How to Harness the Underutilized Power of Intrinsic Motivation

By Chris Cutter Mar 22, 2016 6:07:00 AM

If you’ve ever been offered a bonus for hitting a certain number of sales or promised yourself a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream for sweating on the StairMaster, you understand the power of extrinsic motivation.

Using an external reward to promote a desired behavior works well for getting people to try something new or complete a one-off task. But it definitely has its limitations.

Take corporate wellness programs, for instance. Most are structured to provide incentives that encourage participation. If employees visit the gym a certain number of times per month or walk 10,000 steps a day, they’re rewarded with cash bonuses, gift cards, or other prizes.

On the surface, this is a smart investment for employers. Done right, workplace health programs result in increased productivity, diminished healthcare costs, and lower absenteeism. Plus, research shows that exercise supports the creation of new brain cells and can even activate parts of the brain responsible for memory retention.

It’s not easy to get great ROI from a corporate wellbeing program, but the first step in that direction is getting people engaged. Before you invest all those dollars in rewards, make sure you’re not relying too much on extrinsic motivation and ignoring the hidden power of intrinsic motivation.

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