Saturday, April 29, 2006

Managing motivation and my INFP experience with it...

I have many things to do; but, I'm just not doing them.

I recently bought a cheap (but quite nice nonetheless) guitar (!) and my internet is getting cut off soon, and I was visiting my friend so I'm feeling the need for major downtime in which there will be internet usage and guitar playing and both. As a result, I'm sitting here, not doing any of the things I should do. But I will do them, eventually, I just have to manage my motivation. I will explain to you what I mean here, as a method of calming my anxiety about not doing anything. :p

Despite my tendency to procrastinate, I've learned to trust myself. I've learned I am very powerful, but I have to work with who I am. I generally can't do too much of anything because I think I 'should.' I'm just NOT motivated. These things I think I should do include homework, chores, errands, exercising, whatever. But I, with great enthusiasm and energy, have a hard time stopping myself from doing the things I really care about. I am responsible and generally get everything done eventually without too much harm to myself or others in the process. But it comes from learning to manage my motivation, as I said before.

I think it's really a matter of what many psychologists refer to as intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation involves motivation that comes from deep inside you - when you, yourself, care. For example, I passionately love to sing and play guitar, so I am intrinsically motivated to do so. I like to learn, so when homework assignments help me to learn, I do them quickly, accurately, and thoroughly. I really am very interested in learning new things. I love to help others learn, so am a dedicated, punctual, and pretty damn good teacher.

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from other people or the outside world. Examples of extrinsic motivation are doing the homework to get the grade (given from the external world), paying a bill on time (not truly necessary in that you can pay late and still have somewhere to live, but practical and what you are supposed to do according to the external world), exercising to look good (approval from the external world), not stealing because you might go to jail (punishment from external world).

Some people act more on extrinsic motivation (what we 'should' do) and some are more intrinsically motivated (what we love to do). I believe though, we can all find and act on the intrinsic motivation - and may, indeed, find ourselves happier for it, in the end.

However, I seem to have the problem of being UNABLE to act on extrinsic motivation, which I find unusual and which causes me great difficulties at time. I just can't seem to focus my attention on a task or activity or assignment, if I'm just doing it for something gained from the external world (money, grades, approval, etc). If I don't like the class, my grades are not as good. If I don't believe that I am affecting lives in the classroom, I show up late (although I'm always on time because I believe it matters to the kids feelings of being important to me). If I just want to look good, no way I'm dragging myself to the gym for very long.

So, to circumvent this difficulty, I make sure that I set the situation up so I always am being motivated by something intrinsic. In other words, I turn something that starts out extrinsically motivated into something intrinsically motivated. To make sure I get some exercise: I take a walk that is beautiful somewhere. I like being outside, I like being in nature, I like beauty, I even like walking sometimes. That way, I can exercise. But basic exercise, like you get in the gym, doesn't work for me, because I'm only doing it to look better, or perhaps, because supposedly I'll feel better (though for me, somehow I rarely actually feel better from the gym - sometimes I do). Or, in terms of school, I did have a 3.9 GPA, so I did pretty well. But that's because I searched and put time into finding classes and professors that would interest and intrigue and challenge me, thus keeping me intrinsically motivated. The only B I got was from a requirement class in which the teacher was a TA who, frankly, was far less intelligent than I was. I do believe she just didn't even understand my papers and thus continually gave them Cs. But partly, I was NOT intrinsically motivated in that class, since I was not challenged or interested.

I have read that other INFPs have trouble with motivation. I know my boyfriend does. He sees what I'm saying on this, but he doesn't believe in it enough to put it into practice yet - maybe it wouldn't work for him the way it does for me anyway. Trying to force ourselves through sheer will hasn't worked for either of us, though.

So, just in case that helps anyone...I thought I'd put it out there. I hope it makes sense.

And, in the process, explain this to you all as a way of forgiving myself for writing here, playing my guitar, holing up in my apartment, and not dealing with France Telecom about the erroneous bill they sent me or trying to figure out how to communicate to them in French that I need to cut the line come the end of the month (because I'm coming home!!!! yay!!) and have the bill sent to the states.

Also, just as an update, eating more fruits and veggies and taking vitamin b supplements have changed everything for me!!! I'm doing so much better emotionally. The feeling of doom is gone and replaced with this wonderful feeling that things are meant to be and life will work out. Or is that just the hypomania? I don't think so; I feel more stable than I have in years (although I'm generally very stable, don't get me wrong).

I hope that was clear or helpful or at least thought-provoking. I believe it is not necessary to be right, but to be well-thought out, and that being well-thought out will lead to growth for you and others regardless, because it will cause others to be better thought-out, to think, to learn which in turn will cause you to be even better thought-out, to think, and to learn.

Questions? Comments? Thoughts?

Much love to everyone,


At 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found your insight encouraging. I am anINFP as well as my son. We both have difficulty with motivation. What are your experiences since this posting. My son is inhis first tear of college. What is your process for finding intrinsic motivation? How well do you escept and forgive yoruself for incomplete endevours?

At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NSU - 4efer, 5210 - rulez

At 8:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely post. I believe it rings true to all INFPs.
I use to say: "it is so hard when I have to, and so easy when I want to".

At 11:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your touching and informative article. I have been struggling for years to balance the necessity of work with values and my internal/external motivations. Those around me see my trouble and constantly use external motivators to get me to "turn it around" but those motivators just don't "move" me, no matter what the cost. (It seems) I've made a new contact with a life coach to help give me some direction and to free myself from a "dismissive" mental health diagnosis. Again, the motivator is internal as I want to keep my relationship.

At 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is quite thought provoking I too am an INFP who has trouble getting motivated to do anything I feel is a 'should'. I greatly appreciate your distinction between internal and external motivation - it makes great sense to me! Now I can see why deadlines (like cleaning before family come over) helps me so much. It is amazing how common sense things just don't get done... now I am curious to find out what MBTI type my husband is because he is all about logic and my way of doing (or not doing) things is unfathomable to him... great post. Thank you for giving us such great insight. Your 'procrastinating' paid off for your readers. (btw: if you would like to make $$ for your insights, go to and post there.)


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