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Life Well-Lived Map

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Jeff Dustin 25 July 2008 - 4:38 am

I truly love the image map. It makes everything fit together nicely. Searching for related articles is now easy and maybe readers will make connections that they’d previously overlooked.

On criticism: it is too easy to just flame someone online. The anonymity of the web encourages trolling. Plus communicating through writing can foul the message. Not all of us are polished writers like at PPND.

What about an image map that includes pictures with captions? That would be pretty neat too. Maybe it would be too graphics heavy and shut some out, though. Icons?

Editor K.H.B. 25 July 2008 - 6:12 pm

Thanks for your comments, Jeff. It’s always great to get some immediate feedback, and we can usually count on you to be one of the first. I’m so glad that you like the image maps.

I’m not sure that I understand the second paragraph. Is this a warning? a suggestion?

As for an image map with pictures, I think you’re getting into an area where I’m not strong. I’d be willing to work with someone who is good at visual design. Also, I find I can’t remember what icons mean when I’m using various software tools. Maybe I think primarily in words … If you come up with any images that are evocative of these concepts, please suggest them.


Jeff Dustin 25 July 2008 - 7:23 pm

Editor KB,
You’re welcome. As to the comment on criticism…I was agreeing with your suggestion of throwing ideas not stones. My point is that it is easy to accidentally insult someone. I’ve done it here myself unintentionally. Oprah just said that hermaphrodite is now an unacceptable term and that intersex was the proper word for those with gender complexities. Who knew?

So that was just a comment. As for the graphics piece, I’m not the go-to guy for that. I’m more of a wordie than a picturist. My mental images are mediocre at best and fuzzy at worst. If I think of any good ideas or pics I’ll pass them on.

Wayne Jencke 25 July 2008 - 9:44 pm

The map looks good. But to sound like a broken record. Have you seen BF’s latest article on mindfulness meditation on her website

Editor K.H.B. 25 July 2008 - 11:37 pm


It sounds like something to go under Positive Actions. Or where would you suggest? Do you have other sources you recommend on the subject?


Wayne Jencke 26 July 2008 - 3:01 pm

Kathryn – mindfulness could go either in positive emotions or positive actions. BF seems to think that mindfulness fits with the broaden and build theory of positive emotions.

Editor K.H.B. 26 July 2008 - 3:19 pm


Thank you. I think I’ll stick it in the positive emotions figure counter-clockwise from “Joy”.

Would you be willing to contribute a short introductory paragraph — or some ideas for me to build on?


David Cliff 28 July 2008 - 4:17 am

This is a fascinating piece of work and the comments here are very much 2first responses” to something that would take me many more hours to examine and comment further. Not sure if this is what you are seeking so I shall not do so at this point,

A key point is the mind map is a virtual systems chart. In this respect there may e single or multiple intervention points. One point of intervention will change ultimately the whole system if the system is integral.

Who is the audience. If academic then one representation is needed , if for the “popular use” audience. Far more reference structures are needed

Elements of a life “Well Lived”.
This is highly value based and semantically packed. Form the UK it also is very “American Dream”. I suppose one will never get entirely away from this however lives. It should be in quotes perhaps to reflect this if kept.
“Components of a Meaningful life” or “Elements of lives experienced as fulfilling”

Sharing good news:Important but counter –intuitive to Evolutionary Psychology which scans for danger therefore develops a culture of Woe seeking to keep our defences optimal. Possibly here should be not only spreading good news but being able to “frame” events in the positive, which ACr only goes some way towards. Some would, after all consider the crucifixion “good news”.
Some times events are just awful by definition . Capitalisation may be the capacity to address the emotion to clear a way to gain learning and experience. Equally the ability to overlay a philosophical view on difficulties can re-frame responses or reduce an events emotional “charge”.

Managing Moods:
Of course this could be “Managing thoughts if the evidence base for cognitive therapies is followed
Humour: Don’t forget irony. It reframes and we do not all belly laugh!
Triggers and PNR: People struggle with triggers and need some reference structures for understanding how to recognise these PNR is good but what of positive self talk/ affirmative mindsets?
Gratitude and forgiveness. People struggle with forgiveness. Some “what’s in it for me” benefits are important. People fail to recognise the often toxic effects of holding onto Anger, hate and revenge and where it keeps then neurologicically.

