Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is a motivational theory focused on supporting the intrinsic tendencies of a person to behave in an effective and healthy manner. This means, SDT motivates people by stimulating the innate capacities of a person to perform at an optimum level. This theory was developed by Richard M. Ryan alongside Edward L. Deci at the University of Rochester.
SDT can be applied in different facets of life including organization, education, religion, health, medicine, media, parenting, relationships, psychotherapy, sports and physical activities. By applying SDT, you can see that autonomous supporting is better than controlling. An example is self-esteem. Self-esteem is not given; it is inherent in a person. It is esteem from oneself. This means, a person can only be supported and guided on developing and improving self-esteem.
How is SDT Applied
SDT concentrates more on autonomy rather than being controlled to perform optimally. Autonomy is freedom of choice. This means, individuals engage in a certain activity, like exercise, because they want to, not because they are told to or are persuaded to do so by other external factors. For example, when people exercise because they saw an image of a super model and want to look that way, then he or she is driven by external forces. That means the person is not engaged and he or she won’t enjoy exercising. How can SDT’s autonomy be used in this situation? First of all, the person should exercise because of the person that he or she can become, not because of the pressure that advertisements and other people put on him or her.
When trainers let clients redefine what exercise means to them, clients’ minds will open up to a more fun and enjoyable meaning of the exercise. People usually think that exercising is a rigid program that should be done with great effort. The clients should learn that even everyday activities are exercise and they can do the things they enjoy as exercise.
Competence is another SDT factor. Competence is an objective self-belief on how well you perform in a certain activity. Feedback is one of the best ways to influence the competence of clients. Positive reinforcements can strongly influence people, as long as it is not used too often, or else it will lose its value. Another is the skill-specific feedback where the trainer commends how the client performed the specific skill properly. This is best used right after the skill is performed or when the client is almost able to perform the skill properly. The personal trainer can also integrate these two competence booster through the sandwich approach. First the trainer gives the client a positive feedback on how well he or she is doing, then give the client the correctional tip needed, and then give another positive remark.
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