Self Determination, Controlling your Own Destiny

Being determined and persevering allows you to achieve goals that others don’t believe are possible. It’s rather like running a marathon. Only those who prepare themselves mentally achieve what they want.
Self Determination, Controlling your Own Destiny
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

People with self-determination know what they want and they have their sights set firmly on their future. They’re tenacious and persevering. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have their bad days, times when they find themselves stuck somewhere between uncertainty and exhaustion. However, they always manage to recover. Furthermore, they learn from these moments so they can put new strategies in place.

Albert Einstein said that he never saw himself as more intelligent than others. The only thing that he felt differentiated him from other people was that he seemed to spend more time thinking about things that he didn’t understand. As a matter of fact, it was that effort and stubborn determination to understand the incomprehensible that assured him of his elevated position in the world of science.

Nevertheless, it’s not necessary to become a Nobel prize winner to develop these abilities. As a matter of fact, we all have sufficient resources to become more determined. Indeed, it’s this determination that allows you to achieve your goals.

Self-determination is a competence that allows you to have greater control over your life. In this way, you’re able to achieve what you want.


Self-determination is an extremely important dimension in the field of psychology. It’s the engine that pushes you forward to make decisions and responsibly chart your course through life in accordance with your own values.  Nevertheless, people with self-determination don’t always achieve everything they want. In fact, sometimes they fail.

However, self-determination means they pick themselves up after each fall. Because self-determination means obstinacy and perseverance. In addition, these people are cognitively flexible and able to figure out proposals to deal with each problem they face. Let’s take a look at the characteristics of psychologically determined people.

They’re guided by intrinsic motivation

Edward Deci and Richard Ryan proposed the self-determination theory of motivation in 1985. Later research works have elaborated on this theory. Self-determined people are defined as proactive. Furthermore, they make use of intrinsic motivation.

These kinds of people exhibit three basic dimensions of personality.

  • Autonomy. They feel responsible for their own actions and decisions and don’t consider them as being due to external pressures.
  • Competence. They’re capable and able to achieve their goals.
  • Relatedness. They feel connected to others, have caring relationships, and belong to a community.

They don’t have an innate talent, they persevere

Angela Lee Duckworth is an academic, psychologist, and professor at the University of Pennsylvania. She wrote a well-known book entitled Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance Growth. In this book, she described what people with self-determination are like. She based it on various of her investigations.

She discovered the following:

Determined people are no brighter than others. Nor do they have higher IQs. However, they’re the most successful. As a matter of fact, it seems the key to self-determination isn’t an innate talent but a trained and perseverance-oriented mindset. It’s a psychological approach nourished by motivation but also by passion. The desire to achieve something. Above all, the feeling that they’re in charge of their lives.

In Dr. Duckworth’s own words:

“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking to your future day in, day out. Not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years and years. And working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

-Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth-

Practice, purpose, and hope

You might ask the question, can you switch on the engine of determination yourself? Yes, you can. You just need to start from the lowest rung of the ladder. From there, you can look upwards and figure out what you want, what your dreams are, and what you expect from yourself and life.

For example, if you want a better job, find one. If you’re looking for a happier life, make changes that lead you to it. Set yourself goals in tune with who you are and what you feel. Then, move, act, and put them into practice every second of every day. Because when you have a purpose in mind, it sparks hope inside you and that hope never leaves you.

Courage to persevere

Being determined, building your hopes, and being guided by passion…what more do you need to make this ability a way of life? Well, there’s one component missing from this list that you hear mentioned every day. Resilience. This is the ability to learn from dark times and to rise up in the face of adversity. It’s one more element of self-determination.

It means being brave. Remembering that you’re responsible for yourself. You don’t need to depend on others, and you don’t allow yourself to be affected by the opinions and criticisms of others. As a matter of fact, perseverance involves a great deal of stubbornness. However, it’s a healthy obstinacy that learns from mistakes, knows its limitations, and allows itself to reorient objectives when necessary.

Self- determination is, indeed,  a powerful capability to possess as you journey through life.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Datu JAD. Beyond Passion and Perseverance: Review and Future Research Initiatives on the Science of Grit. Front Psychol. 2021 Jan 27;11:545526. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.545526. PMID: 33584397; PMCID: PMC7873055.
  • Ryan, R. M. & Deci, E. L. (Eds.), (2002). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68-78.
  • Lee Duckworth, Angela (2016) Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.  Simon + Schuste

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.