at work all because you yourself weren’t healthy enough. This is why we need to find a way to internally motivate ourselves when it comes to our health. So we can always be there for others, so we can live our lives as fully as possible. One question that is short yet I think very effective is: If you don’t have your health, what do you have?


While using this video for motivation would be a direct source of external motivation, the take home message is pretty awesome. Want something as bad as you want to breathe, internalize, be all about it, and then you will be successful!

3 replies
  1. Tara Swarts
    Tara Swarts says:

    DJ I really enjoyed both articles! Internal motivation was all that got me through playing football in high school! No one said good job or wow your strong or that’s amazing your a girl doing this! But in my mind and my heart I woke up each morning bruised, sore but always with a smile. That’s the first time I was consciously aware that I was totally internally motivated and committed to playing football even though I was told they would never play me in a Friday night game. It didn’t matter. I was doing something so special and dear to my heart. I learned at a young age of 16 how to draw on that power of internal motivation…it keeps me going today even as I get older!!!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *