Posts tagged ‘extrinsic rewards’

February 2, 2012

Summary of Main Points


In this blog, we have reviewed some Psychological concepts important to the discussion of what we can personally control and what factors we can only influence.


In “The First Step” we discussed that you will experience more success in attaining your live goals if you take full responsibility for where you are in your life. This concept is supported by research in Intrinsic Locus of Control that people who feel that the have the ability to control their lives tend to be happier.


When discussing locus of control, we also stated that there are some elements of life that we cannot control such as the economy or weather and for these factors we should adopt an external locus of control. Although there are elements of life that we cannot control, we are in control on how we choose to respond to these situations. In the blog post E+R=O we discussed that our chosen response to a given situation has a direct impact on the overall outcome.


If “The First Step” is accepting full responsibility for your life, the second step should be “Find your Passion”. The research suggests that for situations that require problem solving and creativity, people do better when they are intrinsically motivated.


If we have identified some life goals that are challenging for us, we may benefit from extrinsic rewards to help get us motivated.


Once we have reflected on our passions and considered what activities help us “go with the flow”, it is beneficial to reflect on our belief systems. In the blog post “Icebergs Ahead” we discussed that many of our beliefs are unconscious, yet still have a significant impact on our internal dialogue. In “Identity” we discussed that what we typically think of as ourselves is the voice in our head. Once we realize that a “me is a story I tell myself”, we can start to evaluate which recurring thoughts are serving us and which thoughts bring us down. In Judgment – Part 2 we discussed that there is a difference between the processes of evaluation (“does this serve my interests”) versus devaluation (finding something or someone to be “inferior” to us). In reviewing our beliefs, it is valuable to evaluate if a belief serves us and to “root out” beliefs that devalue our selves or the humanity of others.  Similarly, in “Appreciation” we discussed that it is helpful to review our beliefs to see if we are appreciating the world around us as well as our own value.


In future blogs, we will be exploring emotions in more depth and considerations for turning around our emotional perspective.


For the topic of actions, we reviewed how to set goals.


In future blogs, we will explore some pragmatic action plans in the areas of weight loss as well as finances.


So far, this blog has been posted daily. To ensure quality of writing and to tackle topics in greater detail, I have decided to start posting weekly. If you prefer the daily posts please let me know.


If you have any feedback about the content so far, please feel free to contact me at


Thank you for your time and attention!


Andrew Gilbert

January 28, 2012

Sometimes you need extrinsic rewards

The other day I heard a great podcast on NPR’s Planet Money

In summary, the farmers in the town of Xiaogang were forced by the communist party to farm in a collective. They did not own the land and were required to work on a schedule dictated to them by the communist party. The government would take all the food that the collective grew and then share it with each family. There was no extrinsic reward for working harder or for growing more food. No matter how well the farmers did, they always received the same amount from the government. The amount of food that they received was insufficient in feeding their families.

“In Xiaogang there was never enough food, and the farmers often had to go to other villages to beg. Their children were going hungry.”

To solve this problem, the villagers agreed to split up the land into family plots. If a family worked hard and grew lots of food, that family could keep some of the food. Now, these families had the promise of an extrinsic reward for their efforts. Before the agreement, families would only start working when the whistle blew to start their work day. After the agreement, many families went out before dawn.

“At the end of the season, they had an enormous harvest: more, Yen Hongchang says, than in the previous five years combined.”

There can be great power to be rewarded for your efforts. There is also power to know that the harder you work, the more you will be rewarded for your efforts. If one of your goals is to earn enough to support your family, sometimes intrinsic motivation is not enough.

May you be rewarded for all of your efforts!

January 28, 2012

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!


January 24, 2012

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Yesterday we discussed internal and external locus of control. In summary, it was suggested that it is best to own what we can control such as our actions, beliefs, thoughts, feelings and our reactions to what we cannot control. We also discussed that there are some circumstances where we need to “give it up to fate” such as circumstances we can’t control such as the weather, the stock market and people driving recklessly.

Another related topic is that of  “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from within such as doing things we love or have an interest in. Extrinsic motivation comes from the outside environment such as getting paid to do a job we are not that excited about or by the fear of being yelled at by our boss for coming in to work late.

Most often we experience intrinsic motivation when performing those things we choose to do on our spare time. As a surfer, I am intrinsically motivated to get up a dawn and drive to the beach before the wind textures the surf. As a runner, my wife gets up early every day to ensure that she gets her run in.

The most common experience of extrinsic motivation is that of working for a paycheck. If you do not intrinsically love what you do, then the only way that you are going to drag yourself to work is for the promise of tangible reimbursement.

Tomorrow we will discuss the benefits of intrinsic motivation.