Sam Radford

May 17, 2022

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic goals

When I read ‘From Strength to Strength’ by Arthur Brooks earlier this year, one of the ideas I noted down was the importance of having a balance of intrinsic goals and extrinsic goals.

If you were to ask me what my goals are for this year, or the next five years, my response would probably be entirely made up of extrinsic goals. They would reflect things I want to achieve, places I want to go, career progress, house enhancements. You get the picture.

There’s nothing wrong with these goals, but what does it say that most of us jump to these external pursuits when we think about what goals we have?

Why don’t we have goals like:

  • I want to be kinder to people this year
  • I want to become a more generous person
  • I want to work on my anger problems.

It’s not that we never have goals like this. But it’s rarer. We give more attention to extrinsic goals than we do intrinsic goals.

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be either-or. Perhaps, like me, you’d benefit from a more balanced set of goals though?

—Sam

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