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Drawbacks of Extrinsic Motivation

Long-term motivation is crucial for fighting procrastination and for having happier and more fulfilling lives in general.

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In this video, I'm going to focus on some important ideas that science knows about our motivation. Long-term motivation is crucial for fighting procrastination and for having happier and more fulfilling lives in general. Basically, there are two types of motivation - extrinsic one and intrinsic one.

Extrinsic motivation is about external incentives, about carrots and sticks. If we are under the influence of extrinsic motivation, we do something that we have to do, but we don't want to do it willingly. An extensive meta-analysis of more than 100 studies shows us that this kind of motivation has many drawbacks and can backfire easily.

Under pressure, we are less happy, our levels of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine in the brain decreases. And this results in weaker cognitive skills, skills like creativity, memory, and learning. Our brain just doesn't work well under pressure.

That's why extrinsic motivation only works well with manual activities. If I offer you $10 for every hammered nail and I give you one minute to do it, you can force yourself to do it very quickly. But you cannot force your thinking and creativity in this way. External pressure and a stress hormone cortisol suppresses our higher brain functions.

This is very counter-intuitive. More pressure can lead to more procrastination. If you push someone to do something, you can undermine his productivity in the long term.

So, what works better than the extrinsic motivation?

It is something called the intrinsic motivation. The main ingredient of intrinsic motivation is autonomy - to take full responsibility for our own lives. Sometimes we say, that there are two of the most important days in our lives. The day we were born and the day that we found why. That's the moment when we take full charge of our future and our life's destiny.


If you are more interested in what science knows about motivation, the first third of our book The End of Procrastination is all about this topic.

The book for people who are
serious about getting more done

The End of Procrastination, written by Petr Ludwig & Adela Schicker is dedicated to improving your long-term motivation and helping you get the most out of your life.

  • Over 100,000 copies sold worldwide
  • Practical tools for immediate use
  • 100+ pictures to illustrate concepts
  • Based on over 120 scientific studies

Simple, science-based tools to stop procrastination

Based on the latest research, The End of Procrastination synthesizes over one hundred scientific studies to create a program that is based on the way our brains actually work.