Positive Actions: A key issue here is identifying chosen outcomes soft and hard. People feel failure in response to statements like “Making good decisions” , looks so easy in a mind map but is a key skills acquisition with appropriate cognitive overlays.

I could offer more but I need to check if this is helpful firsts,


David Cliff

Senia Maymin 29 July 2008 - 1:32 am

Hi David,

Thank you for these thoughts.
I especially like your idea of saying life “well-lived.” That makes a lot of sense. The point is to get the research out to people so they can use it if they want to. The point is not at all for us to be didactic about this is what you need to do or should do. We focus on descriptive – “these things have worked in research” – rather than prescriptive – “try this to have a better life.”

Yes, these are more for a popular-use audience. I’d even say that on this site we are like Tal Ben-Shahar says, “the bridge between the Ivy Tower and Main Street.” We want everybody who is interested to be able to understand positive psychology. That’s all – we want people to be able to use the research findings, and to learn from them.

Thank you. I would definitely be interested in hearing more. And especially more about simplifying connections, rather than making more of them. Thoughts?

My best, and much thanks for your thoughts,

Kathryn Britton 29 July 2008 - 3:38 pm


Thanks for taking the time to give us some feedback. I have some questions so that I can get the most out of it.

In your second paragraph, I’m not sure what you mean by “intervention points.” Do you mean this in terms of positive interventions that people can conduct, or in terms of places where we could intervene to make the maps better?

We were hoping that the references listed with the maps would be enough to get a popular audience started — at least for people who like to read. What do you mean by “far more reference structures”? Have we assumed way too much prior knowledge? Could you give an example?

This sentence really piqued my curiosity. “From the UK it also is very “American Dream”. I know that I am biased by my cultural background, so I welcome chances to step outside and look at what I’ve said from another viewpoint. What makes this “American Dream”? The addition of Accomplishment to the model? Or have we left out something important? Or is it just calling it “the life well-lived” that seems so American?

Good points about reframing — we hope to get to them in an article that hasn’t been written yet — or possibly as an extension to Managing mood.

Thanks for the comment about humor and irony.

We’ve had an interesting debate among the comments for one of Dave Shearon’s articles about how important thoughts are in the mood cycle. I’d be interested in your reaction:

Thanks again for responding. We’ll keep your comments in mind for the next revision.


Wayne Jencke 29 July 2008 - 4:27 pm

Kathryn, – Like David I believe that the model is very American. Don’t get me wrong – its a great model but its not the full story.

An article in the latest edition of the Journal of Positive Psychology probably best explains the difference.

The research looked at positive affectivity and broke it down into 3 categories – activated positive affect, relaxed positive affect, and safe/content positive affect.

The research concluded that safe/content positive affect had the greatest impact on depression, anxiety, stress, self-criticism, and insecure attachment.

My observations would be that the American dream is very much focused on activated positive affect.

Try this experiment – break all the PPDN articles into the three categories. Which classification do they mainly fall into? Similarly look at the curriculum in the Pen Masters and again classify them.

Kathryn Britton 29 July 2008 - 5:22 pm


That’s a very interesting point, and one that relates to Ed Diener’s comment about the PANAS instrument, that it primarily measures activated positive affect.

I’ll have to go find the article. I notice that all the things in your list — depression etc. — are negative states. So does the article show that the safe/content positive affect also has the greatest effect on achieving positive states?

Thank you both for raising this very interesting point. Lots to think about.


wayne jencke 29 July 2008 - 6:33 pm

Kathryn, isn’t contentment in itself a positive state???????????????????

Editor K.H.B. 29 July 2008 - 7:37 pm


Of course! I assume that all three types of positive affectivity are positive in and of themselves.

My response was aimed your statement about the impact on other states — depression, anxiety, stress, self-criticism, and insecure attachment.

Before I get the article, could you clarify the difference between relaxed and safe/content?


