You’re motivated already. We already know that. But sometimes it can feel like climbing uphill to get our tasks done and stay on track.  

Did you know there are 4 different types of motivation? Maybe the problem isn’t “I’m not motivated” but that you haven’t hacked your motivation style to make it work for you.  

Read more to discover your motivation style and how to access USF resources.   

The 4 different types of motivation 

External motivation: We’re motivated by rewards, compliments and external factors.  

Example: “I return the shopping carts at the grocery store because someone was watching me and I wanted them to see me doing something good.” 

How to hack it: When we feel like we do certain tasks for rewards, praise or how it looks, it can be hard to achieve goals and keep the momentum going.   

So, if you tend to be motivated by external factors, try these strategies the next time you hit a slump:   

  1. Study with a friend over Microsoft Teams or FaceTime.  
  2. Take a study break by watching your favorite show or playing a game.  
  3. Share your goals with others so you can check in with each other on your progress. 
  4. Plan your reward when you reach your goal. 

Harness your motivation style by using some of USF’s resources: 

  • Success and Wellness Coaching  
  • Can help you establish an action plan and the steps to work toward your goal. 
  • Helps with accountability. 
  • Can help you determine rewards based on your motivation style. 
  • Recreation and Wellness  
  • Offers individual and group activities that include outdoor adventures, fitness classes, intramural teams, and more. 
  • Career Services 
  • Can help you set specific goals and track them for career development.  
  • Provides accountability. 
  • Counseling Center Drop-In Groups 
  • Provides motivation and accountability through others. 
  • Fosters growth through sharing and hearing others’ lived experiences.  

Introjected motivation: We’re motivated by what we “should” and “ought” to  do.  

Example: “I return the shopping carts at the grocery store because if someone saw me leave it by my car, they would think I was a bad person.” 

How to hack it:  When we tell ourselves “should” all the time, we put excess and unnecessary pressure on ourselves to be perfect. No one expects us to be perfect and we can’t expect others to be perfect either. 

If you find yourself being motivated by words like “should” and “ought,” then try: 

  1. Self-reflection. Think about your goals and think about WHY those are your goals. 
  2. Write it down. Journaling is a great way to “see” how you are thinking and feeling. Did you notice some thinking patterns when you felt  you “ought” or “should” do something?  
  3. When you notice a trend, start formulating a plan for growth. 

Harness your motivation style by using some of our Wellness resources. 

  • Success and Wellness Coaching  
  • Helps with negative-self talk.   
  • Can help you notice how “shoulds” and “oughts” are getting in the way of living your best life. 
  • Can help with an action plan to help you feel holistically well. 
  • Drop-In Counseling Groups 
  • Offer a wide range of groups covering different topics in a safe space.
  • Provides support for discussing challenges and obstacles with others. 
  • Togetherall 
  • Connects you with others anonymously in a safe, online environment.  
  • Provides the opportunity to share concerns anonymously online, or access self-help resources, such as educational modules where you can work on areas that are important to you. 

Identified Motivation: We feel motivated when we achieve a goal that we personally think is important.  

Example: “ I return the shopping carts at the grocery store because it’s the right thing to do.” 

How to hack it: While it’s great to have goals and truly want them for yourself, don’t forget to enjoy the process as well! 

If you find yourself being motivated by the thought of achieving your goal and not necessarily anything else, try: 

  1. Thinking of one small thing that may make your experience more enjoyable.  
  2. Studying outside a few times a week or listening to a special playlist when you’re doing an activity that isn’t as enjoyable. 
  3.  Journaling your thoughts on WHY this goal is important.  

Harness your motivation style by using some of USF’s resources. 

  • Success and Wellness Coaching  
  • Can help you explore values and motivation to ensure they’re aligned with your goals.  
  • Can help you discover how to integrate fun and enjoyable tasks into your goals and routine.  
  • Acts as your cheerleader and accountability partner.  
  • Recreation and Wellness 
  • Provides personal training so you can get one-on-one feedback when working towards your goal.
  • Join RecWell’s fun, ongoing fitness challenges to work towards your goals while acknowledging your wins.
  • Academic Success Center 
  • Offers Study Skills mentoring so you can get  assistance when it comes to efficient note taking, testing taking strategies and more.  
  • Provides help through Writing Center to sharpen your writing skills.  

Intrinsic Motivation: We’re motivated by our interests, enjoyment of our tasks, and inherent satisfaction.  

Example: “I return the shopping carts at the grocery store because I enjoy knowing that I made a worker’s day a little easier.” 

How to hack it: If you really enjoy what you’re doing, you’re more likely to feel confident in your ability to accomplish it. Ask a friend or loved one to join you on your journey to spread the joy! 

Let’s face it. If you are motivated by the enjoyment of what you do, you’re already pretty motivated and likely to accomplish what you set out to do. Try:  

  1. Inviting friends and family into some of your routines to spread the positivity and motivation! 

Harness your motivation style by using some of USF’s resources.  

  • TAO 
  • Practice mindfulness and meditations with this free app to all USF students. 
  • With a library of journaling exercises, you can find prompts that fit your goals. 

Wellness USF offers a wide range of services to help your motivation style work for you. Connect with others through Togetherall, learn about time and stress management from the Center for Student Well-Being, and co-create a plan for your success with a Success and Wellness Coach.  

Whatever your motivation style is, make it work for you! 


Burton, K., & Lydon, J., & D’Alessandro, D., & Koestner, R., (2006). The Differential Effects of Intrinsic and Identified Motivation on Well-Being and Performance: Prospective, Experimental, and Implicit Approaches to Self-Determination Theory. Journal of personality and social psychology. 91. 750-62. 10.1037/0022-3514.91.4.750. 

Sheldon, K. M., & Elliot, A. J. (1998). Not All Personal Goals Are Personal: Comparing autonomous and Controlled Reasons for Goals as Predictors of Effort and Attainment. PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY BULLETIN, 5, 546.