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Extreme Autonomy as a Path to Happiness in Work and Life


If you have been reading my emails or watching my videos for a while. Autonomy is the basic psychological need that humans have to direct their own lives.

Most of us only think about autonomy when ours has encroached. Perhaps a micro-managing manager, or an authoritative family member.

Autonomy is important. Our human brains need it and love it. It is so important that it is correlated with numerous health outcomes and psychological illnesses.


Depression and anxiety are high in individuals with an external locus of control. This means they believe they have little agency in their lives and feel that life is happening to them.


The opposite of this trait is the external locus of control, which is the feeling that one has agency in their life and is responsible for its outcome.


So how do we apply this research to the real world?

One way that I incorporate autonomy into helping clients is something I call "extreme autonomy".


This is a concept that essentially acknowledges how beneficial the perception of autonomy is to our psychological states, life, and work satisfaction.

With extreme autonomy, I encourage you to consider the perspective that every one of your problems, challenges, or annoyances are all your fault. You are responsible for everything you are dissatisfied with within your life.

At first, this may seem like an extreme and callous statement. But if you stay with this logic it can be freeing and even joyful. If we see that everything is our fault then everything is also in our power to change.


So as you start your week consider the question:

What would I change if I knew I am responsible for everything that I feel, think, and experience?


This includes all the great things you accomplished, but it also includes anything that is not working for you. Remember that if we focus on why we are stuck we will only see proof of being stuck. But if we focus on extreme autonomy we will see how much agency we have in our own lives.


Photo by Kammeran Gonzalez-Keola from Pexels

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