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Finding Your Inner Drive: How to Become Intrinsically Motivated to Tackle Unwanted Tasks

By Rob

February 3, 2024

intrinsic motivation, self-motivation, task motivation

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Have you ever found yourself staring down a task, feeling utterly unmotivated to begin? We’ve all been there, facing projects or chores that we’d rather skip altogether. Yet, what if there were a method to unlock a wellspring of motivation from within? This comprehensive guide delves into the realm of intrinsic motivation, revealing strategies to ignite your inner drive and make any task an engaging and rewarding experience.

The Secret Power of Intrinsic Motivation

Imagine waking up to a world where you hold the power to motivate yourself, regardless of the task at hand. Picture a day when even the most mundane or challenging tasks seem not just bearable, but engaging and rewarding. This isn’t a far-fetched dream, but a very achievable reality. The secret lies in mastering intrinsic motivation – a powerful internal drive that fuels our desire to do things for their own sake, rather than for some external reward.

Intrinsic motivation can seem elusive, especially when faced with tasks we find unappealing or outright tedious. However, what if I told you that there are proven, research-backed strategies to not only find but also enhance your intrinsic motivation, making even the least desirable tasks interesting and fulfilling? This article will dive deep into these strategies, offering practical advice and detailed examples on how to transform your approach to work and personal projects.

We’ll explore the intriguing questions that can help uncover your hidden motivations, the role of curiosity in driving passion, the significance of autonomy in feeling empowered, and how cognitive dissonance can be a catalyst for aligning your actions with your beliefs. From understanding the benefits of the task at hand to turning chores into challenging games, we’ll cover a myriad of ways to ignite your internal motivation.

Key Points Overview

  • The Power of Self-Questioning: Learn how asking yourself targeted questions can reveal your underlying motivations and how to enhance them.
  • Uncovering Personal Benefits: Dive into the ‘What’s in it for me?’ (WIIFM) mindset to find the personal value in every task.
  • Curiosity as a Motivational Tool: Discover how fostering curiosity can turn any task into an intriguing exploration.
  • The Role of Autonomy: Understand why feeling in control is crucial for intrinsic motivation and how to achieve it under any circumstances.
  • Cognitive Dissonance and Motivation: Find out how aligning your actions with your verbal commitments can boost your motivation.
  • Flow and Intrinsic Motivation: Learn about the state of flow and how intrinsic motivation is key to achieving this optimal experience.

Let’s dive into the depths of cultivating intrinsic motivation for tasks that don’t initially spark our enthusiasm. This article will not only provide you with the theoretical understanding of intrinsic motivation but also arm you with practical, actionable strategies to transform your approach to any task.

Understanding Intrinsic Motivation

Before we dive into the techniques, let’s first understand what intrinsic motivation is all about and why it’s important. Unlike extrinsic motivation, which comes from external rewards like money, winning a trophy, or being recognized as the best at something, or avoiding punishment like a speeding ticket or feeling embarrassed, intrinsic motivation stems from within ourselves. It is driven by our personal interests, curiosity, and the satisfaction we derive from the task itself.

Intrinsic motivation refers to the internal drive and desire to engage in an activity for its own sake, rather than for any external rewards or incentives. When we are intrinsically motivated, we find joy and satisfaction in the process of doing the task itself, which leads to a higher level of engagement and productivity.

Strategies for Unleashing Intrinsic Motivation

The Power of Self-Questioning

One powerful way to tap into your intrinsic motivation is by asking yourself a series of thought-provoking questions. Let’s explore some of these questions and how they can help you uncover your inner drive.

1. Understanding Your Current Motivation

The journey to intrinsic motivation starts with introspection. Asking yourself, “On a scale of 0 – 10, how motivated am I to complete this task?” sets the stage for self-discovery. This question isn’t just a gauge of motivation; it’s a gateway to deeper reflection.

Why Not a Lower Number?

Responding to “Why not a lower number?” reveals the hidden, perhaps unrecognized, aspects of the task that you value. This could be anything from recognizing the skill development opportunity in the task, to understanding its role in achieving a larger goal. This reflection highlights that even in tasks we dislike, there are elements of value to us, providing a foundation to build upon.

Increasing Motivation Incrementally

The follow-up, “What could you do to make the task more enjoyable while also raising your motivation for that task by 1 or 2 points?” encourages creativity and solution-oriented thinking. It might be as simple as modifying the task environment to make it more pleasant or breaking the task into smaller, more manageable pieces. This strategy emphasizes that even small adjustments can significantly impact our motivation levels.


Let’s say you have to write a report for work that you find tedious. You begin by discovering that your motivation to do this on a scale of 0-10 is a 3. This simple question provides you with self-awareness that allows you to better understand your own mindset and set realistic expectations.

Next, by asking yourself why it’s a 3 instead of a 2, you challenge yourself to think about the reasons behind your current motivation level. By identifying the factors that are already driving you, you can build upon them and discover new ways to increase your motivation. In this case you discover that you are actually a little excited to write the report because although it’s tedious, researching the report could possibly provide you with some interesting and useful information.

