Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Are you intrinsically or extrinsically motivated?

Recently I participated in a short interview about my exercise habits. The assignment was for the student to find a person who performs regular exercise and a person who essentially never performs exercise. Easy enough? The interviewer did tell me that she had a difficult time finding someone who wanted to talk candidly about their "couch-potato" lifestyle.

After giving the interview, we talked about my behavior and how it compared to the other interviewee. This was not a statistically valid test, but some of the results are interesting. First, I am mostly an intrinsically motivated person when it comes to exercise. My number one motivator is my family. My number two reason would be for my health and desire to live a long and high quality life. However, I am also extrinsically motivated, since I rely on goals I set for myself to take me beyond my average fitness level. These would include my race events that make sure I push myself during my fitness routine.

When I do not set goals, I become bored easily and start slacking on my routine. However, when I know I have a race coming up I will take the time to set up a training plan and make sure I allocate enough time in my life to complete the plan. My natural competitiveness probably helps me stick to it too.

The other person taking place in these interviews was extrinsically motivated. Every time he has been in shape, someone was nearby pushing him to go workout or play sports. It didn't really require a big push, but he was not going to make the effort on his own. I know this feeling very well, since I often would like to skip a run or ride, but end up going because I have made an appointment with someone that I will not break.

What can we learn from this? I think a person must first discover how they are motivated. Then, a person can start to make friends with active people, if they are extrinsically motivated. If you are intrinsically motivated, a commitment to yourself and perhaps an ultimate goal to attain too would help. I think we all have our own motivators, but learning what they are makes success in what you are trying to do much easier and that holds true for activities outside of exercise as well.


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