The 3 Psychological Traits of All Self-Determined People
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The 3 Psychological Traits of All Self-Determined People

Psychology Women
The 3 Psychological Traits of All Self-Determined People

Shellye Archambeau is an experienced CEO and Board Director with over 30 years of experience in technology, and a track record of accomplishments building brands, high performance teams, and organizations. She is the former CEO of MetricStream, a Silicon Valley-based governance, risk, and compliance software company, which grew from a fledgling startup into a global market leader during her tenure.

Below, Shellye shares a few key insights from her new book, Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms.

“How old is he?!” This is the question full of critical emotion that I got over and over as I introduced Scotty, my new fiancé, to my extended family. Yes, he was 18 years older than my 20-year-old self, but I knew he was the right one for me. My family was less certain, however—their reactions ranged from begrudging acceptance to downright hostility. Even so, I married him anyway. And I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Self-assurance is the ability to say yes to yourself when most people around you are saying no. It’s the power of believing in your own ability to make choices about your life—and not just to make choices, but to make them responsibly.

As a young person, I didn’t come by self-assurance easily. Or maybe I was born with it, but nearly lost it during my schoolgirl years in Granada Hills. Indeed, minorities, immigrants, people with disabilities, LGBTQ youth, anyone who grows up “different” will inevitably face more challenges as they work toward self-assurance.

It took me over a decade—from age 8 to 18 or so—to develop my sense of self. During that time, I was lucky to be surrounded by a loving family and to encounter some attentive teachers. And whether due to nature or nurture or a combination of both, I continually pushed myself to live up to my potential, and I stepped up for challenging opportunities that would coax me out of my comfort zone.

As I now understand it, we become self-determined people when we are fulfilled in three psychological areas: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. In a nutshell, competence is the ability to handle yourself; autonomy is the sense that you can make your own choices and look out for your interests; and relatedness means feeling like you fit in. Research shows that if you don’t have all three, you’ll be more likely to struggle or withdraw from challenges. But if you do manage to strengthen all of them, you will be prepared to not only set wise life goals, but to reach them as well.

So take a look at your own life. Which key factors of self-determination have you developed? Which are lacking? What could you do to develop your competence, autonomy, and relatedness? Even small steps can make a big difference. For example, you could grow your competence by learning a new skill at work, or taking on an extra project on the side. When I was younger, I cultivated a sense of autonomy by learning how to sew, instead of waiting for my mom to make my clothes for me. And you can work on your sense of relatedness by connecting more intentionally with colleagues, neighbors, and more. Taking these steps now will strengthen your ability to stand firm in your decisions, even when others aren’t so sure.

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