If you’ve ever had the inexplicable craving for a certain food, like cake or ice cream, then you know how intriguing personal motivation can be. What is it that activates your so-called sweet tooth and gives you the urge to consume sugary foods? While the answer to that question is more biological, it does make you think about what fuels other urges you have, like the need to create a healthier routine.

Your dissatisfaction with your physical health, appearance or general happiness in your current lifestyle is the result of a confluence of different factors that you have more control over than you may realize. At the University of Rochester in New York, professors Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan developed their ideas and notions about the way people act on their natural instincts into the Self Determination Theory.

For the better part of the last two decades, academics and researchers have used the basic tenets of the Self Determination Theory to aid their studies of human motivation. At its core, this method of approaching motivation from a scientific standpoint makes distinctions between extrinsic and intrinsic motivators—the actions that are externally rewarded or supported and those that are not. Everyone operates on some combination of these two types of motivators, though intrinsic motivators are a bit more mysterious and, often, more impactful.

One sub-theory of SDT is the Basic Psychological Needs Theory, which identifies three factors that play a determinant role in a person’s behavior: autonomy, competency and relatedness. Each are pivotal in determining whether or not you will achieve the level of happiness you strive for based on the outcomes of your daily routine. Each of these three factors has an effect on your happiness across all aspects of life, including with interpersonal relationships and your occupation.


Being told what to do is not exactly a pleasant experience for most people. When you are a child (or if you are a parent), you feel first-hand the impacts of being authoritative. While effective, they often lead to discouragement or isolation for the parties involved.

When your child does something wrong, you tell them they can’t do that anymore. This can often lead to a tantrum or outburst because they usually are uncertain why they’re being reprimanded. Forcing kids to eat all of their vegetables or clean themselves up before dinner can lead to a confrontation when they show up to the table with dirty hands and refuse to eat their green beans. Aside from their unrefined palettes and general experimentation with what they can and can’t do, the behavior of children in these ways are examples of defiance for the sake of autonomy. Simply, they don’t believe they should be told what to do.

We all can use guidance in important ways so as to learn about how to live well and learn from the mistakes of our peers. Ultimately, we want the freedom and space to make our own decisions, including those impacting our lifestyle and long-term happiness.

A healthy feeling of autonomy should spring from a greater vision you have for your ideal daily routine. Given the opportunity to construct your diet free of constraints—without any allergies, other health conditions or financial limitations—what would you choose to eat on a regular basis? The answers to questions about your diet should line up directly with your overall vision of health and well-being.

With the freedom and independence to make your own decisions about what is in your best interest, you are more motivated to achieve higher results in your personal life.


It feels good to succeed. Engaging in activities you know you’re good at provide a real confidence boost. It feels just as good to learn a new skill or trait and excel at it.

If your father was an auto mechanic and you grew up helping him work on cars, chances are you still have a vast knowledge base for how automobiles work and how to at least accomplish a number of basic or intermediate fixes or modifications on your own. Not only is this a life skill that becomes useful as the risk of your needing to spend a bunch of money to fix your car increases, but it has the potential to provide a whole lot of personal fulfillment and satisfaction in knowing you made the fix on your own.

In the same vein, you wouldn’t take on a job as an accountant if you went to school for art history. Likewise, a finance student wouldn’t pursue a career as a museum curator. It’s important for your behavior to be reinforced by the positive outcomes produced by being good at something and doing good work.

When it comes to your vision for a healthier, sustainable lifestyle change, you should model your daily routine around behaviors that are, at times, challenging, yet enjoyable, manageable and attainable and accentuate your positive attributes.

If you lack the form, endurance or athletic prowess to be a long-distance runner, then perhaps you shouldn’t plan your exercise regimen around it. Instead, there are a number of other types of cardio exercises that accomplish the same or similar results, such as rowing, swimming, jumping rope or circuit training.

Just because a diet or weight loss blog suggested that running will help you become more fit doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Doing what you enjoy and are good at is the ideal formula for a long-lasting behavioral change.


What fun is living if you’re always alone? Isn’t it better to share your experiences with others? The role connectedness plays in sustaining long-term happiness is critical and can sometimes be overlooked.

So much is made of individuals who are incredibly driven in their personal lives and careers, to the point where they seemingly have a one-track mind at all times. While it may not be apparent, those individuals still seek some form of meaningful connectedness with their friends, colleagues, peers and family members.

When you are ready to set goals for yourself, it’s important to consider how your lifestyle will be congruous with others’. Will your new exercise routine allow for enough time to be spent with your family members? Or will you have enough free time to spend time socializing? It’s not enough to be personally successful if you have no one to share your experience with.

Caterpilly helps you create a long-term outlook on your lifestyle and plan out the steps needed to reach a sustainable daily routine that facilitates positive change. Click here to learn more about the benefits of the program.

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