Self Determination Theory: What is the key to be satisfied with life and achieve your goals?

Experts say that self-determination is a complex interplay between internal and external motivation that drives a person to achieve a goal.

Myupchar February 03, 2020 19:06:33 IST
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Self Determination Theory: What is the key to be satisfied with life and achieve your goals?

Have you ever envied those lively people who always seem to be motivated towards their goals? Don’t you just wanna soak in some of that positivity and patch up your vision board with it? Or even just be able to reach short-term goals, like lose those 5 pounds, start a healthier routine or finish reading that book you have been putting off for a while? Yep, we’re looking at all those new year resolutions that you trashed before the end of January. 

Self Determination Theory What is the key to be satisfied with life and achieve your goals

Representational image. Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay.

Dr Richard Ryan, a clinical psychologist and Dr Edward Deci, research professors at the University of Rochester, proposed in the 1970s and 80s that the secret to a satisfactory life lies in self-determination.  

Now, most of us understand the word self-determination a bit differently; it means the ability to make decisions for oneself and be in control of one’s life. But isn’t that what most of our personal goals are? Shouldn’t one be motivated enough to reach the goals anyway? 

Experts say that self-determination is a complex interplay between internal and external motivation that drives a person to achieve a goal.

Here is an easier explanation.

The recipe for success

In their paper, ‘Self-Determination Theory and the facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being’, published in the year 2000 by the American Psychological Association, Deci and Ryan explained the secret formula for success and satisfaction with life: a combination of self-determination and the right kind of motivation.

This may sound a bit like something out of a motivational speech, but the company you keep (your peers) has a direct effect on your motivation levels that is almost as strong (if not more) as your innate motivation. The human mind has three innate psychological needs: 

  • Competence - The ability to be efficient in dealing with a situation
  • Autonomy - The urge to be in control of situations
  • Relatedness - To have a sense of belonging in a community

Only when all three of these are fulfilled will a person be able to reach their goals and feel content with life. 

The motivation continuum

It is true that internal motivation, that is, the motivation to do a task for your own sake, without underlying guilt or expectation of reward, is the driving force to achieve goals. However, Deci and Ryan suggest that most of the external motivation gets internalised to an extent. In other words, external motivation has the potential to gradually become internal motivation and thus, holds just as much importance as the original internal motivation.

There are four types of external motivations: 

  • External regulation: Where a person behaves in a certain way to avoid some situations or to get a reward. For example, when a teacher rewards a student for good work and punishes them for bad habits. 
  • Introjected regulation: Where a person is motivated by guilt or feels obliged to prove something. For example, if you feel like quitting alcohol as you are worried it may make you ill and put a monetary and emotional load on your family.
  • Identified regulation: when a person does something because they feel it is really important to them personally. For example, quitting junk food because you think it is harming your health.
  • Integrated regulation: When a person does something to achieve a bigger goal or another goal. For example, when you regulate your eating habits because you have high blood sugar levels.

In other words, if your family and friends also motivate you to do a task, there is a higher chance that you might be successful in it and feel more satisfied with your work.

For more information, read our article on Health Tips.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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