Wayne Jencke 30 July 2008 - 3:17 am

Kathryn – not sure about the distinction between relaxed and contented as I’ve only seen the abstact. However I think they used the emotional circumplex model http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2367156

Wayne Jencke 31 July 2008 - 5:32 am

Kathryn – I’ve had the Eureka moment. I’ve always been bewildered why positive psychology overlooks mindfulness. Thanx to Bridget I now know. I watched the Martin Selligman video that Bridget referred too. And guess what – the guru of positive psychology doesn’t understand mindfulness – he lumps it with the pleasant life – focusing on the moment – similar to savouring. Well mindfulness is far more than focusing on the moment – it involves taking the judgement out of our thoughts.

If you look at Barbara Fredericksen’s latest research you will appreciate the power of mindfulness.

Perhaps mindfulness should be central to positive psychology?????????

SteveM 31 July 2008 - 12:56 pm

Re: “Perhaps mindfulness should be central to positive psychology?????????”


Great observation.

Absolutely, without mindfulness thinking, pos-psych is reduced to the Power-of-Positive Thinking.

If there is one flaw in Seligman’s and Csikszentmihalyi’s early books, it’s that. The told you what optimism and flow are, but never really told you how to get them. It’s mindfulness that puts you in the Mind-State that leads you to optimism and flow.


Kathryn Britton 31 July 2008 - 1:11 pm

Wayne and Steve,

I can certainly understand the view that mindfulness has received too little attention in positive psychology. I’ve heard the same complaint about other topics — such as meaning and purpose. I guess the field has taken shape from the areas where positive psychology researchers have chosen to invest their time, and mindfulness is only now coming center stage with Barbara Fredrickson’s work.

I don’t agree with your assessment of Seligman’s and Csikszentmihalyi’s work, however. There’s a lot of information about conditions that enable flow and optimism, and these suggest several avenues of intervention.

For example, having time to focus and concentrate is needed for flow. So a group of people who are homesick for flow can look at the way they spend their days and find ways to free up blocks of time that are large enough to concentrate. This seems very related to mindfulness.

Perhaps there are understated references to mindfulness in a lot of areas of positive psychology. Being mindful of blessings leads to gratitude, which is strongly correlated with many good things.

Any chance one or both of you would help with an introduction to mindfulness?

Very interesting.

Wayne Jencke 31 July 2008 - 2:29 pm

Kathryn, you are still missing the key dimension of mindfulness – taking the judgement out of your thinking. Flow and gratitude cover only one aspect of mindfulness – focusing on the now.

My personal experience of mindfulness is that once you take the judgement out of your thinking, then positive emotional states are set free to manifest.

Let me ask this question. How much of the Penn Masters curriculum covers mindfulness?

I remember reading somewhere where Selligman acknowledges that he knows little about mindfulness and then suggests that people refer to somebody elses work on mindfulness (it might have been authentic happiness)

I’m speculating that Selligman is dismissive of mindfulness because his early work on explanatory styles focuses on challenging thinking (very western) whereas mindfulness focuses on accepting thinking – almost polar opposites

I will write a blurb on mindfulness – but you will have to wait a couple of weeks – I’m off to Borneo for a couple of weeks.

Kathyrn – if you are interested in learning mindfulness I can loan you my Resilience Builder software which uses biofeedback to teach you mindfulness – let me know. You can see a video demonstration at http://www.i-i.com.au/resilience/RB_video.html

Jeff Dustin 31 July 2008 - 8:44 pm

Once I met Albert Ellis. I’d read his work but never seen him in the flesh. He was nasty, abrasive, belligerent though highly effective at helping other people. Whenever I hear of some kind of philosophy I look at the person espousing it.

If they are abrasive and nasty, maybe it doesn’t do what they advertise; so too with mindfulness.

SteveM 1 August 2008 - 7:14 am

Let me try to get everybody on the same page here. I really admire Professors Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi. But as I mentioned in a previous post, they explain much about optimism and flow, but are not very clear on how to achieve them. Perhaps the transition is intuitive for a person who is psychologically healthy. But for the person who is currently distressed, the pathway is much less clear.

