No, no, no not those kinds of needs!
C'mon get your head out of the gutter . . . okay I have to admit that's where my mind went too when I decided on the title of this article, but honestly there isn't a better question to frame the following information.
The very topic of this post is Needs and I capitalized the word on purpose.
I want to talk about the nature of human beings, about why we do what we do, how our external environment impacts our internal environment, and how many of your assumptions are keeping you from changing the way you eat, live, and train and becoming the best version of yourself.
What I am about to tell you hinges on my belief in Self-Determination Theory and what it postulates about human motivation.
Self-determination theory (SDT) is a macro theory of human motivation and personality, concerning people's inherent growth tendencies and their innate psychological needs. It is concerned with the motivation behind the choices that people make without any external influence and interference. SDT focuses on the degree to which an individual’s behavior is self-motivated and self-determined.
Actually SDT is built upon four other theories which arouse from investigating four psychological phenomena's, but that is a bit to deep for today.
Simply put this psychological theory says that human beings have an innate drive to challenge themselves, grow, and feel motivated from within to do such.
I know it sounds completely counter to what many of us have been told by others for a long time and even more counter intuitive to how others try to motivate people.
I mean what do businesses do when they want to incentivize workers to do more and better work?
They pay them more and promote them.
What do they do when people don't perform their work adequately?
They demote them and pay them less.
It's very much a typical stick-and-carrot kind of model that even parents subscribe to.
We owe its prevalence to behaviorist and the popularizing of applying the behavioristic understanding of human behavior and motivation to economics.
Don't even get me started on that topic.
Anyways I think this stick-and-carrot model is bunk in how it explains why we do what we do and is a misunderstanding of the true nature of human beings and what motivates us.
I believe, and I contest the research supports this, that we are born deeply intrinsically motivated to explore our world, challenge our limits, and continue grow both physically and mentally.
This means working out and eating healthy should be easy, right? I mean if we are so motivated to take on difficult tasks then beginning a training program and improving your nutritional choices should be a breeze. But we all know this isn't true.
That's because there is a second part to this theory of human motivation.
This is where the needs part comes into play.
According to Self-Determination Theory this innate intrinsically motivated drive we all possess can either be fostered or stamped out by our social environment.
That is whether or not our social environment is meeting our Basic Psychological Needs. Those needs being autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
Autonomy means that we feel we have the power to choose. That we are in control of what we do and how we do it.
Competence means that we feel we have skills and knowledge necessary to accomplish the tasks that we choose to do or are appointed to do.
Relatedness being that we feel that we are connected to others who understand us and who we understand.
If these three needs are met then we are in the most optimal position to feel intrinsically motivated to take on challenges, explore our surroundings, and continue to grow as individuals.
Our social environment fulfills these needs by supporting our autonomy, helping improve our competence, and by making us feel connected and understood.
I know, I know this is all sort of new to you, but in the time I have been working with people this theory really stands up and the research on it is really clear and convincing. It also jives with what I have experienced myself personally in my athletic and academic pursuits. The times I have felt the most motivated to tackle a task have been when I have been given the freedom to choose the project I work on and how I work on it, have had the skills and knowledge to complete the project, and felt that there was a group of people who could understand my struggles during the project and who I could share my success with as well.
There's a lot more to this concept. I mean a lot more, but this is a great overview and understanding of what the theory means for us.
If we are trying to change the way we eat, train, and live for the long-term than we need to find a way to develop an intrinsic motivation to do so or at the least begin to internalize the behavior as part of who we are. Sure using the stick-and-carrot model of behaviorism will get you far in the short-term, but it rarely ever results in permanent change because the change is conditional on contingencies that once removed result in the behaviors fading out.
Actually as a quick side note I have some really interesting thoughts about how Self-Determination Theory and Behaviorism actually make a lot of sense together ant that in a way you can use one to explain the other, but I won't bore you with my rant on it. If you want to hear more though on this topic hit me up I'd be happy to talk to you about it or anything else you might want to chat about.
Anyways the take away point is that if you want to really make long-lasting behavior change and more specifically if you want to make eating well and training well long-term behaviors in your lifestyle you should be taking a hard look at whether or not your social environment is fulfilling your Basic Psychological Needs because if it isn't it's going to be extremely difficult for you to sum up the motivation necessary to stick with these changes long-term.
If you are interested in learning more about the science behind all this and how Self-Determination Theory, habit formation, and your social environment is all related to making change easier than you should consider registering for my upcoming webinar this coming Sunday. It's going to be awesome!
Happy moving and heavy lifting!
Practical, Purposeful, Effective Training