What Are Intrinsic and Extrinsic Goals?

JT - A year from now you may wish you had started today Karen Lamb

What did you dream of being when you were a child? A teacher, a fireman, a carpenter, a sportsperson? Are you living that dream today?

Chances are, like many people, you identified goals to get yourself to where you are in your life today. Many of those goals were probably SMART goals –

  • Specific,
  • Measureable,
  • Achieveable,
  • Relevant, and
  • Time-based.

SMART goal-setting (or content goals) give you an idea of what you are doing to achieve your goals. However, have you ever thought there might be more to goal-setting than the SMART-approach? Well, you would be right!

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Goals

During recent years, a variety of researchers have started to investigate an individuals’ motivation (i.e. the why) behind setting goals. The motivation can be either intrinsic or extrinsic.

Intrinsic Goals

Some examples of intrinsic goals include –

  • self-acceptance,
  • community feeling,
  • affiliation, and
  • physical fitness.

According to Schmuck, Kasser and Ryan (1999), …“intrinsic goals are those which are inherently satisfying to pursue because they are likely to satisfy innate psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, competence, and growth.” 

Extrinsic Goals

Extrinsic goals are focused on obtaining rewards and the positive evaluation of others and include – 

  • financial success,
  • image/attractiveness,
  • popularity, and
  • conformity.

Working on Extrinsic Goals or Intrinsic Goals – Is there a Difference?

According to Kasser et al (1995), “…extrinsic goals generally reflect a sense of insecurity about oneself,” and can also lead one to engage in more stressful, ego-involved, and controlled behavior which does not satisfy one’s needs (Kasser & Ryan, 1996; Sheldon & Kasser, 1995).

Research has indicated that when individuals are focused more on making progress towards intrinsic goals they can have experiences that support their happiness and wellbeing as opposed to focusing solely on extrinsic goals (Ryan et al., 1996).

Over to You…

So, next time you are writing your goals, maybe identify and see if they are intrinsic or extrinsic (the WHY you are wanting to achieve your goals) as well as the WHAT (i.e. the SMART-process). This small shift can have an impact on your happiness and wellbeing.

P.S. don’t forget to link in with your feeling/emotions around your goals as well!

If you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards freedom and opening your heartwhy not join our Toolkit?

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