My Determination, My Motivation

“I absolutely do not feel like doing anything at all. It’s not like I can get out of bed and go see a friend these days. So I have no reason to get up.” Sounds familiar? What is this feeling? This is nothing but the lack of motivation unless of course there are other deeper problems at hand.

Motivation is a process by which activities are started, directed, and continued so that physical or psychological needs or wants are met. It is a drive to do something. It involves cognitive, physical, emotional, social forces that activate behavior.

Motivation is broadly classified in two types-

Extrinsic Motivation is a type of motivation in which a person performs an action because it leads to an outcome that is separate from or external to the person. It involves rewards such as praise, money, social recognition, etc.

Intrinsic Motivation is a type of motivation in which a person performs an action because the act itself is rewarding or satisfying in some internal manner such as solving a puzzle, playing a game, engaging in a hobby.

Self Determination Theory

There are extensive research and varied approach to the study of motivation theories. Self-determination theory was introduced by Richard Ryan and Edward Deci. It addresses issues of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. This theory proposes that our need for Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness motivates our behavior. It states that achieving these needs is crucial for our psychological well being.

1) Autonomy– It is people’s need to be in control of their own behavior and goals. It is a need to perceive that they have choices and whatever they are doing is of their own free will. They need to feel that they are the master of their destiny.

2) Competence- It is the need to be able to master the challenging tasks of one’s life. It is the need to build one’s competence and develop mastery over tasks that are important to them. When people feel like they have the necessary skill set for success they are more likely to take actions that will motivate them to work towards their goal

3) Relatedness- It is the need to feel a sense of belongingness, intimacy, and security in relationships with others. It is a need to feel connected to others.

How does this theory work for us?

Our motivation lies somewhere on the continuum of non-self-determined motivation to self-determined motivation. In other words, our motivation ranges from reasons that are external on one end and internal on the other. E.g. suppose you are reading a book for your exam, the task itself is very boring but you do it mainly because it will help you pass the exam, not because it is essentially satisfactory. You are working for external rewards and to avoid punishments. Now if you are meeting friends, it is not very difficult to motivate yourself to step out to see them because it is something that you enjoy. You are intrinsically motivated because the act of hanging out with your friends is inherently enjoyable, fulfilling, and satisfying. 

The elements of self-determination theory focus on supporting the process of internalization and the development of optimal motivation and personal well-being. The satisfaction of these elements can be best accomplished if the person has a supportive environment to develop goals and build relationships with others. The satisfaction of these needs fuels intrinsic motivation. As we have seen earlier and for that matter, even from our experience it is important to have an intrinsic goal frame as it produces deeper engagement and interest in the given task. 

People with strong self-determination have the below qualities:

  • Self aware: They know and understand their needs, interests, strengths, and limitations
  • Internalizes external motivation: They identify factors from external motivators that will help them develop their psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness turning them into intrinsic motivation.
  • Take responsibility for their behaviors: they take credit for their success but also accept blame for their failure. Their behavior is directed towards the accomplishment of their desired goals
  • Believe that they have control of their lives: Their actions and behavior will influence the outcome so they feel in control of the challenges they face in life.

It is not an easy task to cultivate self determination behavior overnight. But a good beginning can be by understanding yourself and learning more about yourself such as your needs, your desires, strengths, and weaknesses. Making and maintaining strong social relationships can also promote motivation and well-being. Lastly, gaining mastery in your hobbies, interests, in different kinds of skill sets is known to increase your sense of competence. So, slowly but steadily work towards building your self determination!

Take it easy,


(M.A. Clinical Psychology, PGD Counselling)

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