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What makes you jump out of bed on a Saturday? Or stay up later than usual even though you’re tired? Whether the cause is positive (you’re in a big game and want to get there early) or negative (if you don’t get your project done, your grade will be lowered big time), you were motivated to act. A motive is a reason for doing something. Motivation affects your daily behavior, whether it comes from within yourself (intrinsic) or caused by an eternal event (extrinsic).

What motivates one person to succeed often turns off others. For instance, achieving good grades motivates some students, but not others. Some students find working on a team project exciting; others prefer to work on their own. Some students enjoy speaking in front of class; others dread it. Writing poetry gives some students pleasure; others avoid it.

It’s important to understand that everyone doesn’t share the same motivations. For instance, your friends can’t wait to go to “the” basketball game; you know you’ll be bored to tears. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go — being with friends may be a sufficient motivator to go. Or you can’t wait to finish the book or video game you started, so you choose not to go to the game. In this case, the pleasure of finishing the book or video game is a better motivator, at that moment, than being with our friends.

Knowing what motivates you intrinsically will help you set and achieve goals, choose a career path, and simply be happy. Knowing what motivates you extrinsically will help you make better decisions when confronted with the individual or event that’s causing you to feel the way you do.

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