What is Self Determination Theory of Motivation?

 Self-determination is a key concept in psychology that relates to a person’s ability to make decisions and manage their own life. This skill is crucial to one’s psychological health and well-being. People who have self-determination believe they have control over their choices and life. It also affects motivation: people are more driven to act if they believe their actions will have an impact on the outcome.

Self-determination has been used in a variety of settings, including education, work, parenting, fitness, and health. According to research, having a high level of self-determination can help you succeed in a variety of areas.


SDT, or Self-Determination Theory, is a theory that connects personality, human motivation, and maximum performance. It claims that there are two sorts of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic and that both are powerful influences in determining who we are and how we behave (Deci & Ryan, 2008).

It is a notion that emerged from the work of motivation researchers Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan in the 1970s and 1980s. The core concepts of the theory stem from Deci and Ryan’s groundbreaking 1985 book on the subject, despite the fact that it has grown and extended since then.

The Theory of Motivation by Deci and Ryan (1985)

Extrinsic motivation, according to Deci and Ryan, is a drive to behave in certain ways that are dependent on external sources and result in external benefits (1985). Grading systems, employee evaluations, prizes and accolades, and others’ respect and appreciation are examples of such sources.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, originates from the inside. Internal motivations, such as our underlying values, interests, and personal sense of morality, motivate us to act in certain ways.

Although it may appear that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are diametrically opposed, with intrinsic motivating us to act in accordance with our “ideal self” and extrinsic motivating us to comply to others’ expectations, there is another key contrast between the two types of drive. The SDT distinguishes between autonomous and regulated motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2008).

Individuals who identify with the worth of activity and how it corresponds with their sense of self-experience autonomous motivation, which encompasses motivation from both internal and external sources. External regulation—a sort of motivation in which an individual acts out of a desire for external rewards or fear of punishment—is a component of controlled motivation.

Introjected regulation, on the other hand, is motivated by “partially internalised actions and ideals” including avoiding embarrassment, seeking approval, and defending one’s ego.

When someone is motivated by autonomous motivation, they may feel self-directed and autonomous; when they are motivated by controlled motivation, they may feel pressured to act in a certain way, and so have little to no agency (Ryan & Deci, 2008).

What is Self Determination Theory of Motivation


  • Allowing team members to take an active part can help managers and leaders build this sense of self-determination.
  • Employees should be given responsibility, receive relevant feedback, and be supported and encouraged.
  • Extrinsic rewards should be used sparingly by employers. Too many awards can detract from intrinsic motivation (the overjustification effect), while too few can make employees feel undervalued.
  • Athletes who believe they can achieve their goals and overcome obstacles are generally motivated to improve their performance.
  • People who excel obtain a significant sense of competence and mastery in abilities that they find fun and valuable.
  • Seek out positive interactions with people who will encourage you to achieve your objectives.
  • People in your social circle will appreciate your support and input.
  • When students perform well, providing unexpected positive feedback might help them improve their skills.
  • Internal motivation can be improved by avoiding excessive external rewards for activities that students already like.


1. One of the most important aspects of self-determination theory is social connectedness. Poor social interactions can contribute to a poor sense of self and lack of motivation, whereas strong social ties can create motivation and well-being.

2. Building your sense of self-determination by becoming skilled in areas that are important to you is a good approach to start. Whether you have a great interest in a pastime, sport, academic subject, or another field, studying as much as you can and improving your skills can help you feel more competent. You will likely feel more adept and self-determined as you learn and practise.

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