Self-Determination Theory & Well-being

I recently came across 'Self-Determination theory', which basically proposes that we all share 3 core psychological needs which are essential to our motivation and behaving in effective & healthy ways. Therefore these 3 core psychological needs are also essential to our quality of life & well-being.

These 3 core psychological needs are:
1. Autonomy (feeling in control over what we do)2. Competence (feeling effective at what we do)3. Relatedness (feeling connected with others)

According to;
"Self-Determination Theory (SDT) represents a broad framework for the study of human motivation and personality. Perhaps more importantly SDT propositions also focus on how social and cultural factors facilitate or undermine people’s sense of volition and initiative, in addition to their well-being and the quality of their performance.  Conditions supporting the individual’s experience of autonomy, competence, and relatedness are argued to foster the most volitional and high quality forms of motivation and engagement for activities, including enhanced performance, persistence, and creativity. In addition SDT proposes that the degree to which any of these three psychological needs is unsupported or thwarted within a social context will have a robust detrimental impact on wellness in that setting."

This is very interesting for the subject of well-being as we can look at all aspects of our life; e.g work, home-life, relationships etc and judge how much autonomy, competence & relatedness we have in these areas. If we feel a high amount of autonomy, competence and relatedness, at work for example, then it's likely we enjoy work and are highly motivated. Likewise - if we have low autonomy, competence or relatedness - then it's likely we don't feel as motivated or content in our work.

I personally found the simplicity of reducing it down to 3 core psychological needs very interesting. When I think of this principle and apply it to my job, I feel as though I'm not as motivated as I could be, and whilst I have quite a bit of autonomy and feel quite competent at what i do, I feel rather lacking in relatedness to others as I work often in teams that are based in other countries and for clients I never meet - so my opportunity to relate to and connect with colleagues and clients who benefit from my work is greatly deminished - and this is maybe while I'm not as motivated as i could be? Something I need to look at perhaps and how I can try to increase the relatedness at work.

I'll be looking more closely into SDT and no doubt it will play a big part in any projects which seek to increase motivation & well-being.

Thanks for reading, Stuart.
Stuart Hodgson is a freelance graphic designer with a passion & interest in health & well-being. His life's purpose is to simply try and Live Better. Stuart is also curator of a popular inspirational quotes website and if you like this blog then you'll probably enjoy the site - visit 

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