3 top tips to boost your self-determination


Google a definition of self-determination and it’s a process by which a person controls their own life.

That’s a process that can feel elusive to women because our lives seem to be controlled by the needs of others. So if we learn it, will it come? It can if we get clear about what it is so that we can become more conscious of how that process is working in our lives. It makes it easier to identify anything that could do with some tweaking.


What is self-determination?

Self-Determination Theory or SDT (Ryan and Deci, 2000) is a theory of human motivation. It’s based on an understanding of humans as a species naturally inclined to thrive and grow. The satisfaction of three basic needs, in particular, are critical to thrive-and-grow wellbeing. These are autonomy, competence and relational belonging.

Autonomy is about being able to say, ‘I will’, of our own volition. It’s about free will decision-making. Competence is about being able to say, ‘I can’ and having a sense of self-efficacy. It’s about a ‘can do’ attitude. Relational belonging is about being able to say, ‘I am, too’ and having a sense of inclusion. It’s about feeling part of things.


How can women get more of it?

Biologically and socioculturally, women have been assigned the challenge of satisfying self-determination needs through nurturing and caring for others. This means that women are assigned the challenge of satisfying agency, which relates to independence, through communion, which relates to caring. This can lead to our ‘I will, I can, and I am, too’, becoming conditional on the requirements of others – at the wellbeing expense of looking after our own requirements as a component of nurture and care.

The unique challenge we have can be posed in Neuro Semantic coaching terms: believe and act as if it’s true. Our unique challenge is to believe nurture and care id not an either/or proposition but a process of ‘and’ – and acting as if that were true.

Here are some tweaks that can help us to align with a thrive-and-grow process to satisfy our basic self-determination needs and enhance our sense of empowerment – as we work towards making it become increasingly true in our own lives.


3 top tips for self-determination and empowerment


1. Autonomy

Catch yourself decision making and ask yourself if it’s a habitually conditional reaction or a preferred choice? Becoming aware of this difference helps to identify what might need tweaking to satisfy this basic self-determination need.

2. Competence

Take a counter-intuitive approach the next time you automatically put your hand up – just because you literally can. Start satisfying this basic self-determination need by trying out your competence in saying, “I’m not able/available this time”. 

3. Relational Belonging

Feel what it’s like to be true to yourself, first. Identify what needs tweaking for you to be able to experience greater autonomy and develop competence in saying ‘no’, if that’s your preferred decision.

About Sandra Walden Pearson

Sandra Walden Pearson is creator of the empowerment transplant® DIY instructions included series of products and services for self-determination and empowerment; and author of How To Reclaim your Life as a Victim of Workplace Bullying. Sandra has dedicated her professional life to social justice through education and brings over 25 years successful senior general and L&D management to her directorship of Walden Pearson and Associates Pty Ltd.Sandra is a PhD candidate researching active cultivation of equity and respect in organisational cultures through self-determination and empowerment - her training and coaching is informed by evidence of what works for individuals, teams and organisations. She is a CINERGY® Accredited Conflict Coach, who holds a MBA (specialist HRM stream), together with teaching (BA Dip Ed), training (Cert IV TAA) and coaching (Neuro-Semantics ACMC) qualifications; is a popular conference speaker; and a member of the International Association on Workplace Bullying and Harassment, a Practitioner Member of the Resolution Institute, a Certified Member of the Australian Human Resources Institute (CAHRI) and a Member of the Australian Society of Authors.

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