Impetus vs Motivation: Understanding The Difference With Examples

Let’s look at a simple way to understand the difference between impetus vs motivation. Motivation is the reason behind a person doing something. On the other hand, we can understand impetus as a reaction: lowering the volume down of your TV because it’s too loud.

Let’s try to understand the difference between impetus and motivation and how it affects our daily lives and choices.

We will do this by defining both terms, followed by some key similarities and differences, with everyday examples for each concept.

The Concept of Motivation


Originating from the word “motive,” motivation is associated with the needs, wants, desires, or drives of a person, Juneja, P (2022) states. Often described as a complex process, it’s an action taken to accomplish a goal.

It elaborates on the wants or needs that move a person’s behavior towards a specific purpose. These particular goals can be directly associated with Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.

Abraham Maslow put forward the idea that motivation results from an individual trying to fulfill one of their five basic needs (psychological, safety, social, esteem, or self-actualization). We understand that these needs put internal pressure on us, which influences our behavior (Hartzell, S 2022). We can describe this behavior as either intrinsic or extrinsic.

According to Ryan, M & Deci (2000), intrinsic motivation is when we participate in an activity for satisfaction rather than for a consequence. When intrinsically motivated, we will pursue a workout just because we enjoy it.

An example of this would be a person reading a book because they genuinely enjoy the action of reading books and the time they spend doing so.

On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is entirely driven by an external reward. We participate in an activity with extrinsic motivation, not for pure enjoyment but rather for the reward. Tangible rewards would include money or losing weight. Intangible rewards include recognition and praise for completing a task.

An excellent example of this concept would be a person working a 9 to 5 job, not because they are in love with accounting, but because they will receive a paycheck at the end of the month to pay for their nice car.

… And What is Impetus?


While motivation is generally associated with psychology, the impetus is often connected with physics and motion. It was first mentioned in the findings of Aristotle. Van Dyk, M (2019) describes impetus as the transmission of power from the mover to the object moved.

In layman’s terms, an impetus is more of a force. A force that generates in response to a stimulus. Watering the seeds that you planted will give impetus for growth is a good example.

The Fundamental Difference Between Impetus vs Motivation

Although motivation and impetus meanings are very similar, there is a slight difference. We could differentiate the two by labeling “motivation” as action and “impetus” as a reaction. Motivation is a concept that we need to muster up ourselves. There is an aspect of willingness in motivation.

This essentially means that we will do anything about it if we are unwilling to act on an issue. For example, if I do not have the motivation to go to the gym every day, I will not find myself in the gym. Period.

The motivation to go to the gym would be to get healthier. Motivation is something that doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Some people might seem to have more motivation than others, but this is essentially a difference in dopamine.

Scientists have found that motivation comes from a part of your brain that is highly dependent on dopamine. Little to no motivation has been associated with low dopamine levels, Rampton,J (2022).

We would be able to change our motivation levels by putting small steps into action. These steps can include activities like setting attainable goals.

Concerning impetus, there is no source of willingness, and it’s described as a force that forces you to act on an issue. Impetus is not necessarily an action or inclusive of whether you want to act on the potential task or not. It’s merely a reaction to an action.

Motivation vs Impetus: Examples

Intrinsic Motivation

Adam knows that he has always adored being around and helping people. Adam is a student with two years to go to finish his school. While doing his research, he found that he would be able to help people on a daily basis by becoming a doctor.

This idea of helping people motivates Adam to put all of his efforts into studying to become one. Why? So that he makes sure and tries his best to get into the university of medicine. Once he has studied at university, he will be able to help people as a doctor.

Extrinsic Motivation

John has always loved the idea of living in luxury, in the form of fancy cars and houses. John is also a student at the same school. He has always known that his dad makes good money by being a doctor.

The money that comes from having a career in medicine motivates John to study as hard as he can. Acceptance into medical school will mean he will become a doctor. As a doctor, he will earn the money that his father earns.

Motivation vs Impetus: Examples

In South Africa, violence and crime are on the rise. While the government was planning, the high rate of crime was the impetus for hiring another 1000 police officers in the province of Gauteng.

Because of the rise in violence and crime, the government’s reaction was to try and minimize the growth by hiring more police force.

Closing Notes

To conclude, while exploring the concept of motivation and impetus, we found that the two concepts were more similar than different.

Motivation involves our more internal thoughts. Impetus acts as more of a reaction to a situation. If motivation is a conscious action, impetus is a reaction to an action.

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