Amanda: Hi guys. Welcome back to the podcast. I am Amanda.
Laura: I'm Laura.
Kendra: and I'm Kendra.
Amanda: And today we are going to talk about an interesting topic, the self determination theory. So Laura…
Laura: Alright guys. So you may remember from your psych 101 classes, the classic operating conditioning where people and animals' behavior is controlled by external rewards and punishments. Well, at least since I was a psychology major there has been more of a focus on self-determination theory.Self-determination theory was first proposed by psychologists, Desi and Ryan, in their 1985 book, Self-determination and Intrinsic Motivation and Human bBehavior. And so today we're gonna talk about self-determination theory from an article on simplypsychology.org. We'll link that article in the show notes. This is just so interesting because it focuses on how it's so important for our psychological well being that we can do things from a place of wanting growth rather than wanting reward. Self determination theory is a theory of human motivation and personality. That suggests that people are able to become self-determined when their needs for competence, relatedness and autonomy are fulfilled. And those are the three primary psychological needs that this theory addresses and we're gonna talk about that even more in a separate podcast. It refers to the person's ability to manage themselves and to make confident choices and to think on their own. We use the term agency a lot in coaching and that's kind of what they are describing here. It's a larger theory of human motivation and personality that deals with a couple of primary factors. People's inherent growth tendencies and the psychological needs of those same people. So if we look at situations where we might feel like our needs or other psychological needs are not being met, we can look at these three areas and see if there is a particular one of them that is not being addressed properly, either by ourselves or by our environments. One of the best parts of self determination theory is that it puts the individual in the driver's seat. And we talk to you all the time, in coaching, about how we are each in control of our own experience and life. And this theory completely goes along with that and affirms that people are at their best when they realize that they are in control and that they can make their own lives what they choose to make them.
Amanda: Okay. Do I take the baton, Laura?
Laura: Go for it, Amanda!
Amanda: Okay. Well, self-determination is a key predictor of whether or not people will display vitality and mental health. People are happier when they're pursuing things that are intrinsically motivated and are aligned with their own goals. Think back to the joy that children have when they're just dancing on their own. And before we, I don't wanna be sad about it. But until they, when they're doing things just because they want to, instead of trying to get, you know, a reward or escape punishment. The things that just are naturally exciting to them, the things that they naturally love, like that is such a pure place. And I think that's what this article is getting at. That happiness and pleasure is not the same as happiness and contentment. Self-determination makes people feel more responsible about your outcomes. It helps them focus their time on what they want to be doing. Self determination theory itself can be helpful in understanding the things that might motivate a given individual's behavior. Feeling like one has both the autonomy and the capabilities required to make choices on their own is something that most, if not every individual, would want to have. I think that's such a big thing to think about.
Kendra: Yeah. And I think another part of that as you were both describing, kind of building up to this, is just how much this correlates with that emotional adulthood. Just that it starts to become more about what lights you up instead of so much depending on the things that either you're involved with, the people you've lived with, the place you work to light you up, it starts to really turn that focus of control on the inside. I know that, you know, sometimes you just want your kids to be so dedicated to their schoolwork and be very self motivated and very self-determined to just be very successful. And I know we struggle with that as adults, or as their parents, because you think it's a reflection on you. But honestly, I feel like, lately, as we've been kind of going through all this, you start to tell your kids. “I want you to do something that you would be proud of and then do something that serves somebody else.” You know, that's kind of been my shift now that I'm not saying straight A's or bust, you know, you're never gonna go anywhere or do anything. So just having that feeling where you go after something that intrinsically makes you light up, that then will in turn be something that you will just do and love to do and have a passion to do because it's what reinforces happiness and that pleasure on the inside of you. That will motivate you more than just this, you know, straight A's or 4.0, or getting into a D1 school or whatever it might be.
