What Matters/Psychological Needs

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Psychological Needs[edit]

Toddlers exercise their autonomy and increase competence as they let go of their parent's hands and take their first steps. Parents' smiles of approval increase relatedness.

The Self-determination theory identifies the basic requirements of mental health leading to peoples' inherent growth tendencies and their innate psychological needs. These needs are:

  • Autonomy—Being free to pursue goals you choose. Having a sense of choice, flexibility, and personal freedom. Self-governance. Autonomy is the converse of being controlled, however it is not the same as independence, selfishness, or irresponsibility. Autonomy is the feeling deep inside that your actions are your own choice; you are neither complying with nor defying controls. It requires integration of your choices and overcoming ambivalence.
  • Competence—The ability to succeed at an optimal challenge. It is the ability to do something well or to meet a required performance standard.
  • Relatedness—Feeling connected with others. Having people to care about, and people who care about you. The need to feel belongingness and connectedness with others. It may take the form of friendship and love, dialogue and sharing, group participation, community involvement, and a variety of prosocial activities.

Assignment:[edit]

Notice your decisions and activities over the next week.

  1. What decisions did you make autonomously, what decisions were made for you?
  2. What activities exercised or increased your competency? What activities were either too easy or too difficult for you?
  3. Who did you connect with and care about? Who connected with you and cared about you?

Based on these observations, what steps can you take to increase your autonomy, competence, and relatedness?

Suggestions for further reading:[edit]

  • Deci, Edward L.; Richard Flaste (1996). Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation. Penguin. pp. 240. ISBN 978-0140255263.