Lasting Motivation

Motivation is the driving force behind everything that we do, whether it is taking out the trash, or making a world-changing discovery. Motivation impacts how we approach tasks and ultimately, what we achieve from them. Not all motivation is created equal though, and there are key differences between the two primary types of motivation: External, and Internal. 

While an external motivation like money or recognition can provide useful initial sparks of motivation, they are not sustainable ways of maintaining high performance. Internal motivation is what truly pushes people, and a strong internal motivation is found in nearly every success story. 

Motivation Matters

Having the right motivation will often be what sets the winners apart from the losers. It is the fuel that will determine how willing you are to stay up late working, and how much pain you are willing to endure to get what needs doing, done. 

The strongest form of motivation is actually engrained in our DNA, within our drive to survive. 

Luckily though, we don't need to put ourselves in a life or death scenario to get something done. 

All we need to do in order to convince ourselves to do something, is to believe that what we are doing is far more valuable than the price (time & discomfort) will be. 

Logically we can usually figure out what we need to do, and we can weigh out the pros and cons in our heads, but knowing what the most logical thing to do, and doing it, are two very different things. 

We are not purely logical creatures. 

We are usually motivated by emotion, whether it's a positive emotion that we desire to feel, or a negative emotion that we want to avoid feeling. 

When someone turns their shower cold, their positive motivation (pride, wakefulness, strength) for turning their shower cold must have outweighed the aversion/fear of the discomfort that it would bring. 

Without any motivation to do anything, nothing would ever get done.

External Motivation

External motivation any reward or circumstance that occurs outside of yourself. It can be a physical item like money or presents, that someone gives you. It can also come in the form of some sort of recognition, like a grade, or a medal. As long as it comes from someone else, it is external. 

When you do something for an external motivation, you are seeking some sort of dessert. “If I do X, I will get Y." or “eat your vegetables, then you can have dessert" . 

There is nothing inherently wrong with being motivated by externals, but it becomes hard to take on challenges, without the promise of a reward for when you finish it. You become accustomed to doing things for the destination, not the journey. 

This means that when there is something that does not have a reward, like helping a stranger or picking up a piece of trash on the road, you will struggle finding reasons to do it. The fact that it is the right thing to do - the internal motivation in this instance being your morals - does not change your mind, because you see no reward. 

Internal Motivation 

Internal motivation is exactly what it sounds like. Motivation that comes from within yourself. 

Internal motivation does not rely on anyone else's recognition or approval, it does not rely on getting paid or rewarded. Internal motivation comes from the standards you set for yourself and from your own values and morals. 

Whenever you do something because you think it is the right thing to do, that is internal motivation. 

Whenever you do something because you simply want to do it, and no one told you to, that's internal motivation. 

Whenever you take on challenges, push yourself, or try to improve personally, you are motivated internally by the desire to feel proud of yourself, to feel satisfied with your decisions and actions, or to become the best you that you can be.

Internal Motivation comes from a unique sense of purpose.

A voice in your head calling you to be more.

Intrinsic Keys


Unlocking the power of intrinsic motivation begins with a fundamental element: autonomy. Autonomy is your ability to have a say in what you do and how you do it. It's the freedom to choose your path, make decisions, and shape your work according to your unique vision.

 This sense of control allows you to take more pride in your work, because your are not simply following a list of steps from their boss, instead using your unique creativity to accomplish the goal.  Autonomy grants you the freedom to determine how to achieve your goals, fostering a sense of ownership and personal investment in your endeavors. With autonomy, you will likely also work harder & more effectively, because you want to use your control, to make it the best that it can be.

Choice breeds motivation. 


Curiosity is the best thing that ever happened to humans. 

Curiosity is the reason every scientific discovery has been made. 

Curiosity is the reason every adventure has been embarked upon, and it is the reason that anyone ever leaves their comfort zone, in search of something new. 

Curiosity is one of the most profound motivators, because it is simply a drive to KNOW. 

To know if something is possible. 

To know how something works. 

