We all have encountered a lack of motivation. Maybe you have an impending deadline but you can’t peel your eyes off facebook. Or perhaps you have to finish a project, but you can’t find the motivation so you clean your entire house instead, anything to do what you have to. The key to focusing on these projects that you have to accomplish is finding the motivation to complete them. The two kinds of motivation are internal and instrumental. For example, if you want to write a research paper because you are really interested in discovering the facts and putting them together in a new way, that is internal motivation. However, if you want to write a research paper to get a wonderful grade and therefore a prize for the rest research in the University, which comes with acclaim and attention, then the motivator is instrumental.
Usually, your motivation for completing something is a combination of both internal and instrumental motivation. The question is, how do you get the perfect combination of these two motivators so that you are most likely to complete the project, assignment, or task that you have to do? A new paper published in the Proceedings of the Nation Academy of Sciences looks into the secret behind the perfect motivators. They concluded that instrumental motives are actually not very helpful for productivity and that internal motives are much stronger. The study for the paper used 11,320 cadets in nine different classes entering the Military Academy at West Point. They looked into why these cadets wanted to go to West Point, in other words what their motivation was. The questions included instrumental motivation answers like “I want to get a better job later in life” as well as internal motivation answers, for example “I want to be trained as a leader in the U.S. Army.” After a few years, the cadets who entered the program for internal motivation reasons were much more successful than those who entered with instrumental motivation. Those who were internally motivated had a much higher rate of graduation and included more commissioned officers. The bottom line is that internal motivation is the most compelling so be sure to check in with yourself about your own motivations before diving into a large project.