What is the Self-Determination Theory?
Most of us recognise motivation as either intrinsic (self-initiated) or extrinsic (for rewards or recognition). While motivation can be either internally driven, or for external gains such as money or social recognition, the Self-Determination Theory posits that motivation exists in a continuum. An example of this is training for a marathon which may be motivated both intrinsically (for the love of running) and extrinsically (for social recognition). Self-Determined motivation therefore needs us to focus on what is driving us on both sides for most cases- however true intrinsic motivation is also possible and achievable.
The Self-Determination Theory also presents the idea that motivation is driven by our desire to meet three universal human needs:
Basically put, we all have the innate human desire to grow, learn, and accomplish our goals. We want to feel as if we’re accomplished, competent, and that we’re valuable contributors. We also want to determine our own goals, have our own ideas, and craft our own identity, without being controlled or told what to do. Lastly, as humans we’re naturally social. We need to feel connected to others, understood, and that we belong. Each of these three universal human needs underpins what is at the core of our motivation.
In this article we will share three proven strategies to keep you motivated, guided by these three universal human needs. These strategies work to increase your sense of accomplishment, to empower your sense of autonomy over your own life, and to support you to remember and connect with your social networks so that you can continue to succeed and feel driven towards reaching all your personal goals for 2019.
3 Proven Strategies to Keep You Motivated
1) Motivated by Competence: Reflect on your achievements, and re-evaluate your goals
Often when we set goals at the beginning of the year, we write down big and often unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve. Taking time now to reflect on what you have accomplished can help you to recognise your achievements, thus boosting your motivation to pursue what is still on your list. Once you’re feeling more competent in what you have done, it will make it easier to re-evaluate what you still want to achieve. Re-evaluating your goals requires you to be realistic about what you can do, and asking these questions can help:
- “Is this goal actually my goal?” and “What is driving this goal? Is it an intrinsic desire or is it extrinsically motivated?”
- “Is this goal realistic for me to achieve?” and if not “How can I make this goal more specific and realistic?”
2) Motivated by Autonomy: Reward yourself for your personal accomplishments, and remember to rest
When you start to reflect on your year and all the efforts you’ve made, you may realise just how tired you are. It’s really important for your resilience and stamina to know when you need to rest and restore your energy. We’re not machines and without enough rest we’re unlikely to reach the finish line successfully. Knowing when to reward yourself for work done – and when you deserve a break – can be difficult, because we’re often our harshest critics. This this is where your autonomy can come into play.
Ask yourself these questions:
- “What am I proud of that I have achieved this year?”
- “What is the best way to reward myself for my hard work?”
- “What is the best way for me to restore my energy?”
It’s also important to keep the bigger picture in mind. Why have you been so driven and what are you working towards? When we remember what we’re moving towards we learn to see that life’s biggest accomplishments are a marathon, not a sprint. They take time, and usually you’re the only one who will give yourself that time. Make sure you’re using your autonomy to increase your stamina, so as not to exhaust yourself to the point of burn-out.
3) Motivated by Connection: Appreciating and Engaging in Your Social Networks
Motivation is largely impacted by our social circumstances, and there is a growing body of research which is proving the value and importance of gratitude. When we learn to focus on what we have, and feel appreciation for the moments, achievements, and the people who have positively impacted us, we become more productive and satisfied and feel more connected. When you start to feel your motivation wane (especially at this time of year), reflect on the people who have supported your goals so far. Write down their names and the ways they’ve helped or supported you in achieving your goals. If it feels appropriate, tell them. Sharing your appreciation may be just what they need to feel uplifted and motivated.
Practicing gratitude can be extremely helpful in team meetings. Try asking your team to:
- Write down the names of 10 people who have supported them this year.
- Share one quality or strength they appreciate in each of their team members.
- Write down the resources they need to reach their goals, and then ask people for help.
We often feel isolated when we want to succeed because we want to feel wholly responsible for our achievements. When we learn to ask for help we’re more likely to actually reach the finish line.