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Motivation explains what we do and why we do it.  Its role in the learning process is so paramount that it outweighs IQ scores when measuring future academic and economic success.  It has been demonstrated that hard work or ‘one’s desire to do well’ can carry them far beyond the limitations of their natural ‘intelligence’.  The higher the motivation, the more favorable the outcome.  By this definition, motivation is a cognitive skill that can be enhanced.

Every behavior can be traced back to a certain type of motivation, which can be intrinsic (driven by personal fulfillment such as curiosity or joy) or extrinsic (driven by the removal or addition of an external condition or reward)

The different types of motivation are:

  • Attention – to seek approval or be noticed by peers, family, teachers, boss or media scale recognition
  • Sensory – to experience a pleasant sensory response or seek out desirable responses from the five senses as well as our feelings and emotions (Ie. The desire to be right.)
  • Tangible – to seek an external material gain or incentive
  • Avoidance – to avoid danger or a threat, real or perceived from our 5 senses and emotions

Enhancing Motivation

The goal should be to develop mature motivation within your class, program or team.  Essential to mature motivation is ‘Big Picture’ thinking from the coach, teacher, parent and student.  Big picture thinking is realizing that mistakes will happen and are necessary for growth. This will promote mature motivation while immature motivation is shaped if emphasis is place on result over effort.

The following links offer research on motivation and what might be the key ingredient for success and intelligence, or at the very least help us understand how to get individuals participating in activities that can improve cognitive and physical fitness.

Growth Mindset


How Children Succeed

Immature/Mature Motivation Theory


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