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Three Innate Psychological Needs for Intrinsic Motivation

As children we loved to play and learn. We were active, curious and excited about engaging the world around us. As children this was the stage we did the bulk of our learning. To some extent as grown ups we still love to play, engage and learn. When this is done eagerly and willingly, in both children and adults, its done intrinsically. In this stage we learn the most about ourselves and our world.

According to there are "three innate psychological needs—competence, autonomy, and relatedness—which when satisfied yield enhanced self-motivation and mental health and when thwarted lead to diminished motivation and well-being". Lets begin our dive deeper into these needs and how they relate to educators by looking at the competence theory first!

"The  central thesis of the theory is that individuals are attracted to  participation  in  activities  at  which  they  feel competent or capable." ( As education is constantly evolving and schools are taking on more and more new initiatives, it is of utter importance that leaders ensure a follow-up and feedback loop of support to all parties involved. In order for teachers and staff to stay intrinsically motivated about the task at hand, they must feel comfortable enough to take the risk but knowledgable enough to earn the reward and see the success. High perceptions of competence increase feelings of pleasure which in turn raises the amount and level of intrinsically motivated members on your staff or faculty.

The competence theory of motivation is very powerful as it relates to leaders and their staff; its just as powerful for teachers and parents as we relate this theory to our students and children. What ever area or domain of life we build them up in is the area they will become more motivated to engage in and take ownership for. Please remember the opposite of this statement has the same or greater effect on staff and students. We must continually become better at being intentional about our actions and our words. "As indicated in the original Harter model, significant others, such as parents, teachers, coaches, and peers play a major role in the development of individuals’  perceptions  of  physical  competence  and effectance  motivation". (

In conclusion, when focusing on creating a culture of intrinsically motivated staff members, take in mind the amount of training and time you as a leader put into ensuring their success. As a teacher or parent, be mindful of the words you use and the areas that you build kids up in. Whichever domains they see success they will own and engage in. Leaders and Educators, lets try to make this all domains for EVERYONE one step at a time.

Next week we will dive more into the three psychological needs and discuss autonomy. Let me know your thoughts and let's discuss. Until then this is KT signing out. #100

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