Experience Outcomes and Learn
Along with the obvious benefit of achieving outcomes, the self-determination process helps us increase self-awareness, self-esteem, and skills (e.g., decision-making, communicating effectively, negotiating) that contribute to self-determination. One of the best ways to learn the knowledge, beliefs and skills of self-determination is to engage in the self-determination process and learn from what happens. Achieving the outcome we initially set out to attain isn’t necessary for the experience to lead to increased self-determination. Any attempt we make toward self-determination provides opportunity to experience and learn from the outcomes that occur.
Our on-going ability to live self-determined is enhanced when we consciously and systematically reflect on our experiences. First, we need to compare the actual outcome of our efforts to the desired outcome. Did we like the outcomes we obtained from our efforts, whether or not it was what we set our to attain? Sometimes, when we reach a goal–even one we really wanted, we find that maybe it wasn’t such a great thing after all. Conversely, sometimes we experience a different outcome than we expected and we learn that it is better than what we hoped for. It’s all ok…..the experience adds to our self-awareness and can help us make more informed choices in our subsequent self-determination efforts. We also need to compare our actual performance in pursuit of heightened self-determination to our desired performance. What worked for us—and what didn’t—-as we took action to achieve what we set out to do?
The adage “practice makes perfect” applies to self-determination-with one noted exception. Self-determination efforts will probably rarely be considered “perfect,” nor do they need to be perfect to be valuable. There are too many factors that affect self-determination(e.g., our own beliefs and actions, the actions of others, elements of the environments we’re in) for any single act of self-determination to be perfect. However, it is the process of self-determination—the evolution of becoming our unique selves and developing our individuality—that is important to all of us as human beings. That process helps us fulfill the psychological needs noted by Deci and Ryan for autonomy, competence and relatedness, which when met, lead to increased internal motivation. The process of living self-determined is enhanced through practice. In fact, it might be said that it is only through practice in applied settings that the individual attributes that contribute to self-determination are truly developed.