How to Build Internal Motivation to Achieve Greater Success in Life

Have you ever wonder what motivates you to do what you do in life? What truly drives you into taking action and setting the goals? You see, motivation, or drive, is an extremely important factor that determines your success in life. Anyone can set a big goal or have a grand vision to achieve, but only those who know how to channel their motivation to fuel their desire are the ones that make things come true.

Some people say that motivation is crap, but I seriously don’t think so.

In fact, I believe that motivation is extremely important. And so, we must learn how to channel our motivation into the right place so that we can use this drive to achieve what we want in life.

Everyone has their own level of motivation. And this drive comes and goes.

Sometimes you feel extremely motivated and you take massive action. You write 3,000 words article, feeling good, and you hit the gym hard and you even spend a full hour reading a book.

On the other hand, sometimes you feel down. Totally no motivation at all. You lack the drive and you don’t want to do anything, even to read a book. You just want to lie on your couch and do nothing.

Motivation is a feeling. An emotion. And like all other feelings, you can learn to control them.

I don’t believe that people are not motivated or lazy.

Have you heard someone tells you that they are plain lazy and they simply don’t have the motivation to do things?

Not true. Every one of us has some form of potential power within us.

The only problem is that we don’t know how to properly channel the energy and the drive into the right place.

Think about it. What do you love doing? Do you love to play golf? How about playing games?

You see, some people say that they are lazy, but when it comes to doing the things that they love, like playing computer games, they can stay up the whole night for it.

I hate traffic jam. But when it comes to playing badminton with my friends, I can drive an hour to play the game with them.

The question is: where does the motivation come from?

What about you? You have goals right? I believe that you set goals and you have targets that you want to achieve. So what happened to those goals that you fail to reach?

For most people, their answer is that they lack the motivation to take consistent action, and that is why they fail to achieve their goals.

However, when you truly spend time to think about it, it is not that people lack the motivation, but they just don’t know how to channel their drive, their energy and their motivation to their goals.

They channel their drive into doing other things, like playing games, watching the drama, etc.

Therefore, the first thing you need to do to build strong motivation to achieve your goals and dreams is to learn to channel your motivation into the right place.

The 3 Elements of Internal Motivation

Basically, there are 2 types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic.

For this article, we will focus on talking about intrinsic motivation. We will discuss and talk about how you can get self-motivation from within.

Here’s a good explanation on intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation.

Consider your motivation for reading this article. Are you reading this article because you are interested to learn how to get motivated and you simply want to learn more, or do you read it because you need to get more information on motivation to write for an essay for your class?

If you are reading this article because you are curious and you truly want to learn more, then you are intrinsically motivated.

On the other hand, if you are reading this because you need to submit your essay to your class to avoid getting a bad grade, then you are extrinsically motivated.

Do you get it? Read my previous article to understand better: What is Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation and How to Get More of Them

So if you want to build strong motivation, the first thing you can do is to find out what motivates you internally.

According to Daniel Pink, the author of the best-selling book, Drive, said that there are 3 factors that drive us internally:

1. Purpose

Why do you do what you do? Think about it, why do you want to achieve your goals? When your purpose is clear, the motivation and the drive will be there. Recognition, achievement, and freedom are some of the main values that drive your purpose and motivation.

napoleon hill purpose quote

Purpose is one of the most important factors that influence our motivation to do something. If you think otherwise, read this article by Daniel Pink.

According to the article, there was a study conducted by Wharton’s Adam Grant, which involved the employees at the call center of a university for a fundraising organization.

Grant divided the employees into 3 categories and randomly assigned them into the 3 groups:

The Personal Benefit Group – where the employees read stories from other employees describing what they perceived were the personal benefits of the job such as financial benefits and the development of skills and knowledge.

The Task Significance Group – where the employees read stories from the beneficiaries of the fundraising organization, who described how the scholarships they obtained from the organization had a positive impact on their lives.

The Control Group – This is the control group where the employees did not read any story.

Guess what happened?

