And How it explains your Motivation
Ever wonder how you can strengthen that inner resolve to remain motivated in pursuit of your long-term goals? Success often has got more to do with the attitude you carry about yourself and your life more than anything else. We all go through the life’s high and low moments where we feel confident, of having it all, when things are going well, petty and desperate when they aren’t. There are always going to be challenges, problems or obstacles where we experience unresourceful emotions that tend to sabotage our efforts in goal accomplishment. No matter what your circumstances maybe, one thing that creates positive momentum in pursuit of your goals and objectives is your self-determination.
Though it is very easy to strive towards our goals when nothing appears to be standing in our way, we begin to struggle the moment something seems overwhelming or appears challenging. As a result, we may end up quitting or giving up, all because our inner resolve wasn’t strong enough. And as a matter of fact, most of the times, the toughest and most challenging obstacles that we face often come from within us. They are mostly intrinsic than extrinsic in many instances. And our level of self-determination is what determines how successful we get in overcoming them.
Failure will never overtake you if your determination to succeed is strong enough. — Og MandinoTweet
Self-determined behaviours Vs non-self-determined behaviours
Motivation is the primary factor to differentiate between a self-determined behaviour and a non—self-determined behaviours. Self-determined behaviours tend to be intrinsically motivated behaviours and are driven/done for inherent satisfaction. On the other end, non—self-determined behaviours are performed only because they must be done and lack control. People who are high in self-determination, think and act in an autonomous and intrinsically motivated form.
They firmly believe that they are in control of their life. And in face of a failure or not completing a task, they take responsibility for their behaviour and are self- motivated to fix the problem. A non-self-determined person might instead look for external things to assign blame. Or make excuses and refuse to admit the part they played in non-accomplishment of a task. This person won’t feel motivated to fix the mistake, or might even feel helpless to control the situation.
Self-determination guides towards self empowerment rather than see yourself as helpless victims of circumstance. When you feel more empowered you realise that in any situation, you have a nearly infinite range of choices. There are not only innumerable actions you could take, but you also have choices about your attitude and the meaning you ascribe to whatever it is that’s happening. It can play an important role in determining how much a person is self-motivated and committed in making sustained changes as needed to achieve their long-term goals.
What is Self-Determination Theory ?
Self-determination theory(SDT) is based on two key assumptions: the first being our need to grow and gain fulfilment is what drives our self-determined behaviour. And second assumption is that it is driven by internal sources of motivation such as need to gain knowledge and freedom. It is helpful in understanding the things that underpin an individual’s motivated behaviour and suggests that our innate psychosocial needs decide our level of determination in pursuit of goals.
Self-determination theory was originally proposed by Psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan and contains other mini-theories to explain the importance of the interconnection of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations as a means of human motivation to achieve a goal. However, finding “why” behind a desired goal within is much more important. One needs to determine their reasons for being motivated and reaching their goal. Since all of us strive to overcome challenges, the choices we make is what differentiates our self-determined behaviour and mindset.
According to Self-Determination Theory,
Our psychological needs drive our motivation
According to Basic needs theory, a sub-theory of SDT, there are three main intrinsic needs which underpin our motivation, effective function, high quality engagement and psychological well-being.
Autonomy. Our belief that we can choose our own behaviours and actions increases our motivation. We as humans have an inherent need to feel that we are in control of our lives, behaviours and our own choices. This includes overall psychological liberty and freedom of internal will. When you are autonomously motivated, you are driven to perform a task to your highest potential, which in turn increases your engagement in a task, and eventually your overall wellness as opposed to that of when you are told what to do.
This is the reason when extrinsic rewards are offered for an intrinsically motivated behaviour of ours, we tend to grow less interested in going after a goal. For instance, deadlines restrict and control our choices. Such a perceived control decreases our intrinsic motivation. On the contrary, acknowledging individual perspectives, and providing choices increase intrinsic motivation.
Competence. Our need to achieve mastery in a field, thirst for improvement and seek knowledge increases our motivation. We all have an inherent need to build our competence and are determined to achieve mastery over things that are important to us. When one is able to build their skills needed for success, they are more likely to be driven to act on their goals.
