Self Determination
Self Determination

The term is made from two words self and determination. Self refers to the collection of beliefs we hold about ourselves. Whereas determination is the choice of action that has firmness for a purpose. Hence, self-determination is the process of influencing, controlling or deciding something without any external compulsion. It is the attitude of setting up goals by people and gives ability to achieve them. It affects motivation of a person by giving a sense of responsibility for their own actions. In this blog, we will also look forward to the section on how to improve self determination.

People with high self- determination are more confident in their opinions and judgement. Their self- perception is also more distinct and sharper. They perform better in every phase of life like family, education, work and health. They are more assertive in their social relations. Hence, increasing self-determination is essential for optimum performance and better functioning in life.

A sense of control on actions and responsibility of outcomes is developed in the mind of a person. This feeling helps people to feel more passionate, interested, satisfied, committed and satisfied with their work. It motivates people to achieve further and they no longer rely on external rewards or punishment. Abilities like self-evaluation, decision making skills, self-awareness, goal setting skills, manipulating appraisals help in enhancing the growth of self-determination.



The theory helps in understanding human motivation through a psychological framework. It was first published by psychologists Richard Ryan and Edward Deci in their 1985 book Self-Determination and Intrinsic Motivation in Human Behaviour. The concept of intrinsic motivation is: knowledge accomplishment stimulation, plays an important role in self-determination theory. Therefore, the theory states that people are able to become self-determined by three basic psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.


Autonomy is the ability to feel independent and to have a sense of control over your goals. It is the feeling of willingly endorsing one’s behaviors which play a major part in helping people feel self-determined. This is achieved when the person personally value their goal.


Competence is the ability to feel effective in dealing with your actions. When an individual feels competent, they feel a sense of mastery over their environment and they are more confident to take actions that will help them achieve their goals. It can be increased when they are more likely to take effective actions.


Relatedness is the ability to feel connected and have a sense of belonging towards others. One’s importance in the orbit results in a feeling of relatedness towards others. As a result, relatedness increases when the person cares for others in his group.


Self Determined vs Non Self Determined
Self Determined vs Non Self Determined

Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation are displayed as separate and distinct, whereas behavior is complex and people rarely act by a single source of motivation. They may often draw on multiple sources of motivation to achieve a goal. If you are training to participate in a writing competition, for example, you might be extrinsically motivated by a desire to gain approval or affiliation from others as well as intrinsically motivated by the satisfaction you gain from the activity.

It is often helpful to view motivation as a spectrum between self-determined and non-self-determined behaviours:

  • Purely self-determined behaviour are done to inherent enjoyment and satisfaction for the action itself and are intrinsic in nature hence they are at one end of spectrum.
  • On the other end of the spectrum are non-self-determined behaviour, which are performed as a duty. There is no sense of control in this end.

In most cases, behaviour tend to lie somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. In order to perform a task, there are some external factors involved with main internal motive or some internal factors along with main external motive.


Determination in Daily Life
Determination in Daily Life

Although, researches on self-determination theory have shown the importance of the three basic needs in a variety of places: school, competitions, workplace, relationships etc.


Self determined students perform better in schools. The motivation level is also high to achieve more. As a result, teachers who support their autonomy can get the best out of them. Such students are likely to succeed in life as they feel interested and satisfied.


Employees who are supported in their autonomy have satisfaction with their jobs and cooperate well with their leaders/managers. In addition, the employees work with greater efficiency when they feel relatedness. These employees also experience less work stress and anxiety.


In competition like sports and games, self-determination plays a major role as it increases the ability to perform. As a result, they have increased capability to achieve their goals and a sense of competence. 


Self-determination can also play a crucial role in relationships. A sense of relatedness is important in the development of self-determination. Therefore, close and affectionate relationships with other people can improve self-determination.


People with higher levels of self-determination behave differently as compared to people with lower levels. Adults, adolescents and children having high self-esteem are more popular and social among their friends. They are confident in their opinions and judgments and have sharper self-perception. Such people are usually more successful and ambitious academically. They experience less stress and score higher on the measure of psychological well- being. Whereas, people with low self- determination roll out an arsenal of weapons to defend against the various types of threats. For example, if they fail to complete an assignment at work, then instead of accepting their fault they might make excuses, assign blame, or refuse to admit their own role. Thus, they make social comparison with others who are worse and poor performers and a self-enhancing attribution to their failures. 


In order to be a self-determined person, initially you must think like one and know their abilities. Such person is confident in their opinions and satisfied with the decisions they make. They possess the following abilities in general:

  • They have the command of their life in their hands. Believing that their behaviour will have an influence on outcomes and therefore they act accordingly. Even when confronted with challenges, they feel that they can face it with hard work and perseverance.
  • Their actions are based on own goals. They do not seek what others are doing, rather do what will take them closer to their own goals.
  • Have high self-esteem. They do not rely on external rewards or punishments for rewards. They work to make themselves satisfied and take steps to reach their goal.
  • Take responsibility for their behaviour. Highly self-determined people not only take credit for their success, but they also accept the blame for their failures. And work on improving themselves from time to time.

Self-determination theory is based on one’s ability to meet intrinsic needs and to be seeking own needs and desires. Let us know how it can be achieved. Thus, these points will help in gaining self- determination.


Improve Determination
Improve Determination
  • Improving self-awareness through self-examination and reflection.
  • Work on problem-solving and decision-making skills.
  • Know about what you want and prioritizing your needs.
  • Improve self-control through various ways.
  • Communicate with people and expand your horizon.
  • Learn about the skill that interests you and be competent.
  • Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Be more involved in your social well-being.
  • Get involved in healthy relationships to gain motivation.
  • Gain mastery over areas that are important for you.
  • Improving goal-setting abilities and working hard for them.

Self-determination is a wide concept and can be acquired with experience and hard- work. The goal of one’s life should not be chasing what others have but to attain what truly satisfies oneself. Thus, the theory of self-determination revolves around motivation behind choices people make and that does not involve extrinsic factors. To motivate behaviour, perceived competence alone is not sufficient, it must contain autonomy. One should know that having the power to shape your future is in your hand and your actions are responsible for the consequences you face.


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