Employees in the Personal Benefit and Control groups secured the same number of pledges and raised the same amount of money as they had before the study.

However, for the employees in the Task Significance Group, where they read stories about what their work accomplished and how it affected the world, “earned more than twice the number of weekly pledges (from an average of 9 to an average of 23) and more than twice the amount of weekly donation money (from an average of $1,288 to an average of $3,130).”

So do you think that purpose plays an important role in motivating and inspiring you to work harder now?

When you see yourself working for a bigger cause and what you do actually bring benefits to others and the world, your motivation will be stronger.

2. Mastery

Another reason people are intrinsically motivated to do something is that they want to achieve mastery. Mastery includes challenges, curiosity, competition, and so on.

When it comes to mastery, many will think that all they need to do is to pour in hard work. But it is not just about working hard and learning. It is about your mindset.

The first step to achieving anything is to believe that you are able to do it, isn’t it?

If you don’t believe that you have the capability to achieve it, your doubtful action will show. Thus, mastery is all about your mindset.

And to achieve mastery in what you do, you need to adopt the growth mindset.

Carol Dweck, one of the researchers in the field of motivation said on her website:

“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”

So here are 3 things you can do to cultivate growth mindset for mastery.

1) Believe that your intelligence and skills can be improved. As long as you are willing to learn and practice, you can become better at it.

2) Set more learning goals and fewer performance goals. Performance goals are results-based. For example, if you learn to speak Japanese because you want to score a good grade, that’s a performance goal. A learning goal is the ability to speak Japanese rather than just focusing on the grade.

3) Always welcome effort as a way of improvement. The harder you work, the better you can be.

3. Autonomy

The third factor is autonomy. This is where people want more control over themselves and their environments. People are afraid of uncertainties. Hence, the drive to pursue control becomes their motivation to create a more predictable result.

Have you ever heard about the 20% Time? Where it is so famous that Google applies this principle of work environment in their company? This is where Google tells their employees that they can use 20% of their time to work on anything that interests them.

There will be no rules, no limitations, and the employees can creatively come up with ideas and products that can benefit the company.

As a result, the Google News, Gmail, and Adsense were born.

If you read the book by Daniel Pink called Drive, he mentioned the idea of ROWE, results-only-work-environment.

ROWE is where the employee can work according to their own time and schedule, location-free, and there are no limitations.

Meaning, the employees can choose to go to the office or work from their home, they don’t have a fixed schedule or work task, as long as they get the results.

Study on the ROWE has shown that productivity, results and employee’s motivation boosted dramatically.

And this is why autonomy plays an important role in boosting your motivation to work.

Autonomy is the need to direct your own life and work. To get motivated, you must be able to control what you do, when to do it, how you do it, and with whom you do it.

If you want to think creatively and work with higher motivation, include the element of autonomy into your work.

When you don’t have to conform to strict workplace rules such as dress code, work hours, numerical targets, etc, you give yourself the permission to be creative and work without limitations.

5 Tips How to Get Motivated Internally

So now that you understand the 3 elements of internal motivation, what can you do to boost your intrinsic drive?

Here are some tips and ideas that you may consider.

1. Consider the “20 Percent Time”

You have already learned about this method from the above. In order to be creative and motivated with your work, you can leverage on this method to create free-restriction time to work on any project according to your own term.

However, before you engage with this 20 Percent Time method, make sure it doesn’t affect your other work tasks. If you are too busy to free up time, it is better to skip this for the time being and you can always come back to it later.

Plus, it doesn’t need to be exactly 20% of your time. It can be 10% or even just a couple of hours every week.

For instance, you can schedule 2 hours every Friday afternoon to work on other projects that may benefit your business.

This way, during those 2 hours, you will be the most creative because you are working on something that you like. And this is how you can maintain your internal motivation over the long-term.

You may want to increase the time spend for this eventually when your business becomes more stable and require less of your attention.

2. Create more Goldilocks’ Tasks

The Goldilocks’ theory states that in order to have the highest motivation, the task that you work on should be not overly difficult or overly easy, it needs to be ‘just nice’.

