What is intrinsic motivation and how is it influenced by desire?

July 5, 2023

Intrinsic motivation refers to the internal drive or desire that compels individuals to engage in certain activities or pursuits, driven by personal enjoyment, interest, or the satisfaction they derive from the task itself. It is characterized by a genuine passion and curiosity, rather than being driven by external factors such as rewards or punishments. This type of motivation is influenced by desire, which plays a crucial role in shaping and fueling intrinsic motivation. Desire functions as the catalyst for individuals to seek out and immerse themselves in activities that they find personally meaningful, satisfying, and fulfilling. The extent of one’s desire for a particular task or goal directly affects the level of intrinsic motivation experienced, ultimately impacting the individual’s commitment, effort, and overall enjoyment in pursuing the task at hand. Understanding the interplay between intrinsic motivation and desire is vital in recognizing how individuals can harness and enhance their own internal drive to achieve their goals and find fulfillment in their chosen endeavors.

Understanding Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation refers to the internal drive or desire to engage in an activity for its own sake, rather than for any external rewards or incentives. It is an innate motivation that comes from within, pushing individuals to pursue activities simply because they find them enjoyable, interesting, or personally satisfying. Unlike extrinsic motivation, which is driven by external factors such as rewards, praise, or avoiding punishment, intrinsic motivation is fueled by an individual’s genuine interest and passion for the task at hand.

The Three Basic Psychological Needs

According to self-determination theory, there are three fundamental psychological needs that play a crucial role in fostering intrinsic motivation: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. When these needs are satisfied, individuals are more likely to experience intrinsic motivation and engage in activities willingly and enthusiastically.

  1. Autonomy: Autonomy refers to the sense of control and freedom that individuals have over their choices and actions. When people feel autonomous, they perceive themselves as having the power to make decisions and pursue activities that align with their values, interests, and goals. This sense of autonomy fosters intrinsic motivation by allowing individuals to feel a sense of ownership and personal investment in their endeavors.

  2. Competence: Competence refers to the belief in one’s ability to effectively perform a task or achieve desired outcomes. When individuals feel competent, they experience a sense of mastery and accomplishment, which fuels their intrinsic motivation. This belief in their own capabilities drives them to seek out challenges, learn new skills, and continuously improve their performance.

  3. Relatedness: Relatedness refers to the need for connection, belonging, and positive relationships with others. When individuals feel a sense of relatedness, they experience social support, acceptance, and a sense of being understood and valued. This need is essential for intrinsic motivation as it creates an environment where individuals feel safe, supported, and encouraged to pursue their interests and passions.

The Role of Desire in Intrinsic Motivation

While intrinsic motivation is driven by inherent interest and enjoyment, desire plays a significant role in shaping and influencing this motivational state. Desire can be defined as a strong feeling of wanting or craving for something. It acts as a catalyst for intrinsic motivation, igniting the initial spark that propels individuals to engage in certain activities.

The Influence of Desire on Intrinsic Motivation

Desire can influence intrinsic motivation in several ways, including:

  1. Stimulating Curiosity: Desire fuels curiosity, prompting individuals to explore and seek out new experiences. When individuals are curious about a particular topic or activity, their intrinsic motivation is sparked, driving them to delve deeper, learn more, and engage in meaningful exploration.

  2. Enhancing Enjoyment: Desire intensifies the pleasure and enjoyment derived from engaging in an activity. When individuals have a strong desire to participate in a specific task, they tend to experience heightened levels of satisfaction and fulfillment when they actually engage in it. This increased enjoyment further reinforces their intrinsic motivation and encourages them to continue pursuing the activity.

  3. Sustaining Effort and Persistence: Desire acts as a driving force that helps individuals maintain effort and perseverance in the face of challenges and setbacks. When individuals possess a strong desire to achieve a particular goal or outcome, they are more likely to persist through difficulties, setbacks, and obstacles. This sustained effort is crucial for maintaining intrinsic motivation and ultimately achieving success.

  4. Shaping Goals and Priorities: Desire plays a role in shaping individuals’ goals and priorities. When individuals have a strong desire for a specific outcome, they are more likely to set goals aligned with that desire and prioritize activities that contribute to its attainment. This goal-directed behavior fuels intrinsic motivation and provides individuals with a sense of purpose and direction.

In conclusion, intrinsic motivation is driven by an innate desire to engage in activities for their own sake. While intrinsic motivation is fueled by internal factors such as personal interest and enjoyment, desire acts as a catalyst, stimulating curiosity, enhancing enjoyment, sustaining effort, and shaping goals. By understanding the interplay between intrinsic motivation and desire, individuals can harness their internal drive and cultivate a mindset that promotes personal growth, achievement, and fulfillment.


What is intrinsic motivation?

Intrinsic motivation refers to the innate drive and desire that arises from one’s personal interest, enjoyment, or satisfaction in performing a task or engaging in an activity. When individuals are intrinsically motivated, they are internally driven to seek out and engage in activities solely for the inherent rewards and pleasure they derive from them, rather than for external rewards or incentives.

How is intrinsic motivation influenced by desire?

Desire plays a crucial role in influencing intrinsic motivation. The strength and intensity of an individual’s desire for a particular activity or goal can significantly impact their level of intrinsic motivation toward it. When individuals have a deep and passionate desire for an activity, their intrinsic motivation tends to be higher. This desire serves as a powerful motivator, fueling their enthusiasm, persistence, and dedication towards achieving their goals or engaging in the activity.

Can intrinsic motivation be influenced by external factors?

Although intrinsic motivation is primarily driven by internal factors, it can still be influenced by external factors to some extent. These external influences can either enhance or undermine an individual’s intrinsic motivation. For example, positive feedback, praise, or recognition for their efforts can reinforce and increase intrinsic motivation. On the other hand, excessive external controls, rewards, or punishments can diminish intrinsic motivation by shifting the focus from internal enjoyment to external outcomes.

How can individuals enhance their intrinsic motivation?

Individuals can enhance their intrinsic motivation in several ways. Firstly, finding activities or goals that align with their interests, passions, and values can significantly boost intrinsic motivation. By pursuing activities they genuinely enjoy or find meaningful, individuals are more likely to experience a higher level of intrinsic motivation. Additionally, setting clear and challenging goals, as well as breaking them down into manageable tasks, can increase intrinsic motivation by providing a sense of purpose and progress. Finally, cultivating a supportive and autonomy-supportive environment that encourages autonomy, competence, and relatedness can enhance intrinsic motivation by satisfying individuals’ psychological needs.

Are there any downsides to relying solely on intrinsic motivation?

While intrinsic motivation is generally considered beneficial, relying solely on it may have some downsides. One potential drawback is the variability of intrinsic motivation over time. It can fluctuate and diminish if individuals face challenging obstacles, experience failure, or encounter prolonged periods of disinterest or burnout. Moreover, intrinsic motivation may not always be sufficient to sustain long-term commitment or productivity, especially when tasks become repetitive, tedious, or lack immediate gratification. Hence, a balanced approach that combines intrinsic motivation with extrinsic motivation or rewards may be more effective in maintaining consistent engagement and performance in certain situations.

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