Competence is supported by pursuing goals that are challenging enough, but not overwhelming. Positive feedback fulfils our inherent need for competence. And so is finding meaning and value in what we do. However, autonomy is still important for competence. For instance, negative feedback or when external rewards are perceived as controlling, or when they pressure us to act in a certain way, they decrease our competence and motivation.
Relatedness. Our need to form strong social relationships or a sense of belongingness or connectedness with others always increases our motivation. We as humans are inherently proactive with our drives or emotions and have an inherent tendency to interact with, be connected to, and experience caring for others. For instance, building strong social relationships, providing support and caring environments foster productive workplaces. Though however inherent they are, they don’t happen automatically and are dependent on the fulfilment or dissatisfaction of relatedness. In other words, how well we relate to others either promotes or undermines intrinsic satisfaction and motivation.
Our determination depends on personal motivation at any given time.
We all commonly presume that either a person is motivated or not. However, research shows that motivation is much more complex than this. The quality of motivation, whether it is controlled or autonomous, intrinsic or extrinsic is important for its sustenance. There are two main types of motivations that primarily determine how determined we are.
Intrinsic motivation. It is the natural, inherent drive to seek out challenges and new possibilities and keeps up with our ‘ideal self’. According to sub-theory of SDT, Cognitive evaluation theory (CET), there are certain factors that drive our internal motivation. They can be social and environmental factors that help or hinder, our needs of competence and autonomy, and our sense of security and relatedness. For instance, a positive feedback or supportive, inclusive and collaborative work environment foster employee motivation.
Extrinsic motivation. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation comes from external sources like evaluations, awards, accolades and admiration of others. It leads us to conform with standards of others. According to Organismic integration theory (OIT), another sub-theory of SDT, our extrinsically motivated behaviour often varies in terms of the relative autonomy. like in the following scenarios:
- Reward/punishment. When our motivation is externally regulated, it is least autonomous as it is often driven by an external demand or possible reward or punishment. Such actions with externally perceived locus of control are non-self-determined.
- Internal pressure. When we feel motivated to demonstrate ability to maintain self-worth, though they are internally driven, they have an externally perceived locus of causality and do not come from one’s self. Such behaviours are low in motivation.
- Value. When we are driven to reach a goal that we identify is more valuable, or feel personally important, we become more self-determined. For instance, when we are driven by self-evaluations and beliefs on personal needs, it’s the most autonomous kind of extrinsic motivation and thus makes us more self-determined.
OIT proposes that extrinsically motivated behaviours can be integrated into self. And that is more likely to occur when there is sense of relatedness, competence and autonomy. For instance, an employee can internalise a workplace’s regulations and is more determined in working towards desired outcomes when they feel their needs are cared for, are secure in their jobs. If we feel more competent, related and autonomous, we are more likely to integrate and internalise external motivation and remain more determined to pursue a goal.
We are self-determined to the degree to which we currently orient our environments
Our needs are innate and are contextual in nature. Some people have stronger needs than others and have individual differences. So, the extent to which we are self-determined in general is dependent on the way we adapt and orient ourselves to our environment and regulate our behaviour. According to Causality orientations theory (COT), a sub-theory of SDT, individuals can be placed in three categories based on ‘casualty orientations’.
- Autonomous: People can have an autonomy orientation when there is autonomy, competency and relatedness. For instance, if you are autonomously oriented, you often make choices according to your own interests and values and are highly self-motivated.
- Strong controlled: This is where competence and relatedness are satisfied but not autonomy. If oriented this way, your choices will still be influenced by different pressures that you experience from internal and external demands.
- Impersonal: People may have an impersonal orientation when all the three needs aren’t satisfied. This decreases motivation as they believe that their decisions will not make a difference on the outcome of their lives.
Research suggests that we tend to orient towards a mix of three, but the degree to which we orient acts as a predictor for your motivation and performance.
Self-determination depends on not only what we strive for, but also why we strive for.
