What Intrinsic Goals Are + 7 Examples of Good Intrinsic Goals

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If you’re wondering what intrinsic goals are and how setting them can make your life better, you’re in the right place.

Intrinsic goals are goals that you naturally want to work on because they align with your personal values, interests, and desires. Any goal that you love doing for the sake of doing it is an intrinsic goal. Intrinsic goals don’t focus on external rewards like money or fame, but rather on taking action on what you enjoy.

These kinds of goals are great because they lead to higher well-being, satisfaction, and happiness; and lower stress and anxiety levels.

Let’s dive into this a little more with some word math.

Word Math: What Are Intrinsic Goals? 

If you’re new here, word math is my way of understanding words and phrases better. You can get the full rundown on it here. All definitions come from Oxford Languages via Google.

The main idea is that we define words and get their synonyms then combine those to understand phrases better, like this:

Intrinsic: belonging naturally; essential.

Synonyms: inherent, innate, natural, necessary, fundamental

Goal: the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

Synonyms: aim, objective, target, desired result

If we combine these, we get:

Intrinsic Goals = object of a person’s ambition or effort that is inherent, innate, natural, or belonging naturally

That doesn’t make a ton of sense, but I think we can simplify it:

Intrinsic goals are goals that come naturally to you. It’s when you have an innate or inherent ambition to do, achieve, and become something.

Another way we can think of it is that these are your personal objectives or end goals that you feel drawn to accomplish. They also include the natural-feeling action steps that lead you there, such as what exercises you do or what you do for work.

Consider also the aspect of utilizing your strengths. If you’re already inherently good at something, that can be a big part of setting intrinsic goals.

Examples of Intrinsic Goals

To understand further, let’s look at a few examples and how this phrase is used in a sentence. Here are four examples of intrinsic goals to get us started:

  • You feel drawn to learn a new language, and for some reason, you just can’t get the idea of learning Spanish out of your head. As you get started, you find that you love using Babble to help you.
  • As you think about your relationships, you realize that you love social settings. You set the goal to go to three social events per week to continue to improve your social skills.
  • The idea of starting a side hustle has always excited you and you’ve always loved drawing and painting. A good intrinsic goal would be to create an art-based side business and grow it to $1000 per month.
  • You want to get healthier but you hate running. You consider your values and remember that you love to dance. After doing some research, you find dancing has many of the same health benefits as running, so you set a goal to dance 3x per week.

I’ve been lucky enough to find a few intrinsic goals in my goal-setting journey. Here are just three of those:

  • In 2018 I wanted to earn some extra money and I felt inspired to start writing and building websites. What you’re reading now is the result of that intrinsic goal to write to create my own side hustle.
  • Several years ago I was struggling to get back into exercise after an injury. I stumbled across Ring Fit Adventure (affiliate link) for the Switch and since I loved video games, I thought I’d give it a try. It worked wonderfully and I stuck with exercise consistently for the first time in months!
  • As I’ve tried to grow closer to my kids over the years, I’ve realized that it’s best to utilize what we have in common. We spend quality time together on things we all enjoy, like hiking and video games.

Let’s dive even deeper by looking at how you can use this phrase in a sentence. Many of these also express the incredible benefits of having intrinsic goals:

  • Intrinsic goals that come naturally to you and utilize your strengths are more fulfilling than extrinsic goals like wealth and fame.
  • If you pursue intrinsic goals you may find a greater sense of purpose and meaning in your life.
  • Finding your own intrinsic goals may take time, but the joy and gratification that come from achieving them is worth it.
  • Research has discovered that people who set intrinsic goals can experience less stress and depression.
  • Intrinsic goals are more likely to provide lasting happiness and fulfillment than extrinsic goals.

A Brief Overview of How to Set Intrinsic Goals

The first step in setting intrinsic goals is to figure out what drives you most. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  1. Take an hour to reflect on your happiest moments. What were you doing in them? What had you accomplished that made you feel so great?
  2. Write down every job you’ve had and rank how much you enjoyed them on a scale of 1-10. Then, write what you did at that job that you liked and didn’t like.
  3. Think of the last time you felt like you were in a flow state. What were you doing when you had that happen? 
  4. Ask four of your closest friends and family members to make a list of your strengths.

I’d like to invite you to set a reminder on your phone to consider these things this coming Sunday afternoon. 

The next step to set your own intrinsic goals is to set action steps and outcomes for your goals that align with the core values and strengths you’ve identified. Do this for each area of the four main areas of life to set goals in, which are mindset, relationships, finances, and health.

Set an intrinsically motivated action step and outcome for each of these goals. Remember to focus on what comes naturally to you. When you find something that feels easy and will lead to an outcome, you’re in the right place. 

The last step to setting intrinsic goals is to begin working on them with a focus on enjoying the process.

The best thing you can do for any type of goal is to just start because you’ll only figure out if a goal is truly intrinsic when you’re working on it. If you enjoy working on it, it’s intrinsic. If not, refine it to make it more natural.

Let’s Wrap This Up

In summary:

  • Intrinsic goals are goals that are motivated by your strengths, values, interests, and desires instead of external rewards like fame or money.
  • Having these kinds of goals can bring more meaning to your life and increase your happiness while decreasing anxiety and stress.
  • To set intrinsic goals, take some time to figure out what you value, set action steps and outcomes around those, and begin working on them with a focus on enjoying the process.