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Category Archive: subjective well-being

The negative effects of needs thwarting

Selfdetermination theory shows that people have basic psycological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. These basic needs are universal (people of every culture have them) and present throughout life. In a new article Maarten Vansteenkiste and Richard Ryan say that the satisfaction of these basic needs is related to well-being and resilience. The frustration of these needs evokes feelings of ill-being and creates behavioral and psychological problems. The figure below (which I have very slightly adapted based on the text) summarizes the negative effects of the basic needs not being satisfied:  Click here to read more »

The belief that you can change your emotions is good for you

Beliefs About Emotion: Links to Emotion Regulation, Well-Being, and Psychological Distress

Krista De Castella et al. (2013)


Abstract: People differ in their implicit beliefs about emotions. Some believe emotions are fixed (entity theorists), whereas others believe that everyone can learn to change their emotions (incremental theorists). We extend the prior literature by demonstrating (a) entity beliefs are associated with lower well-being and increased psychological distress, (b) people’s beliefs about their own emotions explain greater unique variance than their beliefs about emotions in general, and (3) implicit beliefs are linked with well-being/distress via cognitive reappraisal. These results suggest people’s implicit beliefs—particularly about their own emotions—may predispose them toward emotion regulation strategies that have important consequences for psychological health.


Full article

Extrinsic vs. intrinsic aspirations and job burnout

MH900423044Leaders life aspirations and job burnout: a self-determination theory approach
Maree Roche & Jarrod M. Haar


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the implications of leaders’ life goals on their work related wellbeing. Self-determination theory (SDT) asserts aspirations (life goals) pursued in terms of personal growth, health, affiliation and community support psychological wellbeing, while aspirations of wealth, image and fame thwart wellbeing. However, little is understood about the influence of life goals towards leaders’ wellbeing at work, specifically job burnout. Click here to read more »


In a new paper, Netta Weinstein, Andrew Przybylski, and Richard Ryan address the topic of  the integrative process. With this they mean the process of coordinating and increasing the congruence between their behaviors and cognitions, and of how to integrate new experiences within their existing web of self-knowledge. The authors say that this integrative process consists of three interconnected subprocesses—namely, awareness, ownership/autonomy, and nondefensiveness and they summarize evidence linking these facets of integration to energy, wellness, and relational benefits.


Mindful awareness is the degree to which people have open access to their own emotions, motives, and values. Personal ownership, or autonomy,is the degree to which one takes responsibility for one’s emotions, decisions, and thoughts. Non-defensiveness is the degree to which one turns toward and tries to solve challenging situations. The authors suggest that both autonomy supportive contexts and mindful awareness (which is a learnable skill) are beneficial for the process of integration. Click here to read more »

Raising kids to become autonomous individuals

MH900399918The importance of autonomous functioning

As research into self-determination theory has shown there is a strong connection between people’s autonomous functioning and their wellness, their open, engaged and healthy functioning. When people feel autonomous they feel they can make their own choices and follow their own preferences. This does not mean they will be selfish, over individualistic, or self-sufficient. In fact, under good enough conditions, people will actively attempt to internalize and integrate the norms, rules and values of their environment, in other words make them their own. This process of internalizing and integrating external norms, rules and values will happen best 1) when they are transmitted in an autonomy supportive rather than a controlling way, and 2) when these norms, rules and values are congruent with the basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness (Ryan & Deci, 2011).


How parents can support autonomy Click here to read more »

The test-and-learn approach appears to be associated with flourishing

Here are the results of a survey that I recently administered about how people think about change and approach change. The survey which was filled in by 96 people consisted of the following parts: 1) How do you think people can accomplish successful change?, 2) How do you approach change?, and 3) How do you view yourself and your circumstances? The goal of this study was to explore to which extent people’s mindset about change and their actual change behavior are somehow associated with several aspects of human flourishing. The overall expectation was that the test-and-learn approach would be associated with respondent’s flourishing.


1. Independent variables (1): thinking about successful change
How respondents thought about successful change was measured by two dimensions: 1) the plan-and-implement mindset, and 2) the test-and-learn mindset.  Click here to read more »

Some Key Differences between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life

Some Key Differences between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life
By Roy Baumeister, Kathleen Vohs, Jennifer Aaker, & Emily N. Garbinsky


Abstract: Being happy and finding life meaningful overlap, but there are important differences. A large survey revealed multiple differing predictors of happiness (controlling for meaning) and meaningfulness (controlling for happiness). Satisfying one’s needs and wants increased happiness but was largely irrelevant to meaningfulness. Happiness was largely present-oriented, whereas meaningfulness involves integrating past, present, and future. For example, thinking about future and past was associated with high meaningfulness but low happiness. Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker. Higher levels of worry, stress, and anxiety were linked to higher meaningfulness but lower happiness. Concerns with personal identity and expressing the self-contributed to meaning but not happiness. We offer brief composite sketches of the unhappy but meaningful life and of the happy but meaningless life.


Download full article.

Growth mindset associated with various positive outcomes (competence, relatedness, learning, vitality, adjustment)

As reader of this blog you probably know about the work of Carol Dweck and her colleagues into growth mindsets and fixed mindsets. If not you may be interested to read an introduction (see for instance this brief post: Self-theories and progress). Whether one has a growth mindset or a fixed mindset has many implications. In general, a growth mindset stimulates, taking on challenges, welcoming feedback, putting in effort, persisting, seeking cooperation, and focusing on improvement. A fixed mindset generally associated with things such as being defensive, avoid difficult challenges, being competitive, giving up when it gets hard, less investment in own development and development of other people. Furthermore, there are two lesser known disadvantages of fixed mindset: it is related to depression and it makes one judge too quickly.


I suspected that there were even more benefits of growth mindsets and disadvantages of fixed mindset. I was especially curious how mindset related to basic needs and thriving. In order to explore that and hopefully learn something I administered a small scale survey exploring the relations between one’s mindset and several other variables. 70 People filled in that survey. For a description of the survey and the results see this post: A growth mindset is associated with effort and thriving. Here is an  overview of the correlations I found: Click here to read more »

Goal-striving reasons are significantly associated with subjective well-being

Be careful what you wish for but also why you wish for it – Goal-striving reasons and subjective well-being


By Christian Ehrlich


Abstract: Individuals’ subjective well-being (SWB) when attaining their goals is moderated by the characteristics of their goals. Two significant moderators are whether goals are approach or avoidance oriented and their content. Within the goal-setting literature, these characteristics have been applied to goals as such, focussing on what it is people try to achieve. However, they can equally be applied to analyse why individuals pursue their goals. By applying the dimensions of approach and avoidance orientation as well as goal content to the analysis of goal-striving reasons, a framework has been developed encompassing the following four goal-striving reasons: goals pursuit because of pleasure, for altruistic reasons, out of necessity and for self-esteem reasons. The empirical findings (N = 174) show that goal-striving reasons are significantly associated with affective SWB. Therefore goal-striving reasons provide an additional level of analysis, when analysing the relation between goals and affective SWB.


Question to readers: Please let me know if you have more information about this study.

The Progress Paradox

In 2003 Gregg Easterbrook wrote a book named The Progress Paradox. How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. He argued that, while objectively almost all aspects of Western life had become much better, most people actually felt worse. I agree that objectively, across the board, life has become better for most people in most places (example). I think the progress paradox is not necessarily that people have become less happy (I am not entirely sure but I think that even happiness of most people has become greater). Rather, the progress paradox, as I see it, is that while progress has happened people tend not to perceive it. Click here to read more »

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