What makes a good life? This is my map.

In principle, yes. In practice, many external circumstances modify perceived and factual autonomy :-)

What makes a good life? This is my map.

Thank you so much! I'm exploring here, so thank you for your input.

Still, I would not say I have reached some maximum; I still want.

Oh, definitely! I mean "maximum" in the sense of increasing well-being, not in the sense that there is a limit.

Another aspect that I wondered about was that bit about journeys versus end points

This fits incredibly well into SDT, but I agree that I did not specify it in the article. One of the most competence-satisfying things is optimal challenges, challenges where you're stretching your abilities but still likely to succeed.

How would we evaluate things, or even should we, in a retrospective view?

I think this is a much larger causal question on counterfactuals, and it's often very hard/impossible to meaningfully do that. But we can still make clear answers to prospective questions, and to specific retrospective questions: If a choice A is more likely than B to satisfy competence, relatedness and autonomy, then it is the better choice.

To conclude, I agree with basically everything you stated. The goal is no the goal in the to-do sense, rather in the compass sense. Was that a satisfactory explanation? :-)

What makes a good life? This is my map.

A lot to unpack here! Three statements catch my eye:

Autonomy: making decisions and taking responsibility for these decisions? The most stressful thing in life.
Autonomy: the choice to say 'no' to one's decision? Something that we always have, only the results vary depending on the circumstances and will not always make us happy.
Autonomy: financial and physical ability to own and do what we want? Something that we have little influence on.

Autonomy in the SDT-sense is not defined by whether we're making decisions, nor whether we can own what we want. To make it as specific I can, it's scoring high on the BPNSFS which contains the following items on autonomy:

  • I feel a sense of choice and freedom in the things I undertake
  • I feel that my decisions reflect what I really want.
  • I feel my choices express who I really am.
  • I feel I have been doing what really interests me
  • Most of the things I do feel like “I have to”. (R)
  • I feel forced to do many things I wouldn’t choose to do (R)
  • I feel pressured to do too many things. (R)
  • My daily activities feel like a chain of obligations. (R)

Where (R) items are reverse scored.

As you can see, every item contains "feel". Autonomy is about whether you feel like you can do what you want to do.

It's really amazing how happy we are to give up our autonomy when we feel safe to do so.

Having the ability to give up autonomy and take it back at will is, in itself, incredibly autonomous! It also satisfies relatedness.

Is stress what we need to be happy or how much stress do we need to feel happy?

I highly doubt that stress has an independent effect on happiness, but I find it extremely likely that many of the activities that satisfy competence, relatedness and autonomy to the highest degree are also stressful :-)

Acting without a clear direction

I think that phenomenologically, you're right. Other-directed goals (need for relatedness, in SDT terminology) feel like they're essentially other-directed.

I think that the evolutionary cause for having other-directed goals is directed at your own genetic proliferation, and I also think that autonomously holding other-directed goals improves your own well-being, even above and beyond the benefits you get because they like you for it. Eg. Gore et al. 2009.

Stated differently, even if you're optimising completely selfishly, you'll have to be unselfish. We care about others simply because they are important to us, not because they make us happy. They are a terminal value. If they are instrumental, we don't get the benefits to well-being. But caring for them terminally also carries benefits to ourselves. I think that's wonderful!

Acting without a clear direction

Nice post Chris! For an empirical approach to this question I highly recommend Self-Determination Theory.

I wrote a short post on my thoughts here.

What makes a good life? This is my map.

Not when it is based on the above preconditions, no.

If happiness was defined as "experience maximum pleasure" then yes, I'd be afraid that I would end up in abject hedonia. But when it is based on things that lead to meaning, as SDT has shown that autonomy + relatedness + competence do, then that is not currently a fear of mine.

Does that make sense? Or did I miss your point? :-)

What makes a good life? This is my map.

Oh, I completely agree! I simply labeled things "action" when I thought they were sufficiently specific for me to act on.

I hadn't seen how-laddering before, so thanks for that!

Since there's essentially unlimited ways of having things one finds important, I use these more as heuristics to decide between different options – ie. do I currently feel constrained on time, and if so, is option A or B best for me.

What makes a good life? This is my map.

I'd say that

doing something due to social norms to improve your life through prestige

is caught by "I have integrated motivations" in the chart – subjectively it feels much different from integrated motivations, at least it must for the SDT questionnaires to have predictive power, which they do 👍

What makes a good life? This is my map.

Thanks! Skepticism is exactly what I asked for, so thank you for providing it!

I think I agree with you. If we mean happiness in the "at peace" sense, and not the "feeling joy" sense, then happiness is probably my terminal goal. I don't think maximising for joy is possible without trading off a lot of peace, so joy becomes a sub-goal. But thank you! I'll adjust it in my graph.

As I see it, at the action level it makes little difference. Do you agree? :-)

What makes a good life? This is my map.

Good question! I haven't been very clear on my definition of well-being; to me, it is reacting in the optimal way to life circumstances. That does not mean happiness in all cases – when my family faces hardships, it makes sense for me to worry.

Another example is the manic patient in the psych ward. He may be experiencing maximum happiness/joy, but I don't call what he experiences well-being.

I completely agree that maximum energy and meaning lead to maximum happiness! It looks ugly in the software I use – not adding the arrows was an entirely pragmatic choice.

Load More