How Self-Determination Theory helps us understand and support wellbeing and resiliency

Self Determination Theory is internationally recognized as a world leading theory of human motivation and wellbeing. The theory proposes that we have three key needs which must be met if we are to develop as self-determined, autonomously motivated beings, ie if we are to thrive in life.  We need to experience autonomy which comes with a sense of choice, control and agency over our day to day life. We need to experience relatedness in the sense of knowing we have secure attachments to other people. And we need to experience a sense of ongoing competency – which is about learning and progressing, rather than outcomes per se.

The theory can also usefully helps us understand how to live with resilience and how to support resiliency in others. This becomes especially true if we think of resiliency as our ability to maintain a unified sense of self and connection to the world as we travel through the ups and downs of life.


Richard M. Ryan, Ph.D.

is a Professor at the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education at the Australian Catholic University, North Sydney and Professor Emeritus at the University of Rochester. He is a clinical psychologist and co-developer of Self-Determination Theory, an internationally recognized leading theory of human motivation, and a co-founder of Immersyve Inc., an organizational research and consulting firm. He lectures frequently in the United States and aboard on the factors that promote motivation and healthy psychological and behavioral functioning (applied to such areas as work and organizations, education, health, sport and exercise, video games and virtual environments). Ryan is among the most cited researchers in psychology and social sciences today and the author of over 450 papers and books in the areas of human motivation and well-being, including his best-selling book, Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development and wellness (Ryan & Deci, 2017). Reflective of Ryan's influence internationally and across disciplines, he has been recognized as one of the eminent psychologists of the modern era , and listed among the Top 20 most influential industrial-organizational psychologists . He has also been honored with three lifetime achievement awards for his work on motivation, personal meaning, and self and identity, and has received an honorary degree from the University of Thessaly and an honorary membership to the German Psychological Society.