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Intrinsic Versus Extrinsic Motivation

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When called on to complete a task or engage in an activity, there are various things that can affect our performance. First of all, there is the difficulty of that task. Is it something that you’ve done before? Can it be done within a time period that’s short enough to hold your attention? Is it a high-priority task or can it wait until tomorrow? Then there is the motivation factor, which probably has the greatest impact on performance. Having no motivation to complete a task will almost certainly rear negative results. However, if you decide that you are motivated to engage in that activity, you must ask yourself: Are you intrinsically or extrinsically motivated?

To help me make my point, visualize the following scenario:
Betty, who is an avid bowler, bowls once a week in a semi-competitive league with her friends and family. Everyone has a good time, and she always leaves feeling satisfied. Her league night begins, and she kicks off the first frame with a strike. Cheers, laughter, and trash-talk ensue. To Betty’s surprise, the second ball she throws hits home, and she now has two strikes in a row. The aforementioned celebration resumes. The same routine continues for the next five frames—the cheers becoming louder with each crash of the pins. Suddenly, the game becomes serious. Betty knows that bowling a strike in every frame results in a perfect score and instant celebrity status among her peers in the Thursday night league. Her mind begins to race with notions of recognition, cash prizes, and perfect-game memorabilia. The pressure is mounting as she steps up to throw the ball for the eighth time. As she performs her approach, her clammy hands release the ball entirely too soon. With her eyes closed, Betty hears the solemn sound of the ball rolling down the gutter—her perfect game rolling with it.

The phenomenon just described is the result of a sudden shift from intrinsic to extrinsic motivation. An intrinsically motivated person is genuinely interested in the task or activity that they are doing and need no external reward to complete it. Betty was intrinsically motivated at the beginning of the night. She was simply having fun with her friends and family, and bowling was a reward all by itself. Due to the enjoyment that Betty got from the game, she gave her personal best. However, extrinsic motivation requires that there be some type of external reinforcement for participation in the task or activity. This was Betty after she began thinking about the perfect game. Once prizes and recognition became involved, Betty stopped having fun and focused on the rewards.

Although it hurt Betty’s bowling game, extrinsic motivation is not always a bad thing. It’s virtually impossible for someone to be intrinsically invested in everything they do. Most often, people have a mix of both types of motivation. For example, you might be a great employee and love your job, but would you still show up to work every day if you weren’t getting paid? If not, that means that there is some degree of extrinsic motivation that drives you to go to work.

This concept also applies to school, and more specifically, court reporting school. When the semester begins, many students are optimistic and excited to become court reporters (intrinsic). As the weeks pass, the assignments start piling on, and grades become a factor. Your focus is drawn to whether or not you are “passing” evaluations rather than increasing your machine shorthand skill. As a result, test anxiety becomes your unwanted companion during finals week, making it that much more difficult to perform your personal best. You have now slid into the opposite end of the motivation spectrum at the most crucial point of the semester.

I understand that staying intrinsically motivated throughout an entire semester is much easier said than done. Although trying at times, it’s important to keep these things in mind when you feel yourself becoming concerned with external influences:

  • Treat every assignment, practice session, and evaluation as a learning experience. Ultimately, you’re here to learn and become a court reporter. You’re still a student, which means that it’s okay to make mistakes. Whether you do well on an evaluation or not, there is always knowledge and skill to be gained.
  • Don’t procrastinate! This creates unnecessary pressure. The intrinsic value that you attach to an assignment or evaluation becomes lost when you have a time constraint bearing down on you. If you start early enough, you can focus on the assignment rather than the due date.
  • Invest more than just time and money. Put as much effort towards school as possible. Practice more on your own or show up for class early to chat with your instructor. Take advantage of every opportunity to engage yourself in steno, and you will find that school becomes less of a chore.
  • Lastly, take some time away from your machine. Stress can do profound things to our minds and bodies. Keep leisure and recreation an important part of your time management plan.

In conclusion, CCR students, do your best to block out the rewards and consequences. Learn and progress for yourself. This is part of the reason that self-evaluations are so important. They are opportunities for no-pressure examinations of your machine shorthand skill. Use them to your advantage; your success rate on SAP evaluations will go up.

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