Home Self-Determination What is The Self Determination Theory?

What is The Self Determination Theory?

Self Determination Theory

An individual’s capacity to make decisions and run their own life is referred to as self-determination. When you are self-determined, you feel more in charge than when you are not, which may make you feel as though other people are running your life.

It claims that three inborn (and common) psychological requirements drive people to develop and evolve. In this theory, the idea of intrinsic motivation—doing things for the inherent satisfaction of the action—plays a significant part.

It claims that three inborn (and common) psychological requirements drive people to develop and evolve. In this theory, the idea of intrinsic motivation—doing things for the inherent satisfaction of the action—plays a significant part.

Since it contributes to psychological health and wellbeing, self-determination is a crucial psychological notion. Promoting self-determination when working with certain populations, such as those with intellectual impairments, is another developing best practise.

According to self-determination theory, people are more motivated to act when they believe their actions will have an impact on the result, which explains how being self-determined affects motivation. Find out more about this theory’s operation and what you can do to strengthen your self-determination abilities.


According to the self-determination theory, people can become self-determined when their needs for autonomy, competence, and connection are met.

The psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, who published Self-Determination and Intrinsic Motivation in Human Behaviour in 1985, are credited with developing the concept of self-determination. They created a theory of motivation that contends that people are typically motivated by a desire to advance and find fulfilment.

Self-Determination Premises

Two fundamental presumptions are made by self-determination theory:

Behaviour is influenced by the demand for progress. Self-determination theory begins with the premise that humans are actively motivated by progress. Building a strong sense of self requires overcoming obstacles and engaging in novel experiences.

Self-Determination Elements

Self-determination theory states that in order to experience psychological progress, humans must feel the following:


Individuals must feel in charge of their own actions and objectives. People’s feelings of self-determination are greatly aided by their perception of being able to take immediate action that will lead to genuine change.


Individuals must learn new skills and attain task mastery. People are more inclined to take activities that will forward their goals when they believe they possess the necessary talents for success.

Connection or relatedness:

People require a sense of attachment and belonging to others.

The Workings of Self-Determination Theory

It’s crucial to understand that the self-determination theory’s descriptions of psychological development are not automatic. Although some people may be inclined toward such progress, it needs ongoing support.

According to Ryan and Deci, our predisposition to be either proactive or passive is greatly impacted by the social circumstances of our upbringing. Social support is important. We have the power to promote or obstruct wellbeing and personal development via our interactions and connections with others.

Additional aspects that either support or oppose the three necessaries for growth include:

In some cases, extrinsic motivators might reduce self-determination. Giving individuals extrinsic rewards for actions that are organically driven might damage autonomy, according to Deci. People start to feel less in control of their conduct, and internal drive decreases, as behaviour is increasingly influenced by external rewards.

Self-determination may be strengthened via encouraging comments. Deci adds that providing unanticipated positive reinforcement and constructive criticism of a person’s task performance might boost intrinsic motivation. People who receive this kind of feedback feel more capable, which is essential for personal development.

Self-Determination Example

Imagine someone who drops the ball on a crucial assignment at work. If someone has a high level of self-determination, they will own up to their mistakes, think they can solve the issue, and act to change it.

If the same individual lacked self-determination, they may seek out other people or events to blame instead. They may offer explanations, place the blame elsewhere, or refuse to accept responsibility for their own part in the project’s late start.

Perhaps most significantly, the individual with little self-determination won’t feel driven to correct the error. Instead, they could have a sense of helplessness and think that nothing they do would actually change the issue.

Behaviours that are Self-Determined vs. Non-Self-Determined

  • Self-Controlled Actions
  • driven by internal rewards
  • driven by pleasure, interest, or fulfilment
  • Feel in command.
  • non-autonomous behaviours
  • driven by external rewards
  • driven by responsibility or commitment
  • feeling out of control

It is frequently beneficial to conceive about motivation as a continuum between self-determined and non-self-determined behaviours rather than thinking of it as being driven by either extrinsic or intrinsic incentives.

Purely self-determined behaviours, which tend to be genuinely motivated and carried out for the enjoyment of, interest in, and inherent fulfilment of the activity itself, are at one extreme of the spectrum.

Non-self-determined behaviours, on the other hand, are actions taken just because they must be taken. On this extreme end of the scale, there is utter absence of control.

Extrinsic motivation might come from a desire to win others’ acceptance, as in the case of training for a marathon. The joy you get from the activity itself may also serve as an internal motivator. Behaviours often fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

There is frequently a fluctuating level of external incentive as well, which can increase the intensity of internal motivation. People may choose certain acts if they believe they have some amount of control over them and if those actions eventually support a value that is significant to their self-concept.

The majority of activities are not wholly or partially self-determined. Actions, on the other hand, frequently depend on a certain level of self-determination that may also be impacted by extrinsic reasons.

Related Reading : What Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

The effects of self-determination

The idea of self-determination has been used in a broad range of contexts, including education, employment, parenting, physical activity, and health. High levels of self-determination may promote success in a variety of spheres of life, according to research.


