Content uploaded by Orsolya Lelkes
All content in this area was uploaded by Orsolya Lelkes on Aug 26, 2021
Content may be subject to copyright.
Book copies for reviews in journals are available from the publisher
– contact me in interested (Orsolya@lelkes.at) .
Personal website of the author: https://lelkes.at/en/book_sustainable-
Book page (Bristol University Press):
Orsolya Lelkes, PhD
A Thriving Life that Does Not Cost the Earth
Draft / Excerpt
Bristol University Press, May 2021
"Highly topical and timely. This work brings together key economic and philosophical
literatures with a distinctive practical approach.”
Sir Prof John Hills, London School of Economics and Political Science (1954-2020)
“Not only does the book bring together three strands (environmental, social, individual)
but it also aims to do so in a novel and accessible way – not just outlining the theory, but
also encouraging a process of self-reflection and experiential learning.”
Sam Wren-Lewis, University of Nottingham
“Orsolya Lelkes’ in-depth exploration of the tensions between standard market
economics, intense consumption-based growth, and the ecological crisis offers a highly
original pathway to “a flourishing life”. Her recipe for a fairer, more fulfilled life rests on
“benevolence, universalism, and self-direction”, values that are endorsed across the globe.
Her ideas for progress advance both the survival of the planet and thriving communities,
and thriving personal lives, which she calls “Sustainable Hedonism”.”
Prof Anne Power, London School of Economics
“Beyond the empty, sterile promises of consumerism, there is a place rich in meaningful
engagement with ourselves, others and the more than human world. A rediscovery of our
bodies – specifically in the form of theatre and role-play – provides a powerful channel for
this re-awakening. This is the territory that Orsolya Lelkes so skilfully and powerfully
explores, helping us to re-engage with the power of embodiment.”
Jonathan Dawson, Head of Economics, Schumacher College
How can we create a thriving life for us all that doesn’t come at the price of ecological
This book calls to explore our collective and personal convictions about success and good
life. It challenges the mainstream worldview, rooted in economics, that equates happiness
with pleasure, and encourages greed, materialism, egoism and disconnection.
Drawing on science and ancient Greek philosophers the author details how we can cultivate
our skills for enjoying life without harming ourselves or others, and can live an autonomous,
creative and connected life. Complementary to our intellectual understanding, the
experiential method of role play and theatre can powerfully facilitate the exploration of the
inner drivers and hindrances of a thriving life.
Keywords: economics, sustainability, happiness, hedonism, values
Table of Contents
Introduction: Is There Anyone Who Does Not Want to Thrive? 1
PART I: The Challenge
1 Unintended Consequences of Economics as a Science 17
2 The Narrative of Success in Capitalism, and Its Failures 29
PART II: What Is a Good Life?
3 Pleasure, Joy, Satisfaction, Purpose: Refining Our Quest for Happiness 47
4 Sustainable Hedonism 67
5 A Flourishing Life: Living Well and Doing Well 85
6 Values in an Era of Free Choice 107
PART III: How Do We Get There?
7 The Laboratory of the Flourishing Life: Serious Change Can Be Playful 129
8 Inner Agents and Saboteurs of the Good Life: Role Theory 147
Conclusions: Flourishing Life in the World 167
Introduction: Is There Anyone Who Does Not Want to
More and more people find themselves concerned by the dilemma of how to live a life that brings
growth and fulfilment, yet that is at the same time considerate of the finite resources of our Earth; a
life that is joyful but that can also contribute to our finding a way out of the ecological and climate
crisis. A growing number of economists, social researchers and business leaders are critically examining
the responsibilities of their own fields and looking for ways in which they could be part of the solution.
Many responsible, sensitive people doubt that they are doing enough, and wonder just how they can
enjoy life before the arrival of ‘the end of the world’.
