Unleashing Potential: The Power of Self-Determination Theory in Coaching for Goal Attainment

Further to my series of articles on psychological models used by Executive Coaches educated in Coaching Psychology techniques and models, this week, I explore how I use Self-Determination Theory to assist my clients in goal attainment. Enjoy! 


In the realm of leadership and personal development, few things are as intriguing as the journey towards achieving our goals. As a seasoned executive coach, I’ve had the privilege of assisting individuals in their quest for excellence. In this article, I’d like to dive deep into the incredible world of Self-Determination Theory (SDT) and how it’s a game-changer in the realm of coaching for goal attainment. 


What is Self-Determination Theory? 

SDT, originating from the research of Deci and Ryan, is a psychological framework that delves into the motivation behind our actions and decisions. It centres around the concept of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Breaking down this theory, we can see how it can be harnessed in the coaching landscape. 


Autonomy: The Key to Intrinsic Motivation 

In the pursuit of any goal, whether personal or professional, intrinsic motivation is a powerful force. Intrinsic motivation comes from within and it’s essential for sustained effort and success. As a coach, I often encourage clients to explore their inner drive, uncover their values and passions and set goals that resonate with their core beliefs. This alignment with their true selves fosters a sense of autonomy and ownership over their objectives. 


By allowing individuals to take the reins and make choices that align with their authentic selves, we empower them to stay committed to their goals. In the world of leadership, self-determined leaders tend to be more engaged, creative and effective. 


Competence: Building Skills and Confidence 

Setting a goal is just the beginning. Achieving it requires the development of skills and building confidence along the way. In the coaching process, I work closely with clients to identify the necessary skills, knowledge and resources to reach their goals. Through ongoing support and feedback, we help individuals build competence in their chosen areas. 


Competence is essential for goal attainment because it boosts one’s belief in their ability to succeed. A self-determined individual is more likely to persevere through challenges, knowing they possess the skills to overcome them. 


Relatedness: Connecting for Support 

Humans are social creatures and our connections with others play a significant role in our journey toward goal attainment. In coaching, we encourage clients to seek out supportive networks and build relationships that nurture their aspirations. 


When individuals feel a sense of relatedness, they are more likely to receive encouragement, share their progress and receive constructive feedback. These connections provide the emotional sustenance needed to stay committed to their goals. 


Coaching with Self Determination Theory 

In the world of executive coaching, Self-Determination Theory serves as a compass for guiding individuals towards their desired outcomes. By fostering autonomy, competence and relatedness, coaches can tap into the innate motivation that drives individuals to succeed. 


We, as professional coaches, must create an environment where our clients feel in control of their goals and actions. It’s about facilitating their self-discovery and providing them with the tools to bolster their competence. Additionally, it’s crucial to encourage them to seek out and maintain meaningful connections with others who can support their journey. 


Empowering Goal Attainment 

In closing, Self-Determination Theory is a treasure trove for those seeking to attain their goals, whether in leadership or any aspect of life. As someone who has dedicated their career to coaching and working with people to develop their professional and personal lives, I’ve seen the transformative power of SDT in action. By tapping into the intrinsic motivation, building competence and fostering meaningful connections, we help individuals unlock their true potential and achieve remarkable success. 


So, whether it’s in the boardroom, the workplace or in your personal life, remember that autonomy, competence and relatedness are the keys to setting and achieving goals that truly resonate with your inner self. It’s a journey worth embarking on, and with the right support and guidance, you can reach heights you’ve only dreamt of. Cheers to your ongoing success!


Jo Attard Watters is the Managing Principal and Founder of PeopleEdge Coaching & Consulting. Jo is a professional, Master’s degree qualified Executive and Career Management Coach, Consultant, Business Adviser and Academic who works with individuals and organisations to help them “be the best they can be”. With significant experience within both Corporate and Not for Profit sectors, Jo is passionate about seeing her clients succeed in their areas of interest.