What Motivates An Introvert?
Updated: Oct 23, 2021
Discover your specific motivation mechanisms as an introvert to flourish in every area of life.
Introverts have made many important contributions to society. How different would the world look today without the efforts of such luminaries as Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Mother Teresa and Mark Zuckerberg? While your goals may not be quite so lofty, understanding your motivation mechanisms as an introvert will help you achieve your potential or at least save you a lot of frustration.
You are probably aware of the distinction in psychology between extrinsic vs intrinsic rewards in which external rewards are contrasted with inner feelings of satisfaction and there are no prizes for guessing that introverts are more likely to be motivated by the latter. Part of the explanation lies in the different way extroverts and introverts respond to the external reward-seeking hormone dopamine. Extroverts come alive when dopamine is activated while introverts quickly feel overstimulated; preferring the actions of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is stimulated by turning inward. The question, then, is how to best activate this reward system.
The first key is to choose a goal that actually inspires you. As motivational guru Tony Robbins famously said: “People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals.” Introverts thrive on tasks that have special meaning for them so like Leon the Professional (an iconic introvert) choose your target carefully. We typically thrive on creative challenges so look for something that encourages innovation and/or self-expression. Paradoxically, most introverts also thrive on methodical tasks – though as we execute the job in hand we are usually looking for ways to improve the existing systems!
The right environment is the next important detail. As introverts are easily overstimulated by busy, crowded spaces it is crucial to find a quiet, preferably isolated place to work your plan without distractions. That’s where the introvert gift of focus can flourish and we can achieve the deeply satisfying ‘flow state’ where time disappears and results follow effortlessly.
Flow is also more likely when an introvert is allowed to set their own pace. We can handle pressure but generally don’t flourish with someone breathing down our neck. (Actually, that is probably most introvert’s vision of hell - that and karaoke for us introverted non-singers).
So far I have talked as though introverts are totally self-contained but that’s not entirely true. We definitely like to be acknowledged by others. Overt public displays of gratitude or recognition may not float our boats but we definitely appreciate a quiet word of preaise or acknowledgement that does not require us to be the centre of attention. Cancel the parade!
Just because introverts may not be leading the charge or talking over the top of everyone at meetings doesn’t mean that we lack drive or ambition. With the right goals and conditions, we can achieve our own measure of greatness and make our mark; without needing to crow about it…