Internal motivation vs. external motivation: the need for balance

external motivation, personal growth, self improvement, self care
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Internal motivation happens when you do something because it pleases you inside. External motivation means seeking a reward outside of yourself, like money or recognition.

The college admissions scandal of 2019 showed how wrong things can go when you base your values on external rather than internal motivation.

The college admissions scandal of 2019 showed how wrong things can go when you base your values on external motivation rather than internal satisfaction. Click To Tweet

The parents in the admissions scandal wanted the prestige of a higher education for their children even if it meant committing a crime.

When you’re driven by external motivators, it’s easy to cross over into deception. When your values misalign with who you are inside, it’s easy for your moral compass to become skewed.

When you're driven by external motivators, it's easy to cross over into deception. Click To Tweet

Internal motivation, on the other hand, means doing something for the pure pleasure of it, or because it fulfills you in some way. You tune out what people might think and tune into what you desire.

While external motivation is not always bad, we need to make sure to keep it in check. Here are three ways to know when your external motivation is out of balance and what to do about it.

1. You’ve lost the joy

In our culture, money is a huge motivator. If you love something and are good at it, people assume you should seek to be paid for it.

For example, I first started blogging for the sheer pleasure of writing, researching, and learning how to develop a new platform.

Soon enough, companies started dropping into my email with requests for me to write sponsored posts. It seemed like a dream to write blog posts for money.

However, I could no longer write about what I wanted. I had to gear the content toward the advertiser.

Writing my blog for money took away the pleasure and made it into a chore. It no longer fulfilled me or gave me a creative outlet.

The external motivation removed the joy for me, so I released the sponsors and went back to blogging for myself and my reader.

The answer: when you do something for the joy and love of it, that isn’t necessarily a sign you have to make a living from it.

Internal motivation says creative fulfillment can be payment enough.

2. You’re focused on recognition

Are you setting goals based on what others will think of you? Instead of checking in with your heart’s desire, you think about how much others will admire you.

Are you setting goals based on what others will think of you? Click To Tweet

The status and recognition of achieving the goal attract you more than the personal fulfillment. If you were the only person on earth, there’s no way you’d pursue this goal.

When you’re over focused on external validation, the process of achieving a goal will soon lose its luster.

If you’re more interested in the external reward that only comes once you’ve achieved the goal, you’re more likely to give up before you arrive there.

It will be hard to maintain the stamina needed to push through all the tedious tasks that precede success.

If you’re more interested in fame than the creatve process, for example, performing in obscurity will be painful.

The answer: when you derive pleasure from the art itself, you’ll enjoy the process whether or not you become famous as a result.

3. You refuse to take risks

If you refuse to take risks due to fear of failure or how others will perceive you, that’s external motivation, too.

It’s impossible to grow when we stay inside our comfort zones. When you avoid trying something new because of how others might react, you lose the opportunity to know yourself better.

It's impossible to grow when we stay inside our comfort zones. Click To Tweet

Or you refuse to pursue something that sets your heart on fire because you’re afraid to sacrifice income for the short term. Is financial security so important you’d compromise the call of your soul?

The answer: take the risk to do what you were created to do. The short term discomfort will pay off in long-term life satisfaction and fulfillment.

Surround yourself with like-minded people who understand that a life of integrity requires a certain amount of risk.

Final thoughts

Honoring your internal motivations helps you align with your values. Rather than pursuing goals for external rewards and punishments, you’re going after what truly lights you up.

Letting go of what people think and following instead what fulfills you will improve your quality of life immeasurably. You move away from the world’s definition of success and closer to your own.

Simple living: 5 ways eating the same lunch every day will change your life

simple living meal planning
Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Eleven years ago, I started my personal journey toward minimalism and simple living. Since then, my life has changed in many ways, including how I eat.

My need for constant variety has faded since learning it’s not important for a happy and fulfilling life. Now, I prepare and cook the same meals over and over and feel healthier and less stressed.

That’s why an Atlantic article about people who eat the same meal every day intrigued me. The author interviewed employees who ate the identical lunch each day at work, sometimes for decades.

Here are five ways they found simple living through a routine diet improves well-being:

1. Streamlines decision-making

In the Atlantic article, employees gave simpler decision-making as a primary reason for their repetitive meal-planning.

