Frequently Asked Questions

Wellbeing, MAP and Centeredness Theory

What is Happiness?

It depends. There’s a difference between the emotion of happiness and living a happy life.

Happiness as an emotion is a temporary state. It comes and goes whenever something puts a grin on our face.

A happy life points to lasting feelings of contentment and a sense that we are functioning well in our own lives. This is also called subjective wellbeing.

Learn more about happiness and wellbeing.

What is wellbeing?

Wellbeing is about more than a single factor, such as your finances or health. Rather, it comprises many interconnected facets of life and different states of mind.

It’s about connection and autonomy, single-minded purpose and broad curiosity. It’s all these things, all at the same time.

Wellbeing is about the whole person. It’s about how positively they feel and function across time.

Learn more about the different types of wellbeing.

Is this just some ‘alternative lifestyle’ thing?


Scientists across fields agree that a person’s happiness and wellbeing are measurable and have important effects on health, economies, and nations. Consequently, interest in the science of wellbeing has exploded.

Industry, governments and university labs around the world have committed millions to discover what it takes to bring about sustainable happiness and wellbeing.

Who specifically is investing in wellbeing?

Some leading contributors include:

  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) - Better Life Index
  • United Nations - Human Development Index
  • World Health Organization (WHO) - Health and Development Programme
  • Gallup-Healthways, USA - Global Well-Being Index
  • UK Government - Office for National Statistics - National Well-Being
  • USA - States of Maryland and Vermont - Genuine Progress Indicator
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics - Measures of Australia's Progress - Society
  • Bhutan - Gross National Happiness
  • National Australia Bank (NAB) - Wellbeing Index
  • London School of Economics, London, UK - Wellbeing Programme
  • Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia - Australian Unity Personal Wellbeing Index
  • University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada - Canadian Index of Wellbeing

How does happiness and wellbeing work?

Better wellbeing is not a cure-all. People who are happy do get sick and lose friends. Yet the science clearly shows that - all other things being equal such as genetics - you improve the likelihood of a better life when you have better wellbeing.

But at the same time, better wellbeing is not based on extreme bliss or feeling happy all the time. Instead, an optimal degree of happiness tends to achieve better wellbeing. This means feeling mildly to moderately positive most of the time, with occasional negative emotions in certain situations.

Learn more about Happiness & Wellbeing

If I increase my wellbeing, will my problems and sadness go away?

Wellbeing is not a cure-all for problems and negative emotions.

Everyone faces challenges in life. Most of us will someday lose someone we love and be affected by injury or illness. However, wellbeing can strengthen our resilience, helping us to bounce back sooner.

People with high wellbeing still feel sadness or anxiety during life’s normal ups and downs, but on average, they’ll feel mildly positive across most of their lives.

Learn more about Happiness & Wellbeing

How can I be happier? Will more money help?

Many of us feel that money will solve our problems and make us happy.

Of course, resources like money are essential for life’s basics, such as food, housing, and health. But there’s a well-evidenced limit to how much money can increase our happiness. For example, despite the average household income doubling over the last 50 years, people have become no happier.

This is because happiness is about the whole person and how they function across all the different areas of their life. This includes the quality of their primary relationship, connection to their community, job satisfaction, and much more.

What are the benefits of improving wellbeing?

When you improve your wellbeing, you’re likely to see benefits in three specific areas:

  1. Your health and longevity
  2. Your relationships
  3. Your working life

For example, increasing evidence suggests that those who report greater enjoyment of life tend to live longer. This isn’t only because these people behave differently, such as by exercising more. Evidence points to changes that emotions like joy and contentment have on the brain, having positive consequences for our health and lifespan.

Additionally, studies show that taking steps to improve your wellbeing will help you live a happier life.

You’ll have greater vision and purpose and see positive effects across the above-mentioned areas of your life. These benefits will then lead to further benefits, perpetuating what psychologists call an ‘upward spiral’ of wellbeing.

For example, when you…

  • Find vision and purpose, you’ll be more productive at work.
  • Improve your relationships with family, you’ll feel more supported.
  • Feel happier, you’ll achieve your financial goals sooner by spending less.
  • Experience a more positive mood, you’ll protect your physical health, leading to lower rates of viral infections and risk of stroke or heart disease.

Can MAP help me even if I am experiencing events outside my control?

No matter the difficult event, such as a breakup, the loss of a job, or illness, we all face situations that are outside our control. Likewise, we all have a unique story about who we are, where we’ve come from, and the hardships we’ve faced along the way.