Our motivation depends on the purpose of our goals. Life goals and our aspirations are what guides our self-determined behaviour. How our self-determination is connected to goal striving is better explained by Goal contents theory of (GCT) of SDT. This theory proposes that not only is the content of our goals is important for our need, satisfaction and well-being, but also the process of our goals or why we strive for them.
The key is to understand what reasoning lies behind an individual’s goals. In other words, we are more motivated when we pursue goals in our own way rather than an external system of validation or regulation. So, in as way, those who pursue goals as a way to satisfy their needs have intrinsic goals and over time experience satisfaction while those who pursue goals in search of validation have external goals and do not experience satisfaction. Even when pursuing extrinsic rewards like fame or wealth, we become more self-determined when we pursue them autonomously, for our own reasons and with our own methods.
How do we consider this theory in practice
- Set meaningful goals. When your goals are not emotionally important enough, you will not have the emotional reservoirs available to successfully deal with obstacles that come your way. It is hard to stick with over the long time if your goals are not meaningful and compelling enough. So, the first thing to increase your self-determination is to find something that deeply interests you. And once you have something you are really excited about, then find supportive people and environment in pursuing them. Purpose and meaning make your will to put in the hard work intrinsic.
- Encourage supportive work environment. Providing autonomous work environments as opposed to controlled, boosts workplace productivity. Recognising individual talents, timely appreciations and providing meaningful feedback help you build strong work relationships. Encourage employees to set their own autonomously conceived and regulated goals to foster motivation and employee engagement. Employee motivation increases when you are supportive and empathetic, rather than controlling or directive.
- Develop an internal locus of control. When belief is lacking, self-doubt takes over. You kind of lose your sense of control. As a result, you may lack will power to persist when things get a little tough and unfamiliar. Without self-belief, one is less likely to give their hundred percent when trying to achieve any task. Strive towards developing an internal locus of control or a strong self-belief. Attribute your success and failure to things you control. Assume personal responsibility for mistakes, choices and your decisions and determine your own direction.
- Be self-aware. One way to become more self-determined is to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Make a deliberate practice to work on areas where you lack skill. The more you learn and practice, the more skilled and motivated you will likely to be. Building on your skills improves your competence, and your autonomy when making your own choices. This way, you are more likely to adhere to your pursuit of goals. Focus on continuous self-improvement. When you take everything as a learning experience, you remain more committed to pursuing your goals.
- Set realistic expectations. One of the best way to improve self motivation is to have realistic expectations. Since our commitment levels are directly connected to the expectations, not meeting our expectations wavers our motivation and you will be more likely to quit in the face of adversity. Similarly, when things get little challenging, one might think like a victim. Patterns like “Why is this always so difficult? Why are things always against me? Why do I always fail? are often self-sabotaging that put you into a state of regret. Instead influence your self-talk and accept that you are human and are prone to mistakes and failure.
Questions for self-reflection
What about achieving your goals— are you intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated?
How autonomously are you oriented towards your goals?
What is your ‘why’ that increases your intrinsic motivation?
How many of your major choices reflect your basic needs like autonomy, competence and relatedness?
How often are you driven by external rewards, validation or recognition?
Do you hold yourself responsible for your choices and decisions?
What has been your biggest challenge when it comes to exhibiting self-determined behaviours towards your goals and what can you do to overcome it?
Self-determination is the ability to make one’s own choices and controlling one’s own life. It fosters success in many different domains of life including education, work, parenting, building healthy habits and behaviours. And self-determination theory can help us in understanding what underpins our motivation.
However, It is important to realise that the various motivations described by SDT does not happen by default. Even though we are oriented toward self-growth, it requires continuous practice. Knowing alone is simply not enough. One must instead strive toward cultivating a mindset of determination that will keep you intrinsically motivated to persist through the challenges towards attainment of your goals.
More Articles Related to Motivation & Goal-Setting
Here are a few articles that may help you learn more about motivation and how to reach your goals.
- How to build lasting motivation
- Set intentions to make your goals more attainable
- Ways to improve your resilience quotient