Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is a psychological approach that seeks to understand human motivation. At its core, it posits three basic psychological needs that, when satisfied, lead to optimal functioning and well-being: autonomy, relatedness, and competence.

Autonomy refers to the desire to be self-governing and to have a sense of volition in one’s actions. It’s not about isolation or independence, but about feeling that one’s actions are self-endorsed and align with one’s values and interests.

Relatedness, on the other hand, is about feeling connected to others, belonging, and being cared for. It’s not about popularity or being liked by everyone, but about having meaningful and mutual relationships.

Competence is the need to feel effective and capable in one’s interactions with the environment. It’s not about being the best or achieving high standards, but about feeling a sense of mastery and growth.

SDT proposes that these three needs are universal, innate, and essential for psychological health and well-being. Any environment that supports these needs will foster motivation, engagement, and personal growth. Conversely, environments that thwart these needs will lead to diminished motivation and well-being.

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