Amanda: And like for all of us that went to med school, then did residency. We were following somebody's prescription for how you're, this is how you become a doctor and how you become successful. I think this self-determination idea is more of, we all have our own movie script for our own lives and it may not correlate to what somebody else thinks how it's supposed to be. And I think self-determination is like getting more in touch with your own integrity and your own destiny. No one else can know that for you. No one else can prescribe that for you. Like you were born with a certain skill set given by God or whatever you believe. I feel like self-determination is really getting in touch with that. What is your purpose on this planet and what is your destiny? And it may not look like what you or your mom or your dad or your friends think it's supposed to look like. And that's beautiful, I think.
Kendra: Well, it's more about that it becomes not as much about accomplishing this, this and this, but it's more about the growth. It's more about the journey of growth that drives you to attain or obtain those things that are the passion or the purpose that you finally discover for yourself. So it's more about that growth instead of just obtaining the end goal.
Laura: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's interesting that it has found that extrinsic rewards actually can make the process of doing whatever it is that you're trying to reinforce. It can make it less desirable. It can make it so that people are doing things just for the reward instead of for the growth. And they actually have less psychological fulfillment when they're doing something for an extrinsic reward. So very interesting. Lots of applications to medicine and to us as doctors, especially those of us who work with other people, including our families, this information is very relevant. And we're gonna talk in our next episode about the three specific psychological needs that are addressed in self determination theory.
Kendra: Yeah. So this thought about the intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, the self-determination theory becomes more about that play between the extrinsic and the intrinsic motives. And so people, especially like our colleagues, sometimes you feel that when you become a physician, or whatever specialty, you are driven by having either that title, or being famous, somehow getting all this money. All of these are those extrinsic factors. And I think most of what, or not most, but I think maybe an element of what drives us to burnout is because we really figure out that those things aren't fulfilling. Those things do not fill the void, or once you obtain those, you realize I'm still just as miserable and I still feel as much dread going to work. Even though I'm earning all this money, or even though I've obtained medical director or whatever it is. So the self-determination theory focuses primarily on the internal sources of motivation. Like I have gained financial independence. Like I actually go to work because I choose to. At this point in my life, I have been able to make good decisions about my finances and budget and blah, blah, blah. And now I am financially independent and I can actually choose how long I stay at this job or whatever. And it becomes less about proving yourself to the world and more about proving yourself to yourself, like actually making yourself the best version and showing up for yourself, which is that integrity that we talk about, that self integrity.
Amanda: I think a good thing too, is like, we see it is so easy to get caught up in, like that's not my job. It shouldn't be like that. Like, whoa, why did you go to med school in the first place? Like what ultimately drove you to do that? That is probably that intrinsic motivation that you probably wanted to help people. I mean the people, at least that I work with, there was an initial drive that I just wanna help people. I want to help them feel better. You can still do that every single day. We just aren't thinking about that. We're thinking about all the extrinsic things and yes, it isn't as soul satisfying as when you're like, you know what I am, I am living. My own intrinsic integrity, like why I was here in the first place, focusing on that I do think takes it off of the less fulfilling, you know, I checked all the right boxes in my epic chart. That's not very satisfying.
Kendra: Well, this has been a great introduction into the self-determination theory. I think it applies not only to us as physicians, but really all of our core staff, including nurses, administration and everyone that we work with. And as parents, you know, bringing up children that do have an idea of what they're passionate about, what lights them up, what they could go after and put their whole self into and feel good about it. Just because it comes from themselves, it comes from an inside passion or desire, fulfillment that only they can discover. We're so grateful you found our podcast. We want you to stay connected. So go to our website at www.thewholephysician.com to sign up for our weekly well check. It's delivered right to your inbox. We want to invite you to come see us at ACEP scientific assembly 2022 in San Francisco! We'll be at booth 1316. So please drop in. We wanna meet you. We wanna give you a QR code for a fantastic discount on our products, like our CME course and coaching packages and enter you in a drawing for an amazing grand prize!
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