  • People who are self-reliant are more content with their jobs and contribute significantly to the success of their organisations.
  • How can employers encourage their staff to make decisions for themselves?
  • enabling team members to participate actively
  • avoiding the overuse of extrinsic rewards, which may undermine intrinsic drive and cause the over justification effect,
  • giving staff members more responsibility
  • Providing assistance and inspiration
  • Giving staff constructive criticism


  • Fostering a feeling of self-determination helps inspire people to succeed in competitive environments, such as sports and athletics. Some claim that it functions, at least in part, by improving one’s mental toughness.
  • Athletes who believe they can overcome obstacles and accomplish their goals are frequently motivated to perform better. By excelling, they can develop a sense of competence and mastery in subjects that are meaningful and pleasurable to them.
  • Additionally, it has been discovered by researchers that those with a strong sense of self-control are more likely to maintain a balanced diet and regular exercise routine.

Social Context

Social interactions can also benefit from self-determination. For example, if people’s demands for autonomy, relatedness, and competence (the three elements of self-determination) are met when they first join an online community, it changes their social identity, which in turn impacts their participation behaviours.

to develop warm, loving connections with people, potentially enhancing self-determination:

  • Seek out relationships with individuals who will encourage you to pursue your objectives.
  • Support and criticism are provided to those in your social circle.
  • School Environments

Students that are self-motivated are more likely to feel driven to succeed. Additionally, they frequently experience higher levels of happiness and competence. Teachers can encourage students’ internal drive and feeling of self-determination by:

  • When students perform well, giving them unexpectedly favourable praise might make them feel more competent.
  • Avoiding overly generous rewards from outside sources for activities that students already find enjoyable increases their internal drive
  • People’s ability to operate in a variety of spheres of their lives can be greatly influenced by their sense of self-determination. People can feel more dedicated, enthusiastic, engaged, and happy with the things they perform when they feel in control and are organically driven.

Traits of Self-Determined Persons

It is beneficial to consider what a highly self-determined person would look like if you want to improve your self-determination. Self-determined people have a tendency to:

Have the conviction that they are in charge of their own life.

People who are self-determined have an internal centre of control and believe that their actions will affect the course of events. They believe that they can overcome obstacles by being diligent, making wise decisions, and working hard.

possess strong self-motivation.

High self-determination individuals don’t need external prizes or penalties to spur them on to activity. Instead, people act in a certain way due of internal motivation. They have an innate motivation to set and achieve goals.

Orient their activities toward their own objectives and tendencies.

  • In other words, those who are motivated by themselves consciously take acts that they know would advance them toward their objectives.
  • Accept accountability for your actions. Highly self-driven individuals embrace responsibility for their successes while also taking the fall for their shortcomings. They don’t assign blame to others since they are aware of their own accountability for their acts.

How to Strengthen Your Willpower

  • Do you desire more independence? You may take a few actions to strengthen your own self-determination abilities.
  • Make Yourself More Aware
  • Self-awareness is linked to self-reliance and may even enable you to make more deliberate choices.
  • Self-awareness may be increased by meditation, regular feedback, and writing down your thoughts and feelings.
  • Exercise self-control
  • Working on your self-regulation abilities is a necessary part of increasing your level of self-determination.
  • Being more aware of your mental and physical well-being as well as engaging in cognitive reframing to control your emotional responses are two techniques that can help you better regulate yourself.

Discover Social Support

Strong social ties can promote wellbeing and motivation. Look for folks who will welcome and care for you. It might be a family member, friend, member of your religion, a counsellor, or anybody else who makes you feel supported and included.

Become Mastery

Your feeling of self-determination can be increased by developing skills in areas that are important to you. No matter what you’re passionate about—a pastime, sport, topic at school, or something else—learning as much as you can about it and honing your talents may make you feel more confident.

You’ll probably feel more proficient and independent as you gain knowledge and experience.

A Few Words from Well

Understanding what can drive your behaviour can be helped by self-determination theory. Each person’s wellbeing depends on feeling self-determined or having the flexibility and autonomy to make decisions that define their future.

You’ll feel happier and better equipped to make wise decisions when you pursue goals and objectives that are inherently motivating.

Also Read

Written by

Greetings, I am Dr. Ashutosh Tripathi, a psychologist with extensive expertise in criminal behavior and its impact on psychological well-being. I hold a Master of Physics (Honors), a Master of Philosophy, a Master of Psychology, and a PhD in Psychology from BHU in India.Over the past 13 years, I have been privileged to serve more than 3200 patients with unique and varied psychological needs. My clinical work is guided by a deep passion for helping individuals navigate complex psychological issues and live more fulfilling lives.As a recognized contributor to the field of psychology, my articles have been published in esteemed Indian news forums, such as The Hindu, The Times of India, and Punjab Kesari. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been honored by the Government of Israel for my contributions to the Psychological Assistance Program.I remain committed to advancing our understanding of psychology and its applications through my ongoing research, which can be found on leading online libraries such as Science Direct, Wiley, Elsevier, Orcid, Google Scholar, and loop Frontiers. I am also an active contributor to Quora, where I share my insights on various psychological issues.Overall, I see myself as a lifelong student of psychology, constantly learning and growing from my patients, colleagues, and peers. I consider it a great privilege to have the opportunity to serve others in this field and to contribute to our collective understanding of the human mind and behavior.

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