These gigantic, systemic crisis phenomena dwarf the possibilities of any single person. What can one
individual do in the face of global climate politics, trade treaties, international monopolies, national
economic and social policies or a global pandemic? We may feel that whatever we do, we cannot have
an impact on these things: with or without us, the world goes on as it otherwise would. At the same
time, we are already responding to the crisis, just as we are. Our very existence and our current habits
have an impact, so we cannot opt out of responding, and our response, whether conscious or not,
expresses our connection to these issues.
We probably want to feel that what we are doing (including our work and our consumer habits) is good
and is enough – not to let the magnitude of the challenge overwhelm us. One can interpret it as a
search for an integration of our pleasure-seeking selves and our moral selves. How can we feel well
and do well?
The purpose of this book is to outline an approach to a thriving life that does not cost the Earth, as well
as to inspire the reader to explore and scrutinize their existing beliefs, habits and behaviours about
success and good life. The aim is to find a life strategy where we can be connected to our own deepest
needs as well as to the interest of others, seeing ourselves as part of an organic relationship in which
we create and regenerate the world and at the same time are shaped and sustained by it. I call this
symbiosis a ‘flourishing life’.
In this quest, I consider economic and societal issues (in Part I), but I do not attempt to offer structural
solutions to the shortcomings of our economic, social and political system that contribute to ecological
degradation. Instead, I focus on the role of individual people, although with a collective perspective. I
discuss the psychological, social psychological and (some) philosophical aspects of the thriving life, and
do not offer specific green life-style guidance. If you have a preference for exploring pathways to the
solutions, you may find Parts II and III of particular interest.
The challenge: one planet and a good life for all
Although science and technology has reached Mars as well as subatomic particles, and the economy
continues to expand relentlessly, we are still not able to achieve the dream of our civilization: a ‘good
life’. As humanity, we do not live a safe, thriving and sustainable life.
There is currently no country on earth that is both socially just and ecologically sustainable.1 In other
words, there is no country where basic social safety has been achieved and where the use of resources
remains below the ecological ceiling, if we also take into consideration the activities it has outsourced
to other countries. Countries in the developed world fail utterly, especially with regard to the latter
criterion. Should the developing world follow the familiar trajectory of progress, the situation will
become even more dire.
‘Physical needs such as nutrition, sanitation, access to electricity and the elimination of extreme
poverty could likely be met for all people without breaching planetary boundaries. However, the
universal achievement of more qualitative goals (for example, a high life satisfaction) would require a
level of resource use that is two to six times the sustainable level, based on current relationships,’
argue Dan O’Neil and his co-authors.2 In my view, the crucial issue in this warning is ‘current
relationships’. We need to radically revise these current relationships between resource use and life
satisfaction. We need to reconsider our strategies for a happy life.
For our own good, we need a novel approach to success, one in which we create a good life for all
while remaining within the limits of our planet’s resources. An influential recent practical approach is
the Doughnut Economics of Kate Raworth, focusing on the desirable reform of economics and the role
of policy-makers. This book invites for introspection, exploring the motivations and hindrances of living
a good life that is also caring and ecologically responsible.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of our current worldview and world order.
Our routines, life-style choices and all that we have so far taken for granted have suddenly been
shattered and questioned. The world around us has shrunk, and existing structures have crumbled.
The necessity for a profound transformation is no longer the occupation of a conscious minority, but
has instead become a reality for us all. In the wake of a collapse, what do we want to maintain and
strengthen, and what are we happy to leave behind? What should grow now, and how? What will be
our response to long-standing social and ecological challenges? How should we regenerate our world?
Our focus and priorities, as well as what we regard to be useful and essential, have suddenly changed.
Social features like solidarity (for example, public healthcare systems, social safety nets, community
supported agriculture, neighbourhood support and the voluntary exchange of skills and resources),
which some may previously have regarded as unreasonable, have now become visible and crucial.
Certain personal abilities, like autonomy, creativity, having internal goals and drives in life, and the
ability to cohabit and collaborate cordially, have become precious and necessary for coping. Our
experiences, either benefiting from these traits or missing them, could provide a basis for our future
aspirations. It is an opportunity for us to become more aware – to reflect on our existing beliefs and
actions, and on our future vision.
