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Self-Determination Theory

The Science of Intrinsic Motivation


Have you ever heard of Self-Determination Theory? SDT for short. It’s one of the most robust scientific models of intrinsic human motivation (and well-being) out there.

Three parts. Here they are.

1. Autonomy. The first step in Optimizing our intrinsic motivation (and the intrinsic motivation of those we may manage beyond ourselves) is to create a sense of autonomy. To feel in control of our lives and what we do on a daily basis.

In Drive, Dan Pink calls autonomy “the sun of the SDT solar system.” He tells us there’s a big difference between “compliance” where you’re doing what you’re told to do and engagement, when you’re doing what you choose to do. How’re you doing with that?

2. Relatedness. We’re wired to feel connected. We need to foster a sense of connection with our friends and family and colleagues. AND… We need to feel a sense of Purpose and connection to something bigger than ourselves. You feeling connected?

3. Mastery. We’re also wired to feel competence and to master tasks and ourselves. Do you feel competent and challenged by your work?

Autonomy + Relatedness + Mastery.

The Big Three of SDT.

Let’s +1, +1, and +1 our intrinsic motivation today!