Autonomy: Self-Determining + Independence

Autonomy Self-Determining Independence

When we first learned about Carol Ryff’s Six-Factor Model of Psychological Well-Being, we started to take a look at the idea of autonomy. Long story short, Ryff considers autonomy the ability to act independently, to make decisions on your own, and to act in accordance to your own ideals and values, not those of others. And, this characteristic is key to our overall well-being. When we have high autonomy, we have more satisfaction and happiness in our lives. When we have poor autonomy, we probably have the opposite.

And we’ve got some more theory on this concept for you today, so gather ‘round, y’all.

Up next is the Self-Determination Theory. This theory really takes a look at our internal motivation for various decisions when we are not influenced by outside factors. So basically, we’re taking a look at self-motivation here.

Specifically, let’s take a look at “intrinsic” (internal) and “extrinsic” (external) motives, or whether a decision is being made because of what we believe or because of what someone else (or some other societal structure, culture, etc.) believes. Are we doing something because it satisfies something within ourselves, in our being, or are we motivated by something outside of ourselves? Perhaps approval from others, some sort of real or perceived reward, or because of outside pressure.

Let’s take the obvious example here and dig into it a little within the scope of this theory: deciding to no longer drink alcohol.

Was this decision intrinsically motivated, meaning you made this decision for yourself because it felt good and right and like the right step for you, or was this decision extrinsically motivated, because outside factors weighed in on your drinking? And now that you’ve removed the alcohol, you will still likely experience many intrinsic and extrinsic pressures around alcohol use: perhaps your buddy Kevin gave you a hard time at a barbecue for not drinking (extrinsic), or Mom has a whole lot to say about how she’s so happy you quit drinking (extrinsic). This never really goes away when we’re living alcohol-free. (Hate to break it to you!)

So we focus on the intrinsic motive for removing alcohol from our lives in order to cultivate our autonomy on this matter. In order to stand firm in our decisions without needing feedback from external sources (like Kevin or Mom), or being able to hear this feedback and still make independent choices. Because I’ll be real here, sometimes the external noise around our alcohol use (or disuse) can be pretty deafening.