Do you have intrinsic or extrinsic motivation?

Over the past week I’ve been fascinated by this idea of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. As we look to the future of University Innovation Fellows cohorts here at UD, we need people with an intrinsic motivation to make our campus more entrepreneurial. Sadly, intrinsic motivation is even harder to find than I thought.

I started looking harder and harder for examples, and struggled still. I asked top students what motivated them and I always got some mashup of the same few answers. From that experience and lots of reflection, I’ve come up with these two brief lists.

Signs of extrinsic motivation:

Fear of failure

Desire for money or status

Fear of letting down parents

Proving someone wrong

Signs of intrinsic motivation:

Permisionless generosity

Desire to make something better

Passion for progress


Extrinsic motivation is about approval from others. Intrinsic motivation is about a pure desire to get better because you’re worth it and you can make a difference. You don’t have to, but you can. And that’s what’s so powerful.