Philosophy Productivity Psychology

Why Self-Determination is a Critical Value

Why Self-Determination is a Critical Value
Why Self-Determination is a Critical Value

“I care not so much what I am to others as what I am to myself.” – Michel De Montaigne

Self-Determination Theory

When something is intrinsically motivating, you don’t care about the external reward. If you intrinsically enjoy playing music, you will do so even if you are not paid to and there is no one else in the room to impress. You are doing it because you enjoy it. It is very difficult to forge realistic life paths on activities that are only intrinsically motivating. But apart from your intrinsic motivation, your extrinsic motivations have to be autonomous.

People who base their actions on external circumstances are more prone to “succumb to peer pressure”. And those who act autonomously are more likely to be leaders than followers.

Why Self-Determination is a Critical Value

There is only one cure for regret and it is choice. Regret is the culmination of the effects of bad choices. When you build your dreams on the values of others, it becomes more probable that you will come to regret your choices, even if they were beneficial according to certain parameters such as wealth or fame.

You will wonder about what could have been had you taken more initiative and thought more independently precisely because being inflexible and unapologetic about your beliefs when you are young is both foolish and arrogant. When you are too invested in a mission, you lose the ability to re-evaluate the importance of this mission, to question whether you still want to pursue it. 

Yet If you have not tried working for someone else, then you will not understand the value of working on your own.The experience you gain from doing things that aren’t self-determined are valuable, and they will teach you to appreciate the importance of being independent in your thinking, and they will give you a reference point for your experiences in the future. 

“Truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it, else it is none”. – Ralph Waldo Emerson 

But if you remain in the trap of pursuing the incorrect goals, you will arrive at a critical junction, repeatedly. Should you continue on your journey forward or forge an entirely new path? The question arises out of doubt, because at some point along the journey, after you have managed to successfully fool others around you that you are doing what you want, you will have to contend with yourself. 

The Burden of Responsibility

When you choose, you accept the burden of responsibility of taking control of your time. When you are in school, your parents have determined how you will spend your time, and get educated. But as you grow older, the wisdom in the advice you receive become less self-evident.

Should you pursue further education, get a job, or be self-employed? How will you spend your time? And will you be able to justify your choice to others and to yourself, if you don’t succeed? And what is success, anyway? Have you properly thought about what that word means to you, or have you blindly adopted the most generic meaning you can find? And what about your time? How much of it do you want for yourself? Are you willing to fight for it? 

You don’t have to think about any of these things and you don’t have to fight for your time. Society won’t fault you. As long as you fulfill a semi-productive, familiar role, and get out of other people’s way, you won’t be questioned or blamed. Living up to your own standards is complicated, and burdensome. It might be easier to just give away your time to other people who want it more than you. And maybe having future regret about your past decisions is preferable to risking social abandonment. 

Take Back Control of Your Time

But in this vast, unpredictable, volatile world, you only have a little bit of freedom to play with. There is so much already determined for you – including your temperament, intelligence, health, and environment. All you have left is the few major decisions you get to make along the way. 

“What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

To fight for your time, you must risk being bold about your intentions. It’s not a conciliatory process. If someone else can change your mind – then they have shown you that they are in control. There are times in life when giving up control is necessary. Choosing your battles wisely is a skill you learn to develop with experience. But when you choose your battle – the hill you are willing to die on – you must be relentless. You have to tell the truth and risk damaging your relationships with other people.

“Most of us are timid. We want to avoid tension and conflict and we want to be liked by all. We may contemplate a bold action, but we rarely bring it to life. We are terrified of the consequences, of what others might think of us, of the hostility we will stir up if we dare go beyond our usual place. Although we may disguise our timidity as a concern for others, a desire not to hurt or offend them, in fact it is the opposite—we are really self-absorbed, worried about ourselves and how others perceive us Boldness, on the other hand, is outer-directed, and often makes people feel more at ease, since it is less self-conscious and less repressed.” Robert Greene 


"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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