With this knowledge in hand, you can now ask the 3rd question which is “How can I make the task more enjoyable?” In this case you might realize that you enjoy writing more and even focus better when you are sitting in a park or at a coffee shop. Armed with this insight you can ignite your intrinsic motivation and make the task more enjoyable.

2. Uncovering Personal Benefits

WIIFM: What’s in it for me?

Think of WIIIFM as a radio station that our brains are always tuned into. Before we can get interested in doing anything, we must first have a clear understanding of how the task at hand relates to us. Digging into the personal benefits of a task can unveil motivations that weren’t apparent at first glance. By asking, “What’s in it for me?” you’re encouraged to explore not just the immediate benefits but also the long-term gains. This could range from skill development, networking opportunities, to personal satisfaction.

Listing and Digging Deep

Creating a list of benefits and then digging deeper into each one turns abstract advantages into concrete motivators. This exercise can transform your perspective, turning a dreaded task into an opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Take a moment to consider the long-term benefits of completing the task. Will it contribute to your personal growth, career advancement, or overall well-being? Reminding yourself of the positive outcomes can help reignite your motivation.


Let’s say you have to take a class over a subject that you’re not interested in learning about. By asking “What’s in it for me?”, you might conclude that it will enhance your professional skills, increase your chances of a promotion, or contribute to the success of your team. These insights can ignite your intrinsic motivation and make the class more meaningful.

3. Cultivating Curiosity

Finding the Intriguing Element

Another way to become intrinsically motivated is by finding something in the task that piques your curiosity. Curiosity can transform the mundane into the fascinating. Asking, “What is something in what I need to do that I could get curious about?” opens your mind to new perspectives. It could be learning a new skill, understanding the intricacies of a process, or simply discovering something about yourself. By shifting your focus to the aspects that intrigue you, and reframing the task as an opportunity for exploration and discovery, you can spark your curiosity and engage with the task on a deeper more enjoyable level.


Imagine you have to clean your house, which you usually find mundane. However, by approaching it with curiosity, you might become fascinated by the science behind effective cleaning products or the psychology of decluttering. This newfound curiosity can transform the task into an opportunity for learning and exploration, making it more enjoyable and motivating.

4. Turning Tasks into Games

Making it Fun

Who says work has to be boring? By turning your tasks into games, you can inject an element of fun and playfulness, making them more enjoyable and motivating. Consider turning your task into a game by setting goals, creating rewards, or competing against yourself. Challenge yourself to complete the task within a certain timeframe or set targets to achieve along the way. By gamifying the experience, you’ll find yourself more motivated to tackle the task head-on.


Let’s say you have to organize your expenses for tax purposes. Instead of dreading it, turn it into a game by setting a timer and trying to beat your previous record or trying to complete a section of the tax form by a certain time (just be sure that you don’t go so fast that you make mistakes.) Alternatively, reward yourself with small treats or breaks after accomplishing specific milestones. By gamifying the task, you can tap into your competitive spirit and make it more engaging.

5. Embracing Puzzles and Problem-Solving

Finding the Challenge

Many tasks involve elements of problem-solving or puzzles waiting to be solved. Embrace this aspect and approach the task as a challenge. By reframing it as an opportunity to exercise your problem-solving skills, you can stimulate your intrinsic motivation and enjoy the process of finding solutions. Break it down into smaller, more manageable parts and challenge yourself to find creative solutions. By shifting your perspective from a burden to a mental challenge, you’ll find renewed motivation to tackle the task.


Suppose you have to fix a broken appliance at home. Instead of feeling frustrated, view it as a puzzle to solve. Research and experiment with different approaches, and relish the sense of accomplishment when you successfully repair it. By embracing the problem-solving aspect, you can engage your analytical thinking and make the task more rewarding.

6. Autonomy

Creating a Sense of Control

Autonomy refers to having a sense of control over your actions and decisions and plays a crucial role in intrinsic motivation. When you feel empowered and have the freedom to choose how to approach a task, your motivation naturally increases.

Even in structured environments where autonomy seems limited, finding small ways to exercise control can enhance motivation. This could be choosing the order of tasks, setting personal deadlines, or finding a unique approach to a standard task.


Let’s say you have to complete a group project that you initially had little interest in. Take the opportunity to choose a role that aligns with your strengths and interests within the project. By exercising autonomy and selecting a task that you find enjoyable, you can increase your intrinsic motivation.

7. Harnessing Cognitive Dissonance for Motivation

Aligning Actions with Beliefs

Cognitive dissonance occurs when there is a mismatch between our beliefs and our actions. Our brains strive for consistency so by telling someone that a boring task is actually enjoyable (even when we don’t actually feel that way) we create internal tension. To relieve that tension we then feel the need to change our behavior so that it aligns with our words. This often leads to intrinsic motivation as we unconsciously convince ourselves that the task is indeed enjoyable.


