Student learning and taking notes

Learning has always been a part of human evolution. It is a part of our nature as humans that our capacity to learn new things can impact the way we thrive and continuously improve. But in the same way that we view learning to be easy and natural, it can also be very challenging, to a point that we might feel demotivated, distracted or altogether disinterested in learning something new. Be it math, knitting, driving, painting, or even memorizing the lines of a song, there may have come a time when you have lost your intrinsic motivation to learn something new. So what is it that affects our natural willingness to learn and how do we amplify that?

What is Intrinsic Motivation?

Before we dive into improving your drive to learn something new, let’s first understand what intrinsic motivation means. Intrinsic motivation is the act of performing an activity as driven by your personal satisfaction and not by any external factors. Thus, your intrinsic motivation to learn pertains to your own willingness to learn something new just for the satisfaction of it. 

The fact is, even if our brains were hardwired to absorb large amounts of new knowledge, our human nature can still impact how we learn the new things we learn. It’s not all the time that your intrinsic drive for mastery of an activity is up, in the same way that you may not always feel like getting things done. With that in mind, it’s best that you figure out what can help amplify your drive to learn.

Understanding Your Intrinsic Drive

According to Daniel Pink’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, “The problem with making an extrinsic reward the only destination that matters is that some people will choose the quickest route there, even if it means taking the low road. Indeed, most of the scandals and misbehavior that have seemed endemic to modern life involve shortcuts.”

In today’s world, a lot of us tend to think that motivation can be better achieved from tangible things. For some, it can be money, awards, and other forms of external rewards. But actually, these external motivations tend to urge us to trick or play the system, just so we can get to the finish line quicker. This essentially impacts the whole experience and affects how we learn something, which, if done the proper way, could have helped us improve more than just one aspect of our life.

Take reading a book as an example. The goal of reading a book is to learn something new about a specific topic, whether it’s a story, a theory, a biography, or any other subject. But if you are not motivated to read that book from front to back, even though you must, because you might fail your class or won’t be able to finish a report that is due soon, then you might consider other means of learning what is on that book. And with the internet, there are many shortcuts to learning about the overall gist of a book.

You can watch a video, read a book review, check forums about the book, or even simply pay for someone to prepare your report for you. And with that, you have played the system. But in the end, what did you gain? Apart from maybe a good grade for your report, did you actually learn what you must? Did the book serve its purpose of helping you have a deeper understanding about the topic? Definitely not.

This is where intrinsic motivation is missing and it’s why this inherent drive to learn is essential.

3 Factors of Boosting Your Intrinsic Motivation to Learn

If you’re at a loss as to how you can motivate yourself to learn something new, here are three things that you should take into account to amplify your intrinsic drive to learn.

1. Gain a sense of freedom and flexibility.

Have you ever found yourself feeling unmotivated to learn something because you feel like you’re being forced? Think of how a writer would sometimes have a writer’s block because they’re being pressured to produce something even though they’re not yet in the zone to write. Learning works in the same way.

When we lose our sense of autonomy, we tend to also lose our intrinsic motivation to learn something new. Being given limitations on what, how and until when you should learn things can greatly impact the whole learning experience for us. Being told how to do something limits our freedom on how we can actually do it.

But if you are given the opportunity to explore something at your own pace and by using your own methods, you will feel more motivated to explore and challenge yourself to go further. With a more autonomous learning environment, the intrinsic motivation to learn can be greatly enhanced.

2. Acquire mastery by providing yourself with sufficient challenges.

Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt like you’re not being challenged enough to a point wherein you just don’t feel like doing it anymore? Or maybe it’s the other way around, wherein you are being given way too many things to accomplish that you are feeling overwhelmed and just can’t handle the pressure. The thing is whether you are underwhelmed or overwhelmed, your intrinsic motivation to learn something new will be greatly affected.

To help you maintain that intrinsic drive to learn, you should figure out the perfect balance of tasks or challenges to take on. It should be nothing too easy that it will bore you and nothing too hard that it will burn you out. Instead, it should be just right. 

For example, if you are trying to learn how to play an instrument, you should not immediately go for difficult music pieces to learn and should instead consider your current skill level. If it’s your first time to play piano, learn to play easy songs first, and as you continue to improve your skill level, gradually increase the level of difficulty of the music pieces you are playing until you can more confidently play the challenging songs.

3. Be driven by understanding the benefits and purpose of learning.

Another essential factor for improving your intrinsic motivation to learn is by having a sense of purpose and a deeper understanding of the benefits you can acquire from what you are learning.

For example, an online content writer nowadays will understand the importance of having a deeper understanding of how SEO works. By studying SEO, she can then create better content that will not just be readable, but also searchable by the right audience online. This can help improve her knowhow, increase her marketability, help her learn a new set of skills and even master another set of skills, apart from writing.

Generally, learning something new, no matter what skill, knowledge, or specialization it may be, can help you grow as a person. Whether you’re aiming to improve as a professional, achieve a personal goal, or just to feel more accomplished, your intrinsic motivation to learn can be enhanced if you understand what your purpose is in doing what you are doing.

Boost Your Intrinsic Motivation through Visualization

Apart from gaining autonomy, mastery and purpose, you can also enhance your intrinsic motivation to learn by using visualization. Essentially, visualization makes it easier for us to understand, learn and remember new things. You can make a list of the items you would like to learn, identify your own approach on how you feel you can better learn each item, set challenges to keep you from feeling overwhelmed or underwhelmed, and identify the purpose of why you are learning each item. 

You can plot these details on a Kanban board and be able to keep track of your progress by setting timelines and saving tools and references you can use for each item you want to learn. You can also use your Kanban board to collaborate with other people to help you stay motivated in sticking to your learning goals.

Thinking about boosting your intrinsic motivation with Kanban? Try out Kanban Zone.

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About the Author: Christine Joy Leal

Christine Joy Leal is an experienced freelance writer and content manager, a happy wife and a mother to two daughters, two dogs and two cats. She loves keeping things in order and enjoys using the Kanban and Agile methodologies to manage all her writing projects, daily tasks, and other personal matters that require efficient organization. Apart from managing her busy content writing career, she also enjoys board and online games, movies, TV shows, and crocheting. She also maintains a blog about her work as a freelance content writer.

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