MAP was designed to speak to everybody, regardless of background, color, or creed.

MAP’s algorithms help pinpoint precisely where your wellbeing has room to grow across five major areas of life. By targeting these contexts rather than the specific content of your experience, MAP achieves both precision and broad applicability.

You can use MAP for self-development during good times and as your compass during life’s storms. This is because both joy and hardship present opportunities to grow and live up to your potential.

What does ‘MAP’ stand for?

MAP is the acronym for Meta-Analysis Profile.

Meta = A level above and beyond
Analysis = Evaluation of individual factors and how they interconnect to make up a whole
Profile = Your happiness and wellbeing

Learn more about MAP

How much does MAP cost?

MAP is free for personal use and always will be. We believe everyone, no matter their walk of life, should have access to tools that support happiness and wellbeing. Likewise, we rely on feedback from our users to improve MAP and continue forwarding our mission to better lives everywhere.

Our inbox is always open.

How do you protect my information?

Your privacy and confidentiality are protected. All individual responses and feedback reports are encrypted and stored securely. You can learn more by viewing our privacy policy.

Is MAP a psychological test, brain game or meditation?

MAP is a holistic and scientifically validated model of happiness and wellbeing known as Centeredness Theory. It focuses on you as a whole person, illuminating your wellbeing across all facets of your life.

See How MAP works

What is Centeredness Theory?

Centeredness Theory models a human life as an open system comprised of five interconnected domains (or spheres):

  • Relationship
  • Family
  • Community
  • Work
  • Self

Each domain comprises four subdomains, meaning there are twenty subdomains in total. States of wellbeing cross-feed within and between domains and subdomains, making your wellbeing a dynamic interplay of experiences, emotions, and states. For example, what you feel and experience at work will affect how you interact with your family, and vice versa.

Zoomed Mandala

Figure 2: A Schematic of Centeredness Theory's Self domain

The theory’s four external domains (or ‘spheres’) represent the Community, Family, Work, and Relationship dimensions. These domains orbit the fifth domain of Self, which is internal and positioned at the center of the model. The four external domains feed into the internal self and vice versa in a two-way reciprocal flow.

The self represents our sense of identity and the aspiration to achieve meaningful goals. Its four subdomains are:

  • Inspiration
  • Contentment
  • Adaptability
  • Awareness

These subdomains determine the way we express our individuality in the world as we pursue meaning and purpose. They also exhibit a reciprocal flow with the subdomains of the four external spheres. For example, the subdomain of awareness in the Self sphere feeds into the subdomain of understanding in the Relationship sphere and vice versa.

An individual’s overall centeredness score reflects the balance within and between the theory’s five spheres and twenty subdomains. Greater centeredness means we experience greater wellbeing. To achieve this balance, meaningful goals and advancement toward these goals must exist within each domain.

What is a Goal?

Higher wellbeing is achieved when we have meaningful goals in all five domains and when balance is achieved within and between our five domains through thought and behavior that is congruent.

Why Goals?

The science of how to create a quality goal is extensive and instructional:

  1. A goal is intrinsic and self-generated when the aspiration is to satisfy a basic psychological need and independent of the reaction of others for example, self-acceptance, growth and autonomy. In contrast, extrinsic goals, associated with reduced wellbeing, are a means to an end, dependent on others, and include pursuits like social recognition and looking attractive. Intrinsic goals apply to all people, regardless of cultural differences.
  2. Higher wellbeing is associated with approach goals. An approach goal targets a positive outcome for example to be open and cheerful when meeting new people, to exercise regularly for improved fitness. On the other hand avoidance goals target moving away from a negative outcome. For example, to stop being a bore at parties, or to stop eating fast food. Plus, an approach goal is more likely to be achieved than an avoidance goal.
  3. Goals are also more likely to be achieved if they are congruent with your personal values. For example, when one has strong social and self-regulatory skills, a strong positive belief in the goal, and the goal is aligned with inherent psychological needs. These psychological needs depend on one’s self-concept and self-related wishes, as well as the demands in the environment. Therefore, if a person’s motives are oriented toward the achievement of independence, self-assertion, and mastery, then goals that are aligned to this will create higher wellbeing, and lower well-being if misaligned.

So every goal that we set in each of our five domains must be intrinsic and self-generated, approach oriented, and congruent with our personal values.

Pivotal to crafting a meaningful goal is the role of our imagination because it is the source of our ideas, inspirations, and aspirations.

Well-being and Imagination

In the last eight years, insight into meaningful goals has burgeoned thanks to neuroscience and the discovery of the Default Mode Network, and the discovery that the future plays a pivotal role in our wellbeing.

