There are numerous reasons to be motivated in this world. Some of us are driven by the accumulation of wealth while others are propelled by an insatiable thirst for knowledge.
But ultimately, our motivators fall into two broad categories: internal or external. We are either motivated to accomplish certain goals because of our own internal beliefs or due to external influences, like society, family or friends.
My goal in writing this article is to remind you that your own internal motivators will always be more reliable than external ones, and far more instrumental to your success.
Of course, this seems natural at first; why would anyone not be motivated to do something he or she truly wants for him or herself? The answer is inertia.
Inertia, as defined in physics, is the ability of any object to resist changes in its state of motion. If one applies the concept of inertia to his or her own life, things begin to make a lot more sense.
Inertia is the reason why it seems so difficult to change your lifestyle, especially when you don’t have a lot of external support because external support effectively reduces inertia.
It’s easier to get started on a new journey when you have friends and family cheering you on.
Thus far, it seems like I’m doing a poor job defending the idea the idea that internal motivators are superior. But, let’s take a closer look at what external motivational really is.
Being motivated by an external force means that the fuel that drives you is essentially the (positive) actions of others. But, we can’t fully control the actions of others; the only actions we can truly control are our own.
As such, external motivators tend to influence you to rely less on your own mental strength and more on the positive feedback loop the praise of others creates. This leads one down a very dangerous path.
Essentially, living a life that hinges on external motivators is akin to taking a car on a road trip, but having no control over when you can stop for fuel.
If there’s a steep hill you need to climb, you better sincerely hope someone or something provides you with the fuel you need to overcome it.
Sure, your friends and family might be supportive of your startup at first, but after a few months without any progress, perhaps they’ll begin to give up hope.
At that point, you need to rely on your own internal motivation to push through this obstacle and succeed. The bottom line is that if your energy comes from within, your success will be less contingent on the actions of others and more on your own abilities.
I recently struggled with this conflict between internal and external motivators in my own life. I’ve always enjoyed playing sports, especially badminton, but for the last few months, I decided to spend more time working out at the gym instead.
The reason for this was, quite honestly, very external. Many of my coworkers go to the gym religiously and it kind of influenced me to start going with them, too.
I enjoyed the feeling that came when my friends consistently told me I was looking more fit and in shape.
But, something happened when I went home for the Christmas break and didn’t interact with my usual circle of friends for a while... I stopped going to the gym for over a month.
The explanation behind my actions was quite simple: I just didn’t care enough on a personal level about going to the gym. Thus, when I encountered this first hurdle and my sense of external motivation was no longer there, I could no longer sustain the habit.
On the other hand, when I came back from Christmas break, I started playing badminton again because it was an activity I legitimately enjoyed.
It didn’t matter that very few of my close friends or coworkers barely even understand what competitive badminton really is.
At the end of the day, I felt more satisfied because I did it for me. After a few months, it became clear to me now that I was much more dedicated about going to play badminton than I ever was about going to the gym.
I’m a firm believer in the fact that true happiness comes from within. We don’t need to be told what should make us content; it’s something we are all innately and intrinsically aware of.
You know when you’ve done a good job not because someone told you, but because you performed to the best of your ability. This is why you should always pursue what you believe in . Even if the journey will be arduous.
There are a plethora of examples where great individuals achieve success simply because they pursued a line of thinking that seemed unconventional at the time.
They were able to preserve because of internal motivation; they truly believed in their cause even if no one else did.
Ultimately, both external and internal motivators can have a powerful effect on our actions.
However, the difference between them is that internal motivators will always be more sustainable in the long run whereas the external motivators tend to be much more fickle.
This is why one should not be afraid to overcome inertia and follow his or her true interests.