Motivation is the experience of wanting something,   or wanting to avoid it. When we study 
how we get motivated to learn, develop,   and succeed, we can identify two contrary 
forces: extrinsic and intrinsic ones On the one hand, we want to belong, desire to 
be loved and seek to get the attention we think   we deserve. We are motivated extrinsically 
by rewards, in order to progress socially.

On the other hand, we strive to explore 
things that are satisfying in themselves,   disregarding rewards. We 
are motivated intrinsically,   by a natural curiosity which we follow because it 
feels right. The opinions of others don’t matter. To understand why we probably 
need a good mix of both,   let's imagine two four year-old children. Both 
grow up in families that want only the best   for their kids but have completely opposing 
views on how to motivate them to succeed. Tom's parents believe that 
all their boy needs is love.   To not undermine his intrinsic interests, they 
never praise him, or use rewards.

Eventually   they decide to not give him any feedback at 
all, fearing it could corrupt his free mind. Over the years Tom develops an 
immense capacity to imagine,   spending most of his time playing by himself. 
By being allowed to follow his passions,   he learns what he likes and what he doesn’t. 
But Tom doesn’t learn what others expect and   gets easily irritated when he’s asked 
to do something in a particular way. Mira’s parents believe that their 
precious little girl needs clear   rules about what's good and what's not. 
They see it as their duty to help Mira   learn by providing precise and actionable 
feedback on all aspects of her young life.  Mira spends her days in preschool, music 
and ballet lessons. Over the years she gets   exceptionally good at the things that please 
the adults around her. However, since there   is neither time to play nor to relax, she doesn’t 
discover her own interests. Being alone bores her. At 14, Tom is independent and begins writing 
science fiction. He realises that he isn’t   quite like his friends and spends most of his 
time at the library.

When he shares his writing,   others can’t quite relate. At the same age, Mira 
is at the top of her class and has plenty of   friends and admirers. She knows what is expected 
of her and makes sure to meet those expectations.   Sometimes the pressure becomes 
unbearable, although that’s her secret. By the day he turns 21, Tom has a unique 
perspective of the world. He is intelligent,   but doesn't like to work for money and hence is 
often broke. He hates the idea of conforming to   conventional norms and is annoyed if someone 
interferes with his creative expression.

At this point Tom knows alot about himself 
but doesn’t connect well with others.   To him, people seem to follow rules 
without questioning them— just like sheep.   Integrating into the society is difficult at 
this point and he begins to search for utopia. Mira makes it into a top medical school where she 
realizes, she’ll never be top of the class again.   Once that place seems out of reach, 
her motivation drops and she wonders   if medicine actually interests 
her. Since quitting is no option,   she takes up a second major and 
runs for student council president.

Soon Mira will know everything about what 
others expect, but nothing about what she   likes for herself. All her life she has just 
listened – driven by external feedback loops.   At this point she's also lost the ability to 
question the norms of the society she grew up in. Listening to our heart can tell us who we 
are, but not how to be happy among others.   Listening to others can motivate us to be 
a part of their world, but doesn't teach   us if that world is ours. This is why it’s 
probably good for the two to go together.   Then we can learn what we want, and 
get the feedback that we need in   order to stay motivated to explore 
new roads into a better society.

A large body of research shows that balancing 
the two forces is not straightforward. One   meta-analysis of 128 studies examined the effects 
of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation.   While most rewards significantly 
undermined our intrinsic interest,   positive feedback — which is an extrinsic 
motivator — inspires us to keep going. Put simply, honest words of 
encouragement get us going,   while money or gifts undermine our inner drive. What about you? Do you listen to your 
heart or to the voices of society?   And from your personal experience, which 
of the two eventually takes your decision?   Share your thoughts and check the 
description to dive deeper into the topic.

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