However I recently saw this brief youtube video by psychologist Darlene Mininni and that was my “ah hah” moment.

The key self-talk take away is to allow yourself to be human by decoupling your emotions about your emotions or behaviors. E.g., feeling sad, because you are feeling sad. Instead, you acknowledge your feelings without guilt, and then step back and calmly ask yourself how to reorient in a positive way.

For example, I would ruminate about ADD behaviors I demonstrate, and only become more distressed. That’s a vicious cycle for sure. It is hard to find flow in that state, believe me. But now when I catch myself in a negative behavior pattern, I just say to myself, “OK, that’s what ADD’ers do. So what?” And maybe walk it off or turn to something constructive. With Dr. Mininni’s modified self-talk, I can shut off an avenue of distress by just calling a spade a spade. Without that pattern interrupt, I would be stuck in the cycle, keeping optimism and flow out of my grasp no matter how much I knew about them conceptually.

The connection of Dr. Mininni’s advice to mindfulness is her implicit recommendation to acknowledge your self in real time independent of the past and the future. It’s that momentary mindful interrupt in negative self talk that can be the off ramp to optimistic thinking followed by transition to an activity that generates flow. The negative self-talker can then complete his evolution to persistent optimism, by a practice of preemptive mindfulness meditation.

Anyway, that’s what I think.

Elliott Brown 4 August 2008 - 9:53 am

Dear Ms. Britton,

I like the concept of the positive psychology top-level image map. Identifying the minimum variables of a life well-lived and expressing them visually helps establish a useful mental framework.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Consider whether certain factors can be subsumed under other factors (e.g., Accomplishments could be subsumed under Positive Actions).
2. Consider whether there may be unidentified superordinate factors (e.g., Meaning could be subsumed under “Positive Cognitions”).
3. Borrowing from the work of R. Buckminster Fuller, who believed that the tetrahedron was the minimum structure of the Universe, consider a model that starts with 4 minimum, core factors (represented by 4 points of the tetrahedron). The relationships between these factors can be represented by lines, and the products of the relationships between these factors can be represented by the triangular areas of the tetrahedron. Extra factors can be added inside the overarching tetrahedral model, connected to the superordinate variables that subsume them. Just a thought.

Overall, though, I think the image map is definitely on the right track.


Elliott Brown 4 August 2008 - 10:10 am

Dear Ms. Britton,

Here is another thought: set the following 4 factors as your minimum, core model: Positive Emotions, Positive Actions, Positive Cognitions, and Willpower/Motivation. It may be possible to subsume the other factors under these main factors. The other factors may be a result of the interactions between these main factors.

Just a thought.


Kathryn Britton 4 August 2008 - 4:34 pm


Thanks for your suggestions. We’ll keep them in mind as we continue to refine.

It’s impossible to come up with THE right set of top-level ideas, since topics change stature depending on the observer’s viewpoint. I’ve noticed that different people put different ideas at the top — like one of those contraptions made of beads on branched strings, where the shape of the tree changes, depending on which bead you hold it by. That’s why I included that quotation by George Box – not to claim that we have THE right structure, but to claim we have a useful one.

Your top-level list is interesting — but it does tend to stress positive psychology on the individual level without including the social level.

I’m still quite unsure about where Accomplishment belongs — I put it at the top-level because that’s where Dr. Seligman had it in his more recent models. I think Senia Maymin and Marie-Josee Salvas talked him into that change. Perhaps one of them will weigh in here.


Dr. Ravikala Kamath 8 November 2008 - 9:38 pm

The mind map is good work and sets your mind thinking… My comment would be to also factor in for ‘resilience’ as an important and crucial element of ‘life well lived’. This is so because life events’ trajectory is almost like a roller coaster ride and what is really vital at every stage and age is the strength, omviction and commitment to rebound back to postive emotions,attitudes leading to positive actions and accomplishments.

Kathryn Britton 9 November 2008 - 9:49 pm

Yes, resilience is important. We put it under Positive Actions — Exercise Grit and Resilience. We just haven’t had time to work it out yet. If you have any favorite references or stories, let us know.



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