Does it matter why we do the things we do?

Does it matter why we do the things we do?

A lot of people might want the same as you right now. A career, a family, a home, you name it. What we want can be the same but why we want it is a different story. Some study because they enjoy learning, others because it is what their parents expect of them. Some work to earn money, others because they enjoy the work itself.

What you pursue and your motivation to pursue it both influence your wellbeing. The self-determination theory divides our motivation in doing something because you yourself want to (intrinsic motivation), and doing something because you have to (extrinsic motivation). The big question is of course, which one is better? 

Sheldon, Ryan, Deci and Kassar (2004) conducted three studies together, these compare intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in regards to well-being. In the three studies different methods were used to determine whether participants were intrinsically or extrinsically motivated.They found that people with intrinsic motivation experienced a higher well-being and expected a better well-being then those having extrinsic motivation.

Why does this matter? If you feel stuck in life because you’re not doing what you want but what you’re told, then you can try to figure out why. Once you know why you are unhappy and why you once enjoyed doing the things you do, you can start enjoying them again. By thinking what really motivates you and what you really want, you can return to intrinsic motivation and feel better in life.

K.K. Kuin


Sheldon, K. M., Ryan, R. M., Deci, E. L., & Kasser, T. (2004). The Independent Effects of Goal Contents and Motives on Well-Being: It’s Both What You Pursue and Why You Pursue It. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(4), 475–486.

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