Our desire for growth and its failures
Should we let go of our yearning for growth and a good quality of life, as a sacrifice for the sake of
future generations and the ecosystem? Although some people may be open to such a proposition, for
many others it seems to be asking for too much. Such a call seems to contradict our basic life instinct:
we all want to grow and thrive. The question is, in what form we want to grow: is it in the area of
financial success, appearance, popularity or fame (‘extrinsic motivation’) or, rather, in the form of close
relationships, community, self-expression, personal growth (‘intrinsic motivation’). We may also call
the former ‘materialist motivation’. Behaviours and habits based on materialism are a major cause of
overconsumption, exploitation of the resources of the earth. It is not an optimal personal strategy
either, as it tends to result in lower well-being and greater ill-being.
The empirical results of psychology suggest that many of us may not know and do what is good for us,
as is illustrated by examples in Chapters 4, 5 and 6. Our ability to act for our own good is impaired. It
may be a result of our early development or our recent and current experiences. According to the self-
determination theory in psychology, the darker sides of human behaviour, prejudice, aggression, are
reactions to the thwarted fulfilment of our basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence and
belonging.3 We may add overconsumption, ruthless competition, the exploitation and humiliation of
co-workers, greed and addiction to this list of harmful human behaviours. If our environment cannot
provide for these core needs (and we do not see ourselves as competent, lovable persons and cannot
act in truly autonomous ways), we are likely to seek alternative, non-optimal strategies which will
actually not be able to meet these needs. Our ability to contribute to these needs of others will be also
limited. It is unlikely that we can appreciate and support the autonomy, competence and belonging of
others if we do not really know these ourselves. Our personal strategies for growth may be
dysfunctional, as they do not bring us happiness and are harmful to others.
These materialist life strategies are reinforced by our current capitalist economy, with its suggestive
and overflowing marketing messages on television, in newspapers, billboards and social media. We
see them in public spaces as well as on our private mobile phone screens. Children may also be exposed
at an early age. If consumption is a precondition of economic growth, and economic growth is
essential, a responsible citizen must consume abundantly.
The ‘success story’ we are telling ourselves
Our convictions concerning the nature of humankind and the ‘rules of the game’ in the world strongly
affect what we see as the path to thriving in life. These convictions govern our actions and even our
experiences. So our choice of stories to tell ourselves, each other and our children is crucial.
My life story, shared in the Preface, is just one of many potential stories. Not because it is not true; it
is true – but it is incomplete. This is not the story I would have told about myself a few years ago. It is
probably not the story I will tell in a few years’ time. Even now, I could choose a number of different
themes and guiding threads with which to talk about myself. The story is no mere fiction, however.
Through my story, I also construct myself, my identity and my motivation.
Our families, our local communities and our peers also have their own stories. In some families, they
are shared at the dinner table; in others, they are more of a latent guidebook about the world, about
other people and about ‘fate’, written in invisible but potent ink. Thus, while they are often about the
past, they latently create the future as well.
Our lives are strongly shaped by the stories we tell ourselves, both individually and collectively. We are
all storytellers of the world, and through our stories we create our world.
Stories provide understanding in a complex world, and offer a guide and order among the many forces
of chaos. However, it is often these very stories that stop us from living life to our full potential as
individuals, or socially prevent us from creating a just and ecologically sustainable model for human
progress. We are often hardly aware of the origins of these stories, or of our potential to transform
The world as a marketplace
A dominant collective narrative is the supremacy of the neoliberal market economy, claiming that it is
the best possible mechanism for our progress and prosperity. Markets can be efficient indeed, and
economic and technological progress is immense. For some reason, the indisputable achievements of
this system overshadow any discussion of its drawbacks and of viable alternatives. It seems to have
established an intellectual monopoly, conquering not just economics but ever more domains of the
Rather than being seen as part of society, and as part of the natural world, economics now seems to
dominate society and ecology. Economic interests repeatedly override ecological considerations,
seeing wildlife, thousand-year-old forests, nature reserves harbouring fossil fuels, oceans, fresh water
and the Earth as a whole simply as ‘natural capital’, where items have a price tag and are potential
ingredients for production. A forest, with its ecosystem, soil and water retention, fresh air and beauty,
has no monetary value in a country’s gross domestic product (GDP), and thus has no intrinsic value as
such; this is often a death penalty, as we have witnessed with the destruction of large swathes of the
Amazon rain forest. The whole world seems to have been turned into a ‘marketplace’ with interlinked
markets: we have a financial market, a housing market, a labour market, an organ market, a market
for arts and creative industries, a market for land and water, to name but a few.
