There is a common belief that internal motivation emerges as children mature. Most people have no trouble accepting that adolescents are internally motivated but cling to the notion that younger children are motivated externally. The truth is that we are motivated from the inside out from the moment we are born.
If you are skeptical, just observe an infant for a while and you’ll see internal motivation in action. It may have been simple luck that led the infant to hit that mobile in his crib, but once he hears the sound it makes or sees it move, he wants to make it happen again and again. He will amuse himself for hours, attempting to hit the mobile, recreating the sights and sounds he finds so amusing. There are no “Student of the Month” awards given if he succeeds. There are no promises of an increased allowance. What drives the infant is an innate desire to demonstrate competence, to be able to do something he couldn’t do before. That’s why when a youngster learns a new skill, they want to repeat it again and again (and again, ad nauseum). It doesn’t matter if anyone watches and “reinforces” the behavior. Demonstrating competence is its own reward. We feel tremendous pleasure when we master something new.
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