Extrinsic Rewards

Over the last week, we have highlighted the benefits of intrinsic motivation. In short, when we are doing what we love or willingly choose to do, we do not spend extraneous energy resisting the task at hand.


However, there are very few people who are intrinsically motivated to perform all their life tasks or responsibilities. In these instances, we rely on extrinsic rewards to keep us motivated to encourage us to complete these required tasks.


The most common extrinsic reward that we may experience is that of a paycheck. Even those who experience a lot of intrinsic motivation or satisfaction in our work still appreciate the benefit of being paid. Another common extrinsic reward is praise. Again, even if we love doing a task, praise is almost always appreciated.


Extrinsic reinforcement is valuable since it can be used as a tool to shape habits that will lead to personal success. For example, if you do not intrinsically enjoy eating healthy foods, counting calories or exercising on a daily basis, you would need the extrinsic rewards to reinforce goals related to weight loss. The extrinsic rewards may be a tangible reward that you promise yourself such as “when I reach my target weight of ___, I will treat myself to a $200 shopping spree”. Other possible extrinsic reward for this situation would be the attention that you would get from friends and family when you attain your goal. In some writings on the topic of extrinsic rewards, the act of achieving your goal can be described as an extrinsic reward.


“A Tale of Two Homeworks”

I have two sons with very different homework needs. My eldest son loves learning and excited to study new things.  He internally motivated to get his homework folder on a daily basis. Even though he is mostly internally motivated, he still requires some prompting of extrinsic rewards such as making sure that he homework is complete, accurate and handed in on time to earn the privilege of an “E” marking.


My youngest son is intrinsically motivated to play “Angry Birds” and to play with his “Hot wheel cars”. However, our society values reading, writing and math skills over playing video games and running a car down orange tracks. Therefore, extrinsic rewards are very helpful in facilitating the homework process. By allowing my youngest son to choose his extrinsic reward, he will complete his homework. Without the intrinsic reward, he would avoid the entire task.


“Task completion”

Sometimes, completion of tasks can be an extrinsic reward. I do not intrinsically relish taking out the trash, sweeping the floor, folding the laundry or emptying the dishwasher. However, I am motivated of the intrinsic reward of having these tasks completed.


“Tools to use”

Since we are typically not intrinsically motivated to do everything that we are required in our lives, it is helpful to reward ourselves for these life events.

–       Set up a reward schedule when adopting a new habit (such as counting calories on a daily basis)

–       Give yourself a big reward (such as a shopping spree or a fun activity with your friends) when you have performed the new habit for 22 days consistently

–       Praise yourself regularly for each time you have completed a required task that leads to your goals

–       Set up achievable short-term goals that you can celebrate.

–       For tasks that you seem to regularly procrastinate, set a time goal and reward yourself for getting it down (for me, finishing a report to earn a cup of coffee works)


There are many other ways that you can reward yourself. If you feel that you have any excellent ideas, please leave your ideas in the comments section.


Celebrate and reward yourself!





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