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WRITE TEAM: Find your inner motivation

Lee Ann Raikes
Lee Ann Raikes

What’s in it for me? How do I benefit? Why should I? These are questions I hear from children and adults alike at least once a day. 
I understand as individuals we are all wired differently; however, why can’t we as humans act because it is the right thing to do? Why does there always have to be some incentive in order for us to tackle daily situations? As a person going on the second half of my life, I can tell you there are times you will need to motivate yourself in order to make your day better, yourself better and make the world better. There comes a time we need to be intrinsically motivated and quit relying on extrinsic motivators to get through the adventures of life.

What is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation? Intrinsic motivation comes from within. For example, I am motivated to write because I find joy in the hope I am connecting with others and/or being a voice for those who have none. I am not getting paid to write, but I find a personal satisfaction in a well-written piece. However, you could say I am extrinsically motivated by the reactions to my writing. Extrinsic motivation comes in the form of some reward in order to avoid a punishment or in order to gain something if a task is completed. For instance, if a child can remain on task for 20 minutes, he or she will get 10 minutes free time at the end of the day. When does one become only motivated by external rewards? Are those rewards truly self-satisfying? Obviously, when we work we are rewarded by our paychecks as well as a sense of accomplishment for a job well done. Nevertheless, after awhile extrinsic rewards can become ineffective.

As a parent and an educator, I find it very important to focus on intrinsic motivation. Hold the door for someone just because. Shovel the driveway for your neighbor not for a fee, but for the joy it brings. Complete your assignment on time and without argument or need of reward because it was given to enhance your skills and better prepare you for your world, not to fill time or the gradebook. We need to stress that rewards should not be given for basically doing what is expected of us. Then, when we receive rewards they are more meaningful.

Being a sponsor of Teens-N-Teamwork, a junior high club that focuses on building self-esteem through volunteer opportunities, living a healthy, drug-free lifestyle, and making the community better, I stress the importance of doing things for nothing in return. The self-satisfaction and growth as a human being in doing so is a feeling like no other. Like most junior high students, I don’t think they understood this until they put it into practice. As a group, we made blankets to be given to some residents at Rivershores. The day the students delivered the blankets was the day they finally understood the joy I had been talking about. They felt a sense of pride, compassion, empathy, and a stir of emotions as they witnessed the pure thankfulness and gratitude felt for such a small act of kindness. There was no external reward given, but the payoff was something much bigger.

Just think of the transformation that could occur within oneself and the world if the questions asked were, How can I help? What can I do to make a difference? I understand that not all extrinsic motivation is bad, but if individuals will only act if something is in it for them and there is a reward involved, we will continue to develop a cut throat society. I pray we can find a balance and do the right thing because it’s the right thing.
  • LEE ANN RAIKES is a kid trapped in an adult body, living life out loud, while never giving up hope for peace in the world. She can be reached by emailing

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