It has not been always so. Karl Polányi, in his influential 1944 book The Great Transformation, provides
a historical perspective.4 While pre-modern economies were based on tradition, redistribution and
reciprocity, with a minor role for markets, industrialism expanded the market principle, and even
factors of production like land and labour are now being traded on the market. This has profoundly
transformed not only our institutions but also our mentality. Polányi argues that the ‘market society’
is unsustainable, because it is destructive to human nature, to relationships and the natural
environment. By now, this destruction has become more evident.
Nowadays, we can say that the logic of the market can devalue those activities which are not sold but
which are vital for sustaining and savouring life, such as child rearing, care work, growing and preparing
our own food, voluntary work, or creative pastimes and activities with family and friends. Seeing our
lives centred on selling our time, skills and effort for a good price may distort the way we look at
ourselves and at each other, and can turn out to be damaging for our human potential and the
opportunity to live a meaningful life. Many speak of ‘work– life balance’, as if work was not part of life,
but alien to it. And in many cases, it is so.
These are structural phenomena of capitalism, which affect our life chances, and also how we act and
how we optimize our behaviour. In addition, our actions are also shaped by our worldview and our
(Unintended) consequences of economics and capitalism today
A key step in finding answers to the complex challenges of our age is to reflect on all that we regard to
be self-evident in the functioning of our world today, starting with the image of the human in economic
thinking, and the consequences of that image. The notion of the so-called ‘economic man’ (rational,
egoistic and competitive pleasure seeker), originally just a set of assumptions for mathematical
modelling, despite its deficient assumptions regarding human nature, appears to be impactful far
beyond university walls. The notion of the pleasure-seeking human has become a worldview of its own.
Economics today is monopolized by the approach of neoclassical economics. It deals with the external
world at the individual and the collective level. It looks at behaviour – for example, what people are
spending their money on – and observes personal characteristics. It examines how companies optimize
their market strategy, both relative to their competitors and in terms of their own internal resources.
Mainstream economics as it is practised today tends to regard itself as value free, maintaining that
ethical questions belong to philosophers or politicians, not economists. Although many prominent
economists have already challenged this view, including Anthony Atkinson, Kenneth Boulding and the
signatories of the ‘33 Theses for an Economics of Reformation’ nailed to the doors of the London School
of Economics in 2017, it appears still to be the dominant concept.
Economics does not examine individual and collective inner worlds, even if these are organically linked
to the external world it creates. It does not investigate the specifics of motivations and life strategies,
such as how desires are born and changed, and how people seek to satisfy them. It also leaves aside
the role of our culture, our common beliefs about what we need to do in order to succeed.
One could say that this is rightly so. Economics has to define a clear domain to be able to operate as a
scientific field of study (often interpreted as being mathematical). This might hold, were economics
not to breach the bounds of pure science. It proves problematic, however, if its approach is used to
address complex problems such as the climate crisis.
Due to the way economics is taught in most places, the relationship between inner and external worlds
tends to remain unexamined by many students, scholars and business leaders: how assumptions in
economics affect the real world. Empirical research presented in Chapter 1 suggests that the study of
mainstream neoclassical economics, with its image of the human as a selfish, competitive figure, may
function as a self-fulfilling prophecy, making students more selfish and business decisions more profit
oriented. People may adapt to a norm, and do what they regard necessary for success. There seems
to be far too little open exchange on what ‘success’ is, and what the future is that they want to see
and contribute to.
