“Internal” Motivation Key To Long-Term Success, Study Finds

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Following after the career goals you enjoy should always come before chasing after the moolah— and a recent study helps to prove just that.

The study, which was recently published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates that following your dreams will always allow you to stay motivated while overcoming life’s monetary hurdles.

Researchers followed 1,320 cadets at West Point for up to 14 years and found that, indeed, the most successful cadets showed an “internal” motivation to continue fighting for the job they love.

Though some cadets admitted primarily “instrumental” reasons for being at West Point, such as benefiting from the school’s prestige, or finding a good job with a high income post-graduation, they typically didn’t perform as well during their careers as students who conveyed that strong “internal” motivation.

The adverse impacts of instrumental motivation were so potent that they even overwhelmed the positives associated with internal motivation for those who showed high amounts of both. In fact, such cadets weren’t as likely to promote early or stay in the military after their mandatory time period finished, researchers admitted.

“It seems obvious and incontrovertible that if people have two reasons to do something they will be more likely to do it, and will do it better, than if they have only one,” the researchers quipped. “Our results demonstrate that instrumental motives can weaken the positive effects of internal motives in real-world contexts,” the research found.  Furthermore, this effect has been shown to stand true through both educational and career transitions during a length of 14 years. 

One expert from the University of Rochester, Richard Ryan, thanked the study for showing the importance of enjoying your personal work when it comes to remaining committed and focused, even when tough times inevitably come about.

“The main points of convergence seem clear,” Ryan wrote via email. “A true vocation is one in which you value and find satisfaction in the work itself.”

The study is similar to previous research that concludes offering copious amounts of instrumental rewards can deteriorate internal motivation, Ryan continued, which has been seen in schools, sports, arts and other numerous related fields.

Always remember to consult your physician or chiropractor before taking any health advice.

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