This week I have been thinking about intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation.  Why are we motivated the way we are motivated?

Let me provide you with a little illustration that has prompted my thoughts.  I teach a brother and sister back-to-back.  The boy is 9 and the girl is 6.  They are both bright kids and pick up on the new concepts pretty quickly.  This past week in each of their lessons, they said something that struck me.  The girl had her lesson first and about halfway through her lesson, she looked at me and said, “In a few months, when I can play the piano real good, I am going to be in some competitions.”  I was floored.  This was the girl’s fifth lesson and she is already wanting more from herself, her lessons, and the music.  This is fabulous.  I told her that we could work on getting her into some festivals this year but she would have to agree to practice and work.  She readily agreed.  This makes me, as a piano teacher, really happy.  Then, her brother came to his lesson.  At the end of his lesson, he says to me, “If I practice everything that I am supposed to, master these pieces and do all my theory, what do I get?”  Well B., you get the feeling of satisfaction for having done it and I will give you more pieces to learn.

This week I have been looking at the different projects I am working on and asking myself where my motivation is coming from.  Am I motivated because I want the financial reward that may come or am I motivated because I feel that what I am doing is important and I think it is interesting?  I tend to do more things with more enthusiasm when I like the work or because I feel that it matters.

Intrinsic motivation is having the “desire to do things because they matter, because we like it, because they’re interesting, because they are part of something important.” (Dan Pink)  Studies have shown that extrinsic motivation, getting physical rewards for a task, creates more of a negative result than intrinsic motivation.  That makes sense, right?  People are more apt to adopt a behavior or to willingly perform a task when they want to do that specific task.

Where is your motivation?  How do you motivate your students/children?  Give me ideas.

3 thoughts on “Motivation

  1. Hello,
    It’s very interesting that you mention intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation. I find some of my piano students develop or have that intrinsic motivation. Many however, need some extrinsic motivation, to help them become self motivated. So i find myself constantly looking for ideas to help them do this, in an interesting and positive way. I’ve already blogged a couple of ideas, but will be posting a blog in the next couple of weeks titled : Rewards that matter to a child

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