Compelled By Curiosity: Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivators


"Basically, I have been compelled by curiosity." - Mary Leakey, archaeologist

That is my studio's quote of the week and naturally the theme of all the lessons for this week, and to be honest most weeks! It's so inspiring to see a group of people succeed at a seemingly impossible task like LANDING ON MARS! (What?! There must be a pig with wings flying around somewhere!)

I'm reminded by this historic event and so many conversations I've had this week that our intrinsic motivators need to be the fuel that keeps the fire of music education going. Of course this happens with the help from our extrinsic motivators too.

Intrinsic Motivators

These are motivators that come from inside you. Some positive intrinsic motivators could be pride in something well done, curiosity, autonomy, a love of the instrument, building self-esteem, etc. Some negative intrinsic motivators are shame & guilt. :-/ No fun.

Extrinsic Motivators

You guessed it! External motivators are motivators that come from outside yourself. Here are a few possible positive extrinsic motivators: a promotion at work, your paycheck, spending time with someone you like, a clean house, really good food, an upcoming performance.

Negative extrinsic motivators can be real doozies: getting fired, getting grounded, losing privileges, a traffic ticket, an upcoming performance. (Notice that "an upcoming performance" made both the positive and negative extrinsic motivator lists! haha. It's true.) 

Why have both?

I can't tell you how many times I've been grateful to the extrinsic motivators in my life, positive AND negative, because they were the ones that kept me going when my intrinsic motivators weren't strong enough to do it alone.

Do yourself a favor and list out all your (or your child's) motivators. Are they out of balance? Meaning more extrinsic than intrinsic? Take note and ask yourself how you want your list to look.

Dan Pink: The Surprising Science of Motivation

Dan Pink, author of the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, did a TEDtalk on Motivation a while back. (You KNOW how much I love TEDtalks!) It's a good 18 minutes you won't regret spending. Keep in mind that he's applying this research to the world of economics and business, but it can also just as easily be applied to getting yourself (or your child) to practice their cello/instrument.