Week 1: SDT & Deconstructing Motivation

At every step of a journey—whether in fitness, financial wellness, or a buyer journey—people have the opportunity to fall off. Being creative about providing a motivation-rich environment at each stage is critical in determining how successful you’ll be in moving them to the next one.

Why we’re covering this

  • Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is one of the most evidence-backed frameworks for deconstructing motivation. It gives you a useful way to audit a behavior chain and find ways to drive action.
  • SDT’s principles are useful not only in designing interventions or UX that rely on long-term motivation, but also useful in creating uptake of behaviors. A lot of effective marketing or policy calls-to-action involve emphasizing a sense of greater control, connection to a group, or performing at a high level.
  • There’s an excellent chance you’re already familiar with SDT (and other course topics in general), so our focus is always going to be around novel examples, effective case studies, and ways to make it actionable.

Our spin on it

  • While SDT’s 3 core psychological needs are important in influencing long-term behavior, there are many other components like novelty, reward, and environmental factors which come into play (many of which we’ll explore later).
  • SDT is great for finding quick wins to help improve an experience that isn’t working. There are almost always opportunities to create a greater sense of autonomy, drive social connections or accountability, and emphasize progress.
  • A big (and helpful) mental shift is thinking of creating conditions where motivation occurs naturally or people can easily motivate themselves. Motivation isn’t something people have, it’s something people do.


Hopefully, this week’s experience will give you a richer mental toolkit to approach problems where people just aren’t taking the actions you want (including maybe yourself).

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