Imagine you’re working on a project that you’re not feeling excited about. Instead of grumping your way through the process and telling everyone how horrible it is you have to do this, share your positive perspective on the task with others and notice how it influences your own motivation. By telling your teammates that you find the project enjoyable, you create cognitive dissonance, which motivates you to align your behavior with your statement.

8. Flow and Intrinsic Motivation

The Magic of Flow: Finding Your Zone

Flow, often described as being “in the zone,” is that sweet spot where you’re so absorbed in a task that everything else fades away. Time flies, self-consciousness disappears, and you’re fully immersed in the activity at hand. It’s not just about enjoyment; it’s about being engaged at the highest level of your skills and challenges.

Achieving Flow Through Intrinsic Motivation

Achieving flow isn’t a random occurrence; it’s closely tied to intrinsic motivation. When you’re intrinsically motivated, you engage in tasks for the sheer pleasure and satisfaction they bring, not for external rewards. This alignment of your interests and the task’s demands is what opens the door to flow. By applying the strategies discussed—fostering curiosity, seeking autonomy, and aligning actions with beliefs—you create an environment where flow is more likely to occur.

Example: The Writer in Flow

Imagine you’re tasked with writing an article. At first, the idea doesn’t excite you. It feels like just another item on your to-do list. But then, you start applying the strategies we’ve discussed. You reflect on why this task matters, uncovering personal and professional benefits. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to share knowledge on a subject you’re passionate about or to refine your writing skills.

Next, you get curious. You dive into research, finding intriguing facts and perspectives that light up your interest. The task begins to feel less like a chore and more like an exploration.

Then, you exercise autonomy by choosing a topic that resonates with you, or deciding on the structure and tone of the article. You set up a comfortable workspace, free from distractions, and allow yourself the freedom to write in your unique voice.

As you start writing, you’re fully engaged, challenging yourself to convey your thoughts clearly and compellingly. You’re using your skills to their fullest, but there’s still enough challenge to keep you on your toes. Before you know it, you’re in the flow. Hours pass like minutes. The words pour out effortlessly, and the article takes shape more beautifully than you’d imagined.

In this state, you’re not just working; you’re creating, exploring, and expressing. The task that once seemed mundane is now a source of profound satisfaction and joy.

Putting It All Together

Now, let’s put all these strategies into action with a practical example:

Imagine you have to clean your entire house, a task that you dread. By asking yourself the questions mentioned earlier, you might discover that you’re motivated to complete the task at a level 3 out of 10. But why not a lower number? Well, you know that having a clean and organized living space will bring a sense of calm and make your daily life more enjoyable. Plus, you can turn cleaning into a game by setting a timer and challenging yourself to beat the clock. Suddenly, what seemed like a tedious chore becomes an opportunity to test your speed and efficiency.

Harnessing Your Intrinsic Motivation

To harness the power of intrinsic motivation, start by understanding your current motivation levels and identifying even the smallest elements of the task that appeal to you. From there, creatively seek ways to enhance those elements, explore the personal benefits, and invoke your curiosity. Remember, autonomy and alignment of actions with beliefs are crucial in sustaining motivation.

By embracing these strategies, you can transform any task from a dreaded obligation into an opportunity for growth, satisfaction, and possibly even joy. It’s about shifting your perspective, finding value in the challenge, and taking control of your motivation.

Intrinsic motivation isn’t just about making the best of a bad situation; it’s about redefining the situation entirely. With these tools in hand, you’re not just completing tasks; you’re embarking on a journey of self-discovery and personal development. So, the next time you face a task you’re not thrilled about, remember that within it lies an opportunity to ignite your intrinsic motivation and perhaps even discover a new passion.


Mastering intrinsic motivation is a powerful skill that can transform your approach to work and life. By understanding and applying the strategies discussed, you can find joy and satisfaction in tasks that once seemed unappealing. Remember, the key to intrinsic motivation lies within you—it’s about asking the right questions, seeking personal benefits, fostering curiosity, exercising autonomy, and aligning your actions with your beliefs. Embrace these strategies, and watch as the tasks you dread become opportunities for growth and self-discovery.

In conclusion, finding intrinsic motivation for tasks we don’t want to work on is possible. By asking ourselves thought-provoking questions, embracing curiosity, turning tasks into games or puzzles, and incorporating autonomy, we can unlock our inner drive. Remember, it’s all about finding the value and enjoyment in the task itself. So go forth, tackle those unwanted tasks, and let your intrinsic motivation shine!

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About the author

Hi, I’m Robert Louis Sims …A.K.A. Rob
I’ve been studying the psychology of achievement since 1989, when I picked up a copy of How to Sell Anything to Anybody by Joe Girard. Since then, I’ve been obsessed with learning the difference between people I have now come to call Intentional Achievers and everyone else.
If you’re looking to take your career, relationships, health, energy, productivity, influence, and life to the next level, then I invite you to join me on Achievement Made Simple.
My mission is to find the principles of achievement and share them with you in a simple way that makes them easy to understand and use in our everyday lives.

Robert Louis Sims

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