The Default Mode Network spans areas in your brain that are more active during times of rest compared to times of cognitive activity. It is a dynamic and rich neural network that spans deep, wide and long neural real estate and is activated when you recall a memory or envision a future event. Time, from the perspective of the Default Mode Network, is not linear and because of its discovery the field of psychology is undergoing a second revolution called Prospection or Future-Mindedness.

What do you mean by “meaningful goals,” and why are they so important?

Research tells us that we achieve wellbeing when…

  1. we have meaningful goals in all five domains and;
  2. balance is achieved within and between our five domains through thought and behavior congruent with these goals.

More meaningful goals are those that tend to be…

  1. Intrinsic rather than extrinsic
  2. Approach-oriented rather than avoidance-oriented
  3. Self-congruent

Intrinsic Goals

Intrinsic goals are those that are self-generated and inherently motivating. These sorts of goals satisfy the most fundamental needs shared by us all. Examples of intrinsic goals are those that lead us to pursue greater self-acceptance, growth, and autonomy.

In contrast, extrinsic goals are sometimes associated with reduced wellbeing. They are a means to an end, dependent on others, and usually involve attempts to gain others’ approval (e.g., social status) or material things (e.g., money).

Approach Goals

Greater wellbeing is associated with approach goals. These goals target desired outcomes, such as being open and cheerful when meeting new people or exercising regularly for improved fitness. These sorts of goals give us a vision of something to aspire to and can help guide our thoughts and behaviors in a positive direction.

In contrast, avoidance goals reflect a movement away from negative outcomes (e.g., “stop being a bore at parties” or “stop eating fast food”). These sorts of goals sometimes reduce wellbeing. While these goals may illustrate a reality to be avoided, they can be less motivating and exciting. They can also be harder to achieve as they don’t specify the specific thoughts and behaviors you should aim to practice.


Goals are also more likely to be achieved if they are congruent with your personal values.

Each of us has different values, which are the things we feel are most worth pursuing in life. Examples of values are creativity, learning, justice, and love.

When your goals are oriented toward the expression of your values, this will increase wellbeing. However, if goals are misaligned with your values (or contradict them), they may decrease your wellbeing.

How does MAP help me improve my wellbeing?

MAP is designed using advanced algorithms to help you target your wellbeing with precision. Each time you take MAP, you’ll receive scores indicating your wellbeing across MAP’s five spheres. These break down into twenty subdomains, which also have their own scores.

Each subdomain is a potential ‘lever’ you can use to improve your wellbeing. Therefore, each time you take MAP, you’ll be recommended four focus areas from among these subdomains, which you can target to maximally improve your wellbeing.

Given the many interrelations across MAP’s spheres and subdomains, it’s not always the case that you should simply focus on the subdomains with the lowest scores to improve your overall wellbeing. Instead, MAP applies advanced statistical techniques that model your wellbeing according to a driver tree, which optimizes its recommendations. This algorithm considers the overall importance of each subdomain and the reciprocal effects that improvements in one subdomain may have on another.

Using this approach, MAP simulates a 10% increase in your overall wellbeing and identifies which four subdomains will create the smoothest path to this 10% improvement.

MAP’s algorithms and recommendations get more powerful and precise with every use. This means that you’re not just helping yourself when you use MAP. You’re also helping wellbeing seekers everywhere.

Where can I learn more about the history and mission of MAP?

To learn more about the history and upcoming plans for MAP, please visit About Us.

How did MAP start?

The theoretical underpinnings of MAP were first published in a book called Freedom’s Way in 2004. A revised version of the book was later published under the title MAP: Living a Centered Life in 2015.

Click here to view the book.

The book put forward a conceptualization of centeredness and drew on principles from philosophy, spirituality, psychology, and the natural sciences to present a new paradigm for mental health and psychosocial wellbeing.

From this conceptualization, the first version of MAP was created. Data from users of MAP across 38 countries led to the validation of MAP’s wellbeing assessment and the publication of groundbreaking research in the peer-reviewed, open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology in 2018.

Click here to read the research.

Today, the discoveries continue. Designed using a unique algorithm and deep analytics, MAP gets smarter with every use and enables further research and discoveries. You support science and seekers of wellbeing everywhere each time you use MAP.

Learn more about MAP.

I am a researcher interested in MAP. How can I access the assessment materials?

We love hearing from others who are passionate about forwarding the science of mental health and wellbeing, and we’d love to assist.