It is now evident that prioritizing GDP growth over other objectives does not create a happy or thriving
life. Consumer capitalism has had a number of unintended consequences, as illustrated in Chapter 2.
It promises abundance, which is appealing to many who have experienced shortages of basic goods
(or whose ancestors did so), but it also brings with it systemic shortfalls, including global injustice due
to ‘imperial life-styles’, and the prevalence of food waste and obesity. It promises the opportunity to
live like an ‘aristocrat’ by consuming status goods and services, but, due to the ‘hedonic treadmill’, is
unlikely to succeed, while it also fails the poorest in society. The illusion that our boundless desires can
be fulfilled comes at the cost of new forms of addiction.
Exploring and experiencing a thriving life
Some may define thriving life as a happy life. What is happiness? Is it pleasure, joy, satisfaction, a
meaningful life, well-being or something else? What are we pursuing, and how? Our choices and
strategies affect our physical and mental health, as well as that of others. The recent ‘happiness
revolution’ in quantitative science has opened up a new perspective on personal development and
social progress and thus can help us find alternatives that enable us both to thrive and to survive.
Quest for happiness
There seems to be a paradox: while happiness seems to be ‘good’, bringing as it does a wealth of
positive benefits, the search for happiness falls short of being an optimal life strategy (Chapter 3). Why
is this so?
Our approach to our own well-being fundamentally influences our pathways and our experiences. The
question is what exactly we seek and how we do it. Scientific evidence suggests that it is not helpful
for us to try to maximize happiness or to follow a general ‘maximizer’ strategy. Well-being is not a state
of continuous euphoria; it requires the experience of ‘mixed emotions’, with shorter spells of negative
feelings. (Longer spells of such feelings and extreme suffering may well require external support.)
‘Forced positivity’ and being ‘happiness-greedy’ are therefore both strategies that we can refute.
Ancient hedonism is fundamentally different from its current simplified incarnation. Both Aristippus
and Epicurus enjoyed all that the present moment offered, but warned of becoming slaves of one’s
desires (Chapter 4). A number of intriguing stories from the lives of these philosophers illustrate what
they actually meant by this. Aristotle argues for aspiring for a mean state of pleasures, between
asceticism and indulgence. He also calls for differentiating between necessary and optional things, and
focusing on the former in our aspirations. The Greek philosophers could teach us how to master
hedonism in its pure sense without harming others or ourselves. In the 21st century, it might be called
Happiness, according to Aristotle, is not the gift of the Gods, not a matter of luck, but, rather, the result
of virtue-based actions within the community (Chapter 5). He held that there was a perfect order in
the heavenly spheres (cosmos) and that the goal of human effort is to align to this by creating this
order in one’s own inner world. Virtues play a key role in this, as well as ‘friendship’, and community.
His term for happiness, ‘eudaimonia’, is most often translated as a ‘flourishing life’. It has inspired
contemporary psychology as well, which has interpreted and enlarged the original ideas.
Science, philosophy and human experience have accumulated a wealth of knowledge on what the
flourishing life could be for us as individuals and as a community. We seem to understand ever better
how to get closer to our ‘true preferences’, our innermost needs, in contrast to ‘revealed preferences’,
our observed behaviour, which may be based on misinformation.
Flourishing life, based on Aristotle and on recent empirical psychology can be interpreted in the
• it gives joy as well as ensuring mental and physical health;
• it is aligned to our values and our aspiration to live a meaningful life;
• it is based on conscious action, the persistent practice and development of virtues;
• it has universal features, but its actualization varies from person to person;
• it does not harm others and does not endanger the planet’s future;
• because friends, relationships and the community are vital elements of it.
