A quote commonly attributed to American automobile tycoon Henry Ford is that “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” This fun little quote reminds us of the reality that how we approach our goals is key to not only whether or not we achieve them, but what that achievement means to us.

Where does Motivation Come From?

There’s a theory in psychology and education that holds that motivation exists on a scale from intrinsic to extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation means that we want something for ourselves. This is often the source of our hobbies or projects. These are things that we do because they somehow enrich our lives.

On the other end of the scale is Extrinsic motivation, which is when we don’t really want to do something but someone else is making us. For many of us, this end is closer to where we are when we are at our jobs. Our degree of passion for our job may vary, but the real motivation for most of us to keep doing it is the money that we make.

Obviously, extrinsic motivation can get a job done, but it isn’t often very rewarding, so we tend to work harder and get more out of tasks that we are genuinely interested in – tasks that we are intrinsically motivated to do.

Related: What is a Flexible Mindset?

Balancing Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

This theory of motivation seldom suggests that we are at one extreme or the other. When we do most things, we are both extrinsically motivated to do it to some degree as well as intrinsically motivated to some degree.
If we didn’t have any extrinsic motivation to go to work, most of us probably wouldn’t. Also, while our work takes lots of time and energy, we probably wouldn’t do it if we didn’t have any intrinsic motivation either.

This balance of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation can also be helpful in terms of goals that we set for ourselves, largely because our moods can change. One day we may set a goal for ourselves when we feel particularly intrinsically motivated but a few days later we don’t feel so motivated anymore. In cases like these it is good for us to have some kind of extrinsic motivation as well.

This isn’t likely to be someone paying us, like it is with our work, though some people do find that setting up a reward system can help them to keep on track. For others, having a friend, family member, or group with similar goals can help for us to stay on track, as these people can help to encourage us to pursue our goals even on fays when we don’t particularly feel like it. Both of these are kinds of mild extrinsic motivation.

Related: How to Embrace Growth Mindset to Reprogram YOUR Brain for Success

Is Motivation so Important?

In 2008 academic Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000 hours rule, stating that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. The concept began running into flack in 2013 when writer David Epstein wrote that genes play a more significant role than practice. This has led many to abandon the 10,000 hours rule, which is unfortunate. Gladwell responded in an article in The New Yorker that the 10,000 hours rule is meant to apply to cognitive skills rather than strictly athletic skills.

Whether you agree with Gladwell or Epstein, few would disagree that it takes time and effort to develop a new skill. Perhaps fewer would disagree that putting in that time can be hard. Knowing how to keep your eye on the ball when we lose our sense of motivation can be very important to achieving a goal. Things like losing weight and building muscle, learning a new language, or learning an instrument take time and it is best if we do them every day.