top of page

Your Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation


In the article, Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions, Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci analyze the types of motivation that encourage us to move. Running to meet a time and running to feel good are different reasons to lace up your shoes. Ryan and Deci suggest we need a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors to pursue an activity.

Why do you go to the gym, the running trails, your at-home workout space, or the swimming pool? The summer is almost over. So begin to think about your motives to exercise that can sustain you during winter.

Creating intrinsic motivation to encourage yourself after the pressure leaves to look good on the beach is important. By intrinsic motivation, I mean find something independent of anything or anyone outside of yourself with enough power to make you act. This discovery is hard when you spend any portion of your day on social media.

Many of the popular fitness profiles only post their best photos and videos. They know the perfect angle, use the right filter, and add enticing captions. If, indeed, the images are real, please believe they put in work all year to stay in shape during the summer.

Their regiment may include a restrictive diet and rigorous exercise schedule. Perhaps, the person has a trainer and nutritionist to select their meals and workouts. Motivation and support are critical in enabling the appearance of excellent physical health.

Don’t wait until you get an unwanted diagnosis from a medical professional before correcting undisciplined behaviors. Instead, find something today to motivate you. It does not need to hold a deep intellectual purpose for your life, but you need a meaningful reason to get off the couch and reject the cupcake.

An ideal fitness goal boosts your confidence and also possesses the potential to impact others. For example, think about taking a boot camp class with the intention of leading a session for your family and friends.

This blog’s header picture is from the marathon I ran in Ventura, California, over the summer. While I achieved my best time and finished the race twenty minutes earlier than my first marathon fifteen years ago, I did not meet my goal of less than 3 hours to secure a place for the elite Boston Marathon.

Running in the Boston Marathon is an extrinsic source of motivation for me. The good feelings I receive from pushing my physical limits during every race and in isolation are intrinsic.

Why would you ever want to run a marathon? It's one of the many ways to test the physical limits of the human body. When you run with others toward the goal of pulling every ounce of energy from your body for 26.2 miles, it feels like you are chasing death.

Yes, chasing death is morbid, but vigorous exercise reminds me of my mortality. It helps me to prioritize decisions, clear my mind for writing sessions, and contemplate what matters most in life. On more than one occasion, I’ve said that I communicate with God when I run or train capoeira with intensity.

Yup, it’s that serious for me.

Working out doesn't have to hold excessive value for you in life. Current recommendations are 40 minutes of moderate exercise on four or more days per week.

Do what you can to start or end your day with a physical activity that helps improve strength, endurance, or flexibility.

Twenty-two years ago, Ryan and Deci wrote the article for Contemporary Educational Psychology to explore the literature on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Their findings expanded their earlier work around self-determination theory to understand what causes people to act. Ryan and Deci clarified that the impossible gets a little closer to possible when we establish clear reasons for pursuing goals.

Attempting to control every aspect of our health will result in a nervous breakdown. We can do everything right for years and receive a cancer diagnosis at any moment. Regardless of unavoidable difficult circumstances, let's aim to make healthier choices for ourselves; if external rewards surface, embrace them with gratitude.

After you subscribe to this blog, buy a book, course, or coaching package, go for a 40-minute walk.


Recent Posts

See All


Dear Dr. Lindsay, Try the New York one maybe, if possible? Cool running photo. Thanks.

Replying to

Thanks for the comment, Dr. Parrish! New York sounds like another great option.

bottom of page