In positive psychology as in happiness economics, the epicentre is the individual and their quest for
happiness. They provide useful guidance for this, but it is, in my view, a limited approach. A key
component is often missing: the consequences of our actions on others. We cannot live a truly
flourishing and happy life at the expense of others, so we need to be aware of the consequences of
our individual actions on others – a case powerfully made by Aristotle.
Academic studies suggest that purposeful activities bring more joy and greater life satisfaction than
does ‘radical hedonism’ (Chapter 5). This is already true on the following day, but even more the case
in the long run. A meaningful life promotes physical health and longevity. People living a flourishing
life are more likely to care about others and to be generous and attentive. All in all, if you had a choice,
you would probably want to live with someone who lives a flourishing life. And if you wanted to be
happy and healthy, you would do better to choose the flourishing life as a life strategy – and your ‘only’
task would be to find your unique way to pursue this. Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychotherapist who
survived the Nazi concentration camps, argued that we can choose and create a meaningful life under
A relatively less known important strand of research shows that there is no contradiction between a
happy life and environmentally conscious life-style, including voluntary simplicity, reduction of meat
eating or other green adjustments, and explains the pathways for increasing both (Chapter 5).
Sustainable hedonism appears to be a realistic strategy.
Values for a thriving life
Many have called for a greater reliance on ethics in economics, or on moral values in the actions we
take to tackle climate change. What are the values we want to rely on?
Happiness? Liberty, equality, fraternity? God, family, country? Community, identity, stability? Serve
the people? Peace, rain, prosperity? Be fast, bold, open and build social value? Respect resource limits,
create resilience, freely share ideas and power? Protect people and the environment? Passion for
excellence, growth and learning?5
We may appreciate some of these values, but some others could make us feel ambivalent, given our
history and present. Facebook is certainly bold, but many question that it is building social value in its
current form. The last two mottos belong to two multinational energy corporations, the American
Chevron and the Russian Gazprom. Both of these companies were named among the top 20 companies
behind a third of all carbon emissions.6
Even though we all have our own values which guide us, many find any reference to values
unappealing. Stated values may contradict actions. Values are often associated with a bias, in the worst
case even fanaticism: a complete surrender to absolutist ideologies or to extremism, one which may
even override loyalty to closest family members or common sense.
For all these recurring dangers, I believe the values of our civilization to be constantly evolving. We live
in an age where we have a great opportunity to combine the experience and knowledge of previous
eras. It is now ever more possible to belong to a community without denying our freedom. We can
honour our traditions without denying progress. We can enjoy life while make it also meaningful and
ethical. This requires a value synthesis in which we are able to transcend the ideology of earlier ages –
ideologies that often sought exclusivity – by unifying their merits without denying or trying to destroy
Such a synthesis is not achieved overnight. It requires openness, friendliness toward ourselves and
toward others and the ability to accept that one does not always know the ‘right’ answer in all
situations. This is a dynamic synthesis. There is no single, static, ultimate solution, as external
challenges may require new solutions. To venture on the journey to create such inner synthesis
requires courage, as well as inspiration from others. The benefits of it are manifold, however, in terms
of our individual mental and physical health, as well as of our collective ability to survive and thrive.