Imagine if you are a beginner tennis player and you play against the world’s best, do you think you will have a lot of motivation to win? Not really.

In fact, the match will turn you off because your opponent’s skill level is way above yours. You can’t even return their serve properly.

Now, how do you think your opponent will feel? Will he feel extremely motivated to play with you and enjoy the game? I doubt it seriously.

Highly likely, your opponent will feel bored because his opponent, which is you, is too easy. It is piece of cake to him.

And for both players to fully enjoy the game to the max and have the most motivation, the Goldilocks’ rule must adhere.

Meaning, the opponent, the game, or the task that you work on must be something ‘just right’ to your level.

Doing something too difficult will kill your motivation. And working on something that is too easy and has no challenge for you will kill your motivation too.

Therefore, when it comes to working on your task or setting goals, choose something that is not overly difficult and yet not too easy to achieve.

Make it a challenge so that you will be more motivated to achieve.

3. Give up controls and promote flexibility

As what you have learned about autonomy, when you are too tight up with all the rules and regulations, you cannot perform at your best.

Your motivation will go down and so with your productivity.

Hence, give up controls and promote flexibility in the way you work. If you used to work in an office environment where you need office dress code, work during office hours, and hit a certain target each day, try to let go of those rules and controls.

Of course, if you are working for someone, this approach may not be available to you as your boss may reject your request.

However, if you can prove better results when you work with flexibility, maybe your boss may consider.

And if you are working for yourself, you already have full autonomy on how you want your work to be done, by when, and how to do it.

Since you are the boss, you can choose to do it your way.

When you are not working under any limitation or restriction, you allow your creativity to run wild. And thus, your motivation will increase as well.

4. Connect with a purpose bigger than yourself

When we talk about being internally motivated, one of the biggest factors is none other than having a purpose bigger than yourself.

Like the study conducted by Adam Grant above, when the employees were told stories of how their work can positively impact and help others, they are more motivated and are willing to work harder to secure more donation pledges.

Therefore, find a purpose for why you do what you do. I mean in terms of how your work can impact people’s lives in a positive way.

When what you do create more value to others, you seem to be driven by a bigger purpose and somehow, it makes you more motivated to achieve.

As a blogger, I find this to be absolutely true.

Every time when I receive an email or a compliment from my reader, I’m feeling absolutely thrilled.

I then keep on telling myself that what I did to share this content in my blog here is a right decision and it drove me to continue to work harder to come up with even better blog posts.

If you are a blogger and you are reading this, don’t you have the same feeling too?

This is why having a purpose bigger than ourselves is so crucial.

So ask yourself, what purpose does your business or your work serve? How can you positively impact others and how can you help to make the world a better place?

5. Operate from your internal satisfaction

Finally, you should operate from your internal satisfaction. What this means is that you should do things according to your inner desire.

When you are working, try to consider these factors:

  • Passion
  • Curiosity
  • Pride and recognition
  • Fun and excitement
  • Achievement
  • The drive to lead

These are just some of the factors that can influence your internal motivation. It also explains why some people are more motivated than others.

For example, people who love to play golf are willing to wake up early and drive for hours just to play a golf game.

And people who don’t love golf will never understand why these people are willing to sacrifice so much just for the game.

Some people want to be a leader and they want to lead. They are willing to work hard and sacrifice their leisure time to be a leader in their team or organization.

At the same time, there will be people who are motivated because they enjoy the work so much that they look at it as something fun.

Knowing these internal values that drive you is good because you can then craft your work or plan your business around these values.


Motivation may not last forever, and this is why we must understand how it works internally so that we can leverage and command our drives from within.

When you discover what truly motivates you internally, you become a stronger person because you know what works best for you.

Remember the 3 elements of internal motivation:

  1. Purpose,
  2. Mastery, and
  3. Autonomy.

And use the 5 tips mentioned above to grow your motivation to achieve your goals and live your dreams.

So do you think you are internally motivated? Let me know in the comment section below.

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