Eating the same thing every day brought consistency to a chaotic work day and gave them one less thing to worry about.

Who ever decided eating had to be exciting or varied? Sure, it’s fun to go to a restaurant now and then.

But wouldn’t you love to give up the daily struggle and stress of “what will I make for lunch today?”

2. Provides comfort and security

If you have children, they tend not to get bored with the same meal as long as they like the food.

In fact, kids enjoy consistency in their meals, ie., Taco Tuesday. It gives them comfort knowing what to expect.

3. Saves time and money

The employees in the Atlantic article saw variety and excitement in meals as expensive and time-consuming.

Trying to emulate Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen makes grocery trips complicated and exhausting. Stick to simple meals with fewer ingredients.

4. Keeps you healthy

The desire for an exciting meal every day leads to unhealthy weight gain. Those interesting meals are often high in fat and calories.

Opting for a healthy, balanced diet keeps you fit, helps control your weight, and reduces stress by limiting decisions.

And making lunch rather than eating out lets you know exactly what you’re taking into your body.

5. Reveals deeper issues

Simple living through a more basic diet can uncover a general lack of fulfillment in your life.

Rather than accepting or addressing boredom at work, for instance, some employees look forward to lunch in a way that borders on obsessive.

You know, the ones who start thinking out loud about what they’ll eat at noon starting at 10:30 am. Not you, of course 🙂

Final thoughts

Simple living has a beneficial impact in all areas of life, including your diet, which enhances your personal growth and peace of mind.

When you stop looking to food to fill you up, you begin to address areas of life that need improvement. Click To Tweet

When you stop looking to food to fill you up, you begin to address areas of life that need improvement.

When you embrace a more predictable diet and meal plan, you make more time to deal with those things.

You have increased energy, more money, easier grocery store visits, better weight control, and a clearer mind.

Downsizing: 3 questions that will help you stay on track for a better life


You might not think about values when you first decide to declutter. Downsizing, after all, is a physical activity, not a mental one.

The road to minimalism started that way for me. Downsizing came as a financial decision rather than a values-based one.

I soon learned, however, that deciding what to keep and give away helped me get clear on what mattered to me.

Owning fewer things creates literal space for you to figure out who you are and what you want.

A more streamlined environment translates into better focus. And that helps you determine your values and create a life built around them.

A more streamlined environment translates into better focus. And that helps you determine your values and create a life built around them. Click To Tweet

In this way, downsizing is a lifestyle choice, not something you do once to your home and never address again.

Here are three questions to ask yourself when downsizing. These will help you align with your values and keep you intentional about living with less.

1. Does my living space reflect who I am?

When you look around do you think, “yes, this is who I am and I’m proud to call this my space”?

Or, are you like my friend whose home is scattered with ceramic pigs she never wanted or asked for?

When you’re sitting in your living area, do you look around and breathe easy? Do your things serve a purpose or do you wonder why you bought them?

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

William Morris

One mind trick we play on ourselves is the sunk cost fallacy. You think since you paid for something you’re obligated to keep it.

But the mental cost of holding on to things that misalign with your values is greater than any financial one.

And, you’re not getting that money back whether the thing goes or stays. So, why not get rid of it?

2. Am I doing more of what I want or don’t want?

We know by now that downsizing is about more than physical clutter. It impacts all areas of our lives including how we fill our schedules and the people we spend time with.

Are you spending more time doing what you want or what you don’t want?

Maybe your calendar is filled with obligations that leave you feeling unfulfilled. Activities that bring you no joy.

Or you’re spending too much time with people who drain you. Pruning toxic people from your life will have a huge positive impact on your physical and mental health.

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3. Do I value things or people?

You love your friends and your family. That’s why you have so much stuff in the first place.

You bought it for your kids or someone gave it to you (and you don’t want to hurt them by throwing it out).

When you set boundaries with people around gift giving, you’re helping them understand your expectations.

Though they may not like it, you’re demonstrating that you care more about them than what they give you.

Instead of exchanging material gifts, you might suggest spending time together. Sharing conversation over a meal provides a bonding experience no material thing ever can.

And if someone digs in their heels and refuses to adapt, that gives you needed information.

Now you get to decide how much space this person will take up in your life. That’s when clearing the internal clutter begins.