Humanity could also create institutions which reflect and implement its universal values. According to
the global survey of values by Shalom Schwartz, the three most widely acclaimed values are
benevolence (friendship, love), universalism (tolerance, peace, love of nature) and self-direction
(freedom, creativity), as shown in Chapter 6. These findings hold across diverse cultures and
continents, implying that humanity has a majority consensus on our core values. This shows that the
presumptions of the worldview of the economic man do not hold: people are not primarily egoistic
pleasure-seekers. At least, this is not what they aspire to nowadays. I am inclined to interpret these
values as aspirations: this is how we (want to) see ourselves. If the aforementioned three universal
values guided our actions, we would live in a different world from the present one. The question is
how we can live up to our own aspirations and how can we integrate these in our daily lives, in our
Pathways to a thriving life: experiential learning
Anthropologist Jane Briggs travelled to investigate the Inuit in the 1960s and witnessed with wonder
how they teach their children to manage their anger and hard feelings by the use of role play. Role
play and theatre belong to our human history as a way of creative storytelling, and ‘ordinary people’
can also become the artists and creators of their own lives and our collective culture, as Jacob Levy
Moreno argues. I present the Theatre of the Soul, the method I use, as developed by Moreno and his
I explain why, in the context of the flourishing life, I regard it as an efficient and useful method (Chapter
7). For example, it creates opportunities to enact the ‘flourishing self ’, to explore and experience
personal strengths, to visualize values and future visions for individuals and groups, or to create
celebrations and rituals. With these tools, flourishing life at a communal level (be it the flourishing life
of the group itself or their vision of the flourishing life at the societal level) can be visualized and
The Theatre of the Soul offers a creative and playful form of self-expression for all, with a safe space
for exploration, guided by the core values of openness, acceptance and curiosity. A group experience
can powerfully change norms and behaviour. Group work and specific tools (such as role reversal) can
boost empathy and social competence, and can increase one’s ability to cooperate with and trust
others. Therefore, in my view, positive community experiences can be one of the keys to finding
solutions to the global crisis.
Egoism and extreme pleasure-seeking, and indeed a flourishing life, are not simply external
phenomena in the world, but are also the products of inner motivations and conflicting forces within
the individual psyche, as explained in Chapter 8. Meeting our inner ‘progressive’ and ‘saboteur roles’
helps us to gain greater freedom to take action for our own good and to the benefit of others. Role
training can provide effective support for this. I propose archetypal roles which may promote and
hinder the flourishing life in a person, including for example the Overachiever, the Orphan, the Tyrant,
the Fool, the Rebel, the Friend, the Explorer, the Artist and the Sage.
Role theory is a bridge between the person and the community, as it encompasses phenomena in the
personal psyche as well as interactions among people. Moreno’s vision is that the dramatic tools can
transform human culture to make it more creative, spontaneous and healing.
Our life as a living field
To understand a thriving life and to transform our own mentality and ultimately our culture, we need
both knowledge and a great deal of creative energy.
To do this, we do well to draw on our intellectual insight and critical thinking. But, beyond that, we
also need to get in touch with our instinctive impulses. In this discovery we can be helped by our
playful, curious self, which is ready to become acquainted with our desires, impulses and the many
different parts that represent them. We do not need to deny anything in ourselves: neither our fears
and our pains, nor our strengths and our uniqueness. This makes it possible for all this not merely to
remain theoretical knowledge, but to turn into transformative experience.
1 O’Neill et al 2018; Raworth 2017.
2 O’Neill et al 2018, p 88.
3 Ryan and Deci 2019; Deci and Ryan 2000.
4 Polanyi 2001.
5 ‘Community, identity, stability’ is the World State’s motto in the novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
‘Serve the People’ originates from the title of a speech by Mao Zedong, delivered on 8 September 1944, and
is currently the unofficial motto of China. ‘Peace, rain, prosperity’: the national motto of Lesotho. ‘Be fast,
bold, open and build social value’: core values of Facebook. ‘Respect resource limits, create resilience, freely
share ideas and power’: values of the Transition Towns movement.
6 Heede 2019, table C1.
Deci, E.L. and R.M. Ryan (2000) ‘The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: human needs and the self-
determination of behavior’. Psychological Inquiry 11: 227– 68.
Heede, R. (2019) Carbon Majors: Updating Activity Data, Adding Entities, and Calculating Emissions:
A Training Manual . Snowmass, CO: Climate Accountability Institute.
Polanyi, K. (2001) The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. 2nd ed.
Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
Raworth , K. (2017) Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think like a 21st-Century Economist.
London: Random House Business Books.
Ryan, R.M. and E.L. Deci (2019) ‘Brick by brick: the origins, development, and future of self-
determination theory’, pp 111– 56 in Advances in Motivation Science, edited by A.J. Elliot. Vol. 6.
Cambridge, MA: Elsevier.