Have you ever thought why or what exactly makes you get up in the morning and start your day? Maybe it is the yummy breakfast you’ve been dreaming about all night…or maybe the excitement for the specific task that you need to master today. Well, it has for sure to do with some kind of motivation that is the base of every decision that we make. But what is it that motivates us? How many kind of motivations exist? Which differences are there between the intrinsic and the extrinsic motivation?


Motivation, the main reason for peoples’ actions and goals. It is an important part of human psychology, something that derives from the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Motivation is found in every person but also in other beings such as animals. They have the instinct (therefore they are motivated) to eat, to drink and to have a feeling of safety. The kind of motivation that the person has can get a bit more complicated than the one in animals. People can be motivated by many different reasons. The basic needs such as food, water and safety are some obvious motivational factors, but the human race has developed some more complex motivational circumstances.

The main two motivation categories are: intrinsic and extrinsic. What is the difference between them?

The intrinsic motivation, also called internal, is a kind of motivation that comes from within. This type of motivation is driven by an interest and enjoyment of the task itself and is characterized by a self-determination factor. It is also seen as the most efficient type of motivation since it is driven by a strong internal force. As for an example: students or workers who are intrinsically motivated, are more likely to engage in their tasks. This comes from the fact that they have an actual passion or interest in what they are doing. Therefore, if you are really passionate in something, you are most likely to obtain a good result.

On the other side we have the extrinsic motivation that comes from external factors. From influences outside of the individual. The most common extrinsic motivational factor is reward, that can be seen as money in a work environment, grades in school or university, or a general competition base.

The intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are influenced by a few other important factors explained in the Two-Factor-Theory.

Some questions that we might ask ourselves are: what do people want from their jobs? A higher salary? Security? Good relationships? All these points are for sure related to each other and thanks to Herzberg’s theory we can see how much influence they have in our daily work/university life.

The Two-Factor-Theory has been elaborated by Frederick Herzberg in 1959 in which he explains the principles of motivation in a work environment. The theory is divided in two main factors: first we have the factors that derive from the substance of the work, they are found within the actual job itself (motivators). As for example the challenging work, recognition for one’s achievement. The motivators give positive satisfaction, coming from intrinsic conditions of the job itself. Motivational factors are needed to encourage an employee to make a higher performance.

Secondly we have the factors that are referred on the context of the work (hygiene factors). For example, the job security, salary, work conditions, vacations. These factors do not give positive satisfaction or lead to higher motivation, on the other side they give dissatisfaction results from their absence. The hygiene factors are therefore extrinsic to the work itself, they are not present in the actual job itself but surround the job.

Motivators:          Hygiene factors:

Achievement       company policies

Recognition         supervision

Work itself           relationships

Responsibility     work conditions

Growth                 salary


In Herzberg’s theory there are four possible combinations among the motivators and the hygiene factors:

  • High Hygiene + High Motivation: highly motivated, few complaints (ideal situation)
  • High Hygiene + Low Motivation: few complaints, not highly motivated
  • Low Hygiene + High Motivation: motivated, lot of complaints
  • Low Hygiene + Low Motivation: not motivated, many complaints (worst situation)


The Two-Factor-Theory thoughts are based on the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This pyramid is a classification of the universal needs of human beings. If these needs are in the right balance between each other, it means that the person is satisfied and has reached the top of his goals, that is the self-actualization point. The needs go from the most basic ones to the more specific ones being: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, self-actualization. The goal of Marslow’s Theory is to attain the fifth level, which is the self-actualization.

Self-actualization cannot be interpreted in one single way, there are a thousand ways we can define this concept. We can say that this term refers on becoming the best person that one can possibly strive for.

Physiological need: food, water, warmth, rest

Safety need: security

Belonging: relationships, friends

Esteem: feeling of accomplishment

Self-actualization: achieving full potential


Once all of these factors are combined in the right way, the human being can reach its own maximum potential.

In order to succeed it is important to find a certain balance between the extrinsic and the intrinsic factors. Between performing the activity for its own sake and performing the activity to earn some type of reward.

If there is something to retain from this article, it is for sure the importance of the term balance. Having a balance in our lives, in the things we do, is the key for everyone’s success.








Maslow, A. H. (2014). A theory of human motivation. Floyd, Virginia.


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