"I Want to be a _____ " - Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation

"Do what you love and you'll never work a day!" 

What does this mean? Surely even if you're doing what you love, you'd still be working and putting in time. The follow-up question to that should then be, "what are you working towards and what are you working for?"

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" 

We were all asked this simple yet complex question when we were children and probably will be one of the most important questions we will ever be asked. If you compare the answer(s) your 5 year old self gave versus your 17 year old self, they would likely differ. Your 5 year old self probably answered "I want to be a princess; I want to be a firetruck; I want to be a dinosaur" vs. your 17 year old self who may have answered "I want to be a doctor; I want to be an engineer; I want to be a social worker". You likely smiled in awe at the answers your 5 year old self gave - why? Because they were cute and most likely crazy and unimaginable dreams. Your 17 year old self gave practical answers. As we grow up, a sad reality is that we start to lose a sense of self in a small way due to societal pressures and norms that are placed on us. From the people we surround ourselves with, institutions and social media there are a lot of information and ideas of what we "should" and "should not" do in life and what society defines as "success".

How does this relate to me? Growing up, I wanted to be a lot of things and topping the list as a little Natalia was being a princess! I wanted to be an Olympic athlete (my sister and I were scouted for the Keyano swim club) and there was a period when we took swimming extremely seriously. As I grew older my answers became mundane and to be honest, not really me. Like every Asian child, I "aspired" to be a doctor and lawyer. But I knew the second those words left my lips, I was just saying that to make others happy. I had no interest whatsoever in pursuing a career in either professions. In undergrad at the UofA, I remember feeling so lost and didn't really know what I wanted to do. An opening came through for the Faculty of Pharmacy so I applied and it just so happened I got accepted. I went through the motions and now find myself managing a pharmacy. Was this where I see myself to be? Not at all. Sure, I am 100% independent and self sustaining but the lifestyle was NOT what I bargained for. I look forward to the end of my shift before even starting my shift. It is mundane. I am exhausted all the time. I am frustrated. I am unhappy. I went into pharmacy because I knew it would give my folks a peace of mind. It was a career that would provide me stability (however current government events make this very bleak!) and financial security where I wouldn't have to depend on others. It was also a way to keep them from giving me "the lecture" and "nagging". 

Pharmacy (and other professions) was also for extrinsic rewards - these are the tangible motivation most commonly financial such as pay raises, bonuses and benefits. These are called extrinsic because they are external to the work itself and other people control their size and whether or not they are granted. These are a little more traditional and common in my parents' generation - but now times are changing and today we find that extrinsic rewards are becoming less important. 

Since high school I always wanted to be a musician and singer-songwriter! This was a secret to most kept especially from my parents because I knew that it would not be a viable option. It won't be able to give me stability/security in life and they were afraid that I would become that "struggling artist". To this day they still refer to my music as a hobby. In my mind, I didn't want to disappoint them because of how hard they had to work to provide the life and privileges that they gave my sisters and I from literally nothing. It would be disrespectful. But what they don't understand is the overwhelming sense of self fulfillment and positivity that I feel every time I write a song that I can perform in front of others, when I step into the studio, when I sing and play the piano and when I create something that is my own!

I was watching an interview with Dua Lipa and I could not agree with her more. Paraphrasing her answer of why she loves doing what she does, Dua Lipa describes the feeling (and I'm all about the "feeling") of almost a high that is so "addicting" when she's on stage and when people find solace and strength through her music! 

I was recently reprimanded by someone who told me that I was doing music all for fame, selfish and self-serving reasons. It definitely hurt and aroused some good anger out of me but it also shows just how little they knew me. Despite the crazy shifts and hours I work at the pharmacy, I regain magical energy and excitement when I am preparing and practicing for a gig because I enjoy and want to perform! 

I want to see and make people feel the way that I'm feeling through my songs and give a sense of community where we are not alone in this ironic lonesome world. I want to inspire other young girls to know that they can be educated but also make their dreams come true regardless of what others say. I want people to know that it is ok to work against the current; that it is ok to have a dream and to manifest it into reality especially when you're working hard for it. Having a dream and knowing your passion that makes you happy and fulfilled is rare and being able to live in your dream is even more rare. It is beautiful and it is an absolute gift! I am always looking for ways to improve myself as a musician, a singer-songwriter, a performer and as a person. I am taking lessons, I am investing in new musical gear and self promotion, I am networking, making new collaborations and putting myself in situations outside of my own comfort zone and a lot of self learning comes out of these processes! 

What I've just described above are all intrinsic motivation for why I do music! There was an article that I read that differentiated between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and I found the analysis behind intrinsic rewards to be on point! 

1. "Committing to a meaningful purpose 

2. Choosing the best way of fulfilling that purpose 

3. Making sure that one is performing work activities competently, and 

4. Making sure that one is making progress to achieving the purpose." 

~ Link: https://iveybusinessjournal.com/publication/the-four-intrinsic-rewards-that-drive-employee-engagement/ 

At the end of my musical day, I am happy, I feel productive, I feel empowered, uplifted, motivated and proud of myself especially because I work hard as most other artists are also doing! This is extremely important because starting this week, May 7 marks Mental Health Week. Being able to do something that fosters intrinsic motivation is crucial to our mental health. So often do we hear that we are in jobs that we don't like and how depleted our souls become and overtime, our mental and physical health becomes compromised. I am a huge believer now than a couple years back in taking control over our lives and making it into the one that we want. It won't be easy and it shouldn't. We have to earn it and we have to work for it! And that is what I intend to do - there's no sign of stopping for Natalia Chai Music! 


On that note!!! If you haven't heard already, I will be releasing my CONNECTED LP at my launch party (check out my last week's blog HERE!) on June 2 @ The Bourbon Room!! Tickets are already on sale and make sure to get yours now HERE!!!

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