Are you intrinsically or extrinsically motivated?

I haven’t made any social media or blog posts for ten days. In part this is because I’ve been extremely busy. I was away for three days photographing a wedding in Stratford upon Avon, I photographed a 40th birthday party and my daughter celebrated her 6th birthday, with all the prep, parties and friends and visiting relatives that that involves.

Fiona & Adam’s wedding in Stratford upon Avon

Alongside this my motivation to post to social media was low. In theory I could have used all of these experiences to fuel my social media. I could have posted Instagram stories from the wedding venue. I could have posted a Facebook sneak peek of a few photos straight after (or even during) the 40th birthday. I almost never do things like this because when I’m doing these things I’m in the moment. I enjoy them for what they are and lose myself in the flow of creativity. Usually I’m actively taking photographs but even when I’m not I’m studying the light, thinking about the shots I’ve already captured and what I can do to capture different ones in the future. In the short term it would help my business if I marketed it more - if I had one eye on my next client. Indeed, I should be doing this to promote my business in general. I should be posting to social media on a schedule, I should be entering awards, I should be showing my work everywhere to attract more clients.

The problem is intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation.

What Is Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrinsic motivation is when you are motivated to perform a behaviour or engage in an activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment. In this case, you engage in a behaviour not because you enjoy it or because you find it satisfying, but in order to get something in return or avoid an unpleasant outcome.

What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation involves engaging in a behaviour because it is personally rewarding - performing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward. Essentially, the behaviour itself is its own reward.

Audrey’s 6th birthday party had a magic theme

Examples of extrinsic motivation

  • Participating in a sport to win awards

  • Cleaning your room to avoid being reprimanded by your parents

  • Competing in a contest to win a scholarship

  • Studying because you want to get a good grade

Examples of intrinsic motivation

  • Participating in a sport because you find the activity enjoyable

  • Cleaning your room because you like tidying up

  • Solving a word puzzle because you find the challenge fun and exciting

  • Studying a subject you find fascinating

One of my strengths, and my weaknesses, is that I am intrinsically motivated. My career path to this point has been long and meandering, and doesn’t make sense to anyone but me. I’ve gone in directions based on what I find intellectually interesting rather than what is financially rewarding. Once I have mastered a skill I can drop it quite quickly in favour of starting from scratch in a completely different field. The journey is the destination for me.

That’s why I find it easy to not post to social media for days on end. I am simply not motivated by likes. It’s also why I don’t enter photography awards and I am sceptical of portfolio reviews. I know the value of my own work both to my clients and myself and strangers opinions don’t really matter.

I could never create a photograph at a wedding with the intention of winning an award with it. Going into a wedding, potentially one of the most important days of two peoples lives, with preconceived ideas of photographs I want to take to gain likes on social media horrifies me.

And that is a significant weakness in my business, at least in the short term. I’ll always be behind those wedding photographers who ruthlessly promote their own work. Perhaps the fault lies with me. Maybe I’m too soft, not business minded enough. I should toughen up, become more cutthroat. I’ve tried to take this approach a few times and it doesn’t stick. It’s just not the way I’m motivated.

What motivates you? Are you intrinsically or extrinsically motivated?