I’ve always considered myself “self-motivated”, but in January I’ve begun to make the distinction between internally motivated and externally motivated. And although I sometimes am the former, I am MOSTLY the latter.
I still consider myself gigantically self-motivated because I’ve mastered the creation of externally-motivating circumstances. Committing to a project, signing up for a seminar, promising a deadline—becoming aware that something must be done and I must do it, or that someone really needs me. If I want something done and I’m not feeling a surge, I create the situation that “makes” me do it.
My internal motivation, on the other hand, is largely centered around the occasional sprint of excitement. These seem to be less under my control, and they come with big realizations and sudden passionate dedications that supercede less important items on my tasklist. They tend to pull me along of their own volition. In fact, I’d say THEY are in charge—not me. (Most of my website redesigns, and Marty’s, have been like this. The biggest examples so far: Seth’s Alternative MBA. The Tribes Q&A.)
[Last minute note: Saying that my internally motivated projects are in charge—not me—is an incredibly strange way to further blur the line between internal motivation and external motivation. I don’t quite know what to make of it, so I’m going to leave it for you to work out!]
There’s no doubt that internal motivation, for me, is more enjoyable (and more effective!) than external motivation. External motivation, however, is far easier to come by. I’ve also gotten extremely good at manipulating it over the last ten years.
If my internal motivation tends to fail me, and I can actually accomplish things by harnessing (read: trapping myself into) some good external motivation… I say, well, at least it works. Do things, by god! But what if I want to switch? What if I’m tired of having to trick myself into doing great things, and I just want to do them on my own steam?
Are there key differences between internally motivated people and externally motivated people, other than the fact that they are one or the other?
Which one are you?