To know more about…. anything. 

Allowing yourself to be curious, and to let that curiosity guide you down rabbit holes is what truly allows you to enjoy whatever work you are doing. Curiosity is fun, and it is wonderfully mysterious, if you can use it to your advantage, you will go much farther than the person simply ticking items from a to-do list. 

When you have the freedom to choose your path (autonomy) and the desire to explore and understand (curiosity), you lay the foundation for mastery. This combination transforms your work from a series of tasks into a journey of discovery. You're not just checking items off a to-do list; you're actively engaged in a quest to uncover new insights and capabilities.

Start a project 

If you want to find out what excites you, you are not going to figure it out with a pad and a pen, you have to get into the real world. This is why I recommend everyone have a project.

A project gives you an outlet for your curiosities. A project allows you to pick something that interests you, and go down rabbit holes, while you gain the knowledge and skills to build something meaningful from them.

 A project can be small, like learning to play a single song on the guitar. A project can be big, like writing a book, or a screenplay. A project can be public, or you can choose to never tell a soul about it. It can be whatever you want, over whatever timescale you want.

It just has to be meaningful to you. 

A project is not supposed to be a full-time job (although it may transform into one), it is simply a way to narrow your focus into something manageable, something tangible, so that you can learn while bringing something from idea to reality. 

A project is the perfect place for your internal motivation to flourish because no one told you to take it on. There are no consequences if it fails, and you are the only one responsible for its success. You get to take ownership, and you can’t blame anyone else, because it is all on you. 

Anything can be a project, as long as it is something you do not entirely know how to do, and brings an idea, or vision you have, into reality. 

Framing projects as quests

Framing a personal project as a challenge you set for yourself is a great way to make it fun. The treasure at the end of the quest is the success of the project. 

The challenges and obstacles along the way are what make the story interesting. 

You can lay out checkpoints and mini-goals for you to hit that make it easier to see or feel your progress as you go about your journey. 

Most importantly though, a project gives you a vision for what you are working on, and if you picked a good project, this vision should excite you. 

Your project should not be easy, if it were easy anyone would do it. There needs to be challenges, things you didn’t see coming that you need to overcome. This is how you learn. This is how you grow. 

Starting a project is easy, but bringing it over the finish line, that’s tough shit. That is what really shows what you’re worth.  In the long term, doing this over and over again, with different projects in different fields and curiosities, you will learn a great deal about who you are. You will learn what excites you, you will learn the strength that you hold in pushing through difficulty, and you will begin to uncover the path that YOU want to take in life. 

Not the path the world wanted you to take first. 

This does not mean you should avoid all external motivation entirely, just be cautious about committing to something where the only motivation is external. If something is unavoidable, then do your best to enjoy it, or at least learn something from it. 

I should note that the difference between external and internal motivation is not black & white, there is a fair bit of gray area. All I recommend, is making sure that you have some internal motivation in whatever you do, simply to increase your own enjoyment. 

If you are already working on a project, there is no harm in building to a point where you can make external rewards from it either. Such as turning your hobby into a one-person business.

Find your project 

If you are unsure what to do for your project there are a couple of questions you can ask yourself that might help. 

Simply the act of thinking through all of these questions and writing down their answers may give you the spark of inspiration to find the right project for you. If it doesn't ask ChatGPT to help you brainstorm ;)

Parting thoughts

If you feel bored in life, like you are meeting your responsibilities, but wasting the rest of your time and potential, starting a project is the best way to upgrade your life! 

A project allows you to build internal motivation, because you are the only person holding you accountable. A project gives you a place to build something of value, whether or not anyone sees it. It is a chance to build knowledge and skills and experience that you can put on a resume. It helps inform what interests you, and what work you find more meaningful than others. It gets the ball rolling for progress in your life, giving you momentum, which when paired with a strong internal motivation, will only increase. 

The more projects you take on, the clearer that your path in life will become, and the easier it will be to improve along that path, because your project provides to with a tangible lever that you can move, to see results of your improvement.