The 365 Commitment

Self Determination Theory

Decided to dive a little deeper into this concept of being self motivated, beyond any extrinsic factor and to decide to be great at something just to be great. It seems that this is a real theory that has been investigated since the early 70s. Not all behavioral scientists agree. Recent studies do not even list this as a motivator at all in human behavior. However, to me, it seems that this really is a motivator.

I read one article that claimed that “art for art’s sake” was a uniquely human concept. That only humans exhibited the idea that they would improve something just to improve the overall field of study. That a sense of pride or accomplishment could be achieved by simply improving the overall state or body of work. However, this is separate than a purely internal motivator. A self determination factor.

Scientists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan spend many studies focusing on the differentiation between internal and external motivators for humans. They isolated three basic needs that were essential for human self deterministic behavior and ultimately a healthier human. Those three elements were competence, autonomy, and relatedness.

I spent some time thinking about these three elements after reading through the results of one of their studies. The first, competence, seems logical. Humans tend to be proactive about mastering themselves and their environment. Anything that a human can do that will demonstrate further control of a set of outcomes is going to naturally be more rewarding to them. This might explain why I chose the career that I am in. I found that my ability comprehend computer science principles really fast, helped me predict the outcome of things that I was working on. That gave me some level of satisfaction and might have been a greater motivator than I realized.

The second one of autonomy I can completely relate to. There does seem to be an innate sense within ourselves to want to control our own destiny. To be the principal actor if you will on our stage. When given a choice of two paths, one where you are more in control of your life and one where you are not – it seems that we will always pick autonomy. Even when it is to our disadvantage when considering other possible motivators.

The third took me a while to grasp. They call it relatedness. It is the will to interact with, be connected with, and experience love and care for others. This clearly is a motivator for me, although, has proven to be elusive. I tend to be very inward in my self assessment and looking at myself through the lens of who I am related to, or who I am ‘caring’ for was not a natural way to view things. However, the more I think about it, the more I realize just what a powerful motivator this is.

Now I can see how these three things combined together can really motivate someone to be the best they can be, just for the sake of being the best. As I explore ways to motivate myself, I will need to consider these three concepts of competence, autonomy and relatedness and key motivators for my own internal behavior.

Guy Reams

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