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This incident goes back a few years but has remained in my mind- as an excellent example of intrinsic motivation.

An executive met me to discuss career options. He was doing pretty well for himself in a large software services organization. His compensation was impressive, he had all the material comforts -yet there was something missing. A few years into his current job, he felt he was not adequately challenged.
Shortly after, an opportunity arose in a much smaller company at a more senior level. He was a bit confused. He was excited by the challenge but most others, including I am sure his wife, were shocked. How could he, they argued, even think of giving up the prestige and perks of his current job to join a virtually unknown small firm.

After going through various pros and cons, I told him to go where his heart took him. There was considerable buzz when he put in his papers. Many were skeptical about his move. Many warned him that he was throwing away a great today for an uncertain tomorrow.

Six months later, he was full of drive and energy. He had got off the small company to an excellent start. He was totally engaged in all that he did. He had more time for his family and social interest as well.

When we spoke about his move, he remembered our conversation. “I am glad I did it” he beamed. ” I am really enjoying my work. I didn’t make the move to prove anything to anybody. I did it for myself”

As you know, we get motivated by factors within us and outside of us which are called intrinsic and extrinsic factors. In intrinsic motivation, I do something because I want to do it -not because someone else has told me to do it. On the other hand, in extrinsic motivation, I am led to do something by somebody else.

For this person, what mattered most was the challenge the new assignment provided. There were risks, no doubt, but he was willing to back himself and his capabilities. That can come only from within.

This incident reiterated to me that intrinsic motivation always has and always will score over extrinsic motivation.

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This is the 76 th of the “A Step A Day “series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success.

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