What Makes One Driven?

Drive. Motivation. Ambition. These words all have one thing in common, they are what get us to get going and doing what we need or want to do.  Now it’s not all cut and dry, I know most people (myself included) dread getting out of bed every day, but we do it anyways. Why? Because we are motivated by something.

In Drive, by Daniel Pink, we get a glimpse into all of the “secrets” and truths behind motivation.  He explains to us the types of motivation, the elements of them and what makes motivation important for a person.  It isn’t always cut and dry, and it will change depends on the situation and the person involved.

Types of Motivation

Now, there isn’t just one kind of motivation. Most people won’t get out of bed just because of they want to, but rather because something is motivating and like a little voice telling them to get up.  For some it’s a paycheck, and for others it might be going to see a friend you hadn’t seen in a while.

  • Extrinsic Motivation
    • Usually linked with a physical reward
      • Candy, paycheck, grades, a “carrot on a stick”
    • Good motivator for tasks that are mundane, boring, or simple
    • Students often don’t care about the material being taught, but rather the physical they receive for completing something
  • Intrinsic Motivation
    • Linked with non-tangible rewards (not physical)
      • Feeling joy for doing a task, having a since of pride in a task, giving praise
    • Good motivator for more intriguing tasks
    • Students learn more and better when they enjoy a task or feel they are actually contributing

Motivation can come in all shapes and sizes.  It depends on the person to decide what motivates them and gets them going.  In a classroom, students are motivated by doing things that they love, or exploring things they have an interest in.  Students want to succeed and do well, and not letting reach that full potential is what stops the motivation.

The Importance of Intrinsic Motivation (and Extrinsic)

Intrinsic motivation is difficult to foster.  It takes lots of work, just as much motivation, and even more care.  It’s up to a teacher to get the students showing intrinsic motivation, as you are the one that has some control of the lessons.  But if you can shape a lesson to get your students engaged and interested in what they are learning, then the intrinsic motivation will follow.

Students learn best when intrinsic motivation is given.  They gain a genuine interest and begin to care about their learning.  It’s not all about the grades when you see intrinsic motivation present.  This doesn’t mean extrinsic motivation doesn’t have a place in the classroom.  Extrinsic motivation is beneficial when your students are learning something very simple or mundane that would be hard to make interesting, such as learning the vocabulary for a lesson.  These tasks are incredibly difficult to create true intrinsic motivation and using extrinsic is more effective.

So what are the elements to intrinsic motivation? What makes it tic?


  • This is what gets students feeling like they have a stake in their learning
  • Students are players in the process
    • They want to get involved and participating in what the are doing
  • Students care about their learning, they don’t want to hate learning
    • Students do want to learn, but if you cut them from the equation, then they end up feeling like they have no say in how/what they learn
  • Let students expand their horizons
    • Creativity is a spark for every student
    • Don’t force them to follow one set of guidelines for an assignment, give them some creative freedom


  • This is what students and yourself have a goal to achieve
  • Mastery takes time to develop, but can never be fully reached
    • For every step you get to full mastery, a new step can come in that will improve that mastery
    • Like an asymptote
  • Mastery is difficult, and many students will lose the way
    • It’s going to cause them pain, but keep pushing them and supporting them and they can make it
  • Challenging their understandings and keeping them engaged will keep the mastery growing


  • This brings students truly into the lesson
  • They begin to take an interest when they have a reason to
    • Link their favorite subject to your class
    • Make the topics for a project more open ended and give them multiple ways to go about the project
    • Relate lessons to their lives
  • The more value you can give something, the more likely they are to learn it

It’s all about giving the students a reason to care, pushing them forward when they do care, and giving them a stake in their learning.  If you don’t provide this, then the students will never truly learn.

A person’s motivation doesn’t change based on where they are, how they are motivated for each task will stay the same, even in a different place.  Keep your students engaged and loving what they are doing, and it will make a world of difference.  Maybe they’ll be driven to get out of bed just because they want to learn in your class today.


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5 Responses to What Makes One Driven?

  1. Dillon Frank says:

    Thanks! I’m trying to keep it shorter and more to the point with my posts once I get into the body itself! Understanding the three points of intrinsic motivation is so important to understanding how to foster it within your students! Letting students have more creative freedom and relating things to their lives is going to greatly improve their motivation to learn!
    I wanted to highlight the importance of both types of motivation! Intrinsic is the most important in the classroom, and that can’t be ignored, but extrinsic is also incredibly important when used at the right times. I put some examples when I was describing their differences, but the intrinsic examples were more broad and not very detailed. A good example of intrinsic in a classroom would be giving the students praise or linking it to something they enjoy so they feel like they actually want to learn!
    Thanks! I liked the idea of putting it in quotes to show that it’s not a secret, but rather something that we often aren’t told or don’t hold to a high value in the classroom! The importance of intrinsic motivation is so evident, but we often fail to accomplish it because we don’t have any good insight on how to do it!
    I loved the thought of using getting out of the bed as an analogy! It’s a good one that we can all relate to when we think about it. The more we think about the intrinsic motivation, the less we realize we are actually doing something! I know I hate getting out of bed in the morning to attend a class just for the grade, but if I really enjoy the class, I’ll gladly get up in the morning!

  2. rohlfswe says:

    As always, you did a great job of structuring your post. It is easy to follow and really allows the reader to move through the content seamlessly.
    The one part of the post that stood out the most to me was when you talked about the three elements of intrinsic motivation. These three things are so important to allow students to become intrinsically motivated, and you did a great job of laying them out there and describing how they work together. One point from autonomy that I thought was important was when you discussed giving them creative freedom. Not everyone is going to have the same idea of how the final product will turn out. It is important to allow students to explore their own ideas, rather than making them stick to one standard format.
    When you discussed purpose, you mentioned relating lessons to students’ lives. This is so important. If you can do this, you can get the student interested and involved. This involvement will allow the students to stay engaged and motivated to learn the content.

  3. angelokm says:


    I really enjoyed reading your blog. I though you did a great job at describing why students are or are not motivated in the classroom. I thought your description of the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation was done well. You said that intrinsic motivation helps students invest in their own learning. But you also told me why extrinsic motivation has its place in the classroom. Talking about autonomy, mastery, and purpose was good because those are big points in Drive. They help people understand motivation better. I thought your pictures and social media add-ins helped solidify the point you were trying to make. I think it would have been a good idea to put examples of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation into your blog. What are some examples of these in a classroom? Overall, great job!


  4. radfortj says:

    Dillon, its a small thing that you do when you put secrets in quotations at the beginning of your post, but I think it speaks volumes. It is no secret what we need to do in order to effectively motivate our students it is just a matter of actually doing it. Your explanations of types of intrinsic motivation are also wonderful and give great insight into how to accomplish those types of motivation. Definitely a post that I will reference later in my teaching career

  5. mulligmg says:

    Very well said! I think you really connected Drive! to the classroom and students! Your intro is relatable, as well, and I like how your ending tied back to it. It sort of got me thinking, “What gets me out of bed?” When it’s an intrinsic motivator, it’s certainly easier to get up in the morning.

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