Please email or

Who does MAP partner with?

MAP works closely with its industry partner, Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA).

NeuRA is a world-leading research institute affiliated with the University of New South Wales and Prince of Wales Hospital. If you or your lab is interested in collaborating, please let us know.

Please email or

Is there an Enterprise version of MAP?

Good question. Yes: is called MAP Workplace. Simply, it is a compass for happiness at an enterprise level, in other words, MAP at scale and offers MAP’s scientifically validated personal well-being measurements, reports, tips, activities, insights with anywhere anytime secure access at both the individual employee and team leader level.

MAP Workplace uses MAP’s scientifically validated happiness and wellbeing survey to measure and assess team and workplace health, dynamics, employee engagement, company vision, organizational values, productivity, and workplace resilience. MAP understands that these psychological inputs and health and performance outputs are critical to employee wellbeing and organizational behavior and workplace productivity because happiness is fostered and creates benefits on the individual and workplace level in a two-way flow.

Scientists have found that happiness and wellbeing can achieve workplace benefits through:

  1. Internal processes within the individual; such as improved motivation and integration of information; and
  2. External processes between individuals; such as better relationships and cooperation.

Some key findings: (ON THE PATH IN BACKGROUND)

Workers who experience high wellbeing are 81% less likely to seek out a new employer in the next year.

Employees with the highest wellbeing levels miss 41% less work due to poor health and are 65% less likely to be involved in a workplace accident.

Well-being can actually be a more important contributor to on-the-job productivity than an employee's chronic disease status such as diabetes.

Leaders who are actively seen to exhibit wellbeing behaviors are more likely to have team members with high wellbeing levels.

Happiness can increase curiosity, creativity and motivation amongst workers.

Happy people are more likely to engage cooperatively and collaboratively during negotiations.

Happy workers are more likely to be rated highly for financial performance and generally by their supervisors.

Greater satisfaction amongst employees is associated with better revenue, sales and profits.

Wellbeing is associated with increased clarity about roles and responsibilities and how to accomplish tasks ahead of deadlines.

Happiness at a point in time in a person's working life is associated with higher income later in life.

MAP’s validated science and technology understands that the benefits of wellbeing in the workplace are more likely with high levels of wellbeing in an individual's personal life because your personal life and your life at work interact and influence each other in a two-way flow - where personal wellbeing is the foundation

MAP’s science and technology also uses MAP’s workplace scientifically validated wellbeing assessment to measures and assess the profound relationship between social status and wellbeing.

Did you know that social status is a major cause of ill-health such as heart disease? The issue is not one of income or lifestyle, but the psychological experience of inequality - how much control your team has and the opportunities for social participation - that profoundly affects health. Human beings have an intrinsic need for autonomy and social engagement.

Some of the mechanisms for how reduced autonomy and control at work directly causes ill-health is

  • more stress reduces heart rate variability and, as a result, increases the risk of heart disease.
  • stress leads to an increased output of the hormones cortisol and catecholamines, which increased the risk of diabetes.

MAP is a unique program that takes into account hierarchy at work, with its use of designating individual employees in distinct groups called Quadrants. Read more about How MAP Works.

Discover more and signup for free at MAP Workplace is smart, quick and easy to set up, and provides instant, real-time results securely. Best of all, it is free for all during these covid-19 times.

Can I use MAP with my team/department/organization?


Our enterprise version of MAP (MAP Workplace) is designed specifically for use with work teams and organizations. This tool is a compass for happiness at an enterprise level. MAP Workplace is smart, easy to set up, and provides instant, real-time results.

MAP Workplace’s unique algorithm accounts for the hierarchy of your group or organization by examining individual employees according to groups called Quadrants. It includes MAP’s scientifically validated personal wellbeing measurements, as well as additional reports, tips, activities, and insights with secure anywhere-anytime access for both employees and their managers.

MAP Workplace uses MAP’s scientifically validated happiness and wellbeing survey to measure and assess team and workplace health, dynamics, engagement, vision, values, productivity, and resilience. It takes everything that makes MAP valuable to the individual and explores how these factors aggregate to the level of the organization in a vertical, two-way flow.

There are many reasons to care about wellbeing in your workplace:

  • Workers who experience high wellbeing are 81% less likely to seek a new employer in the next year.
  • Employees with the highest wellbeing miss 41% fewer work days due to poor health and are 65% less likely to be involved in a workplace accident.
  • Wellbeing has been shown to be a more important contributor to on-the-job productivity than chronic disease status (e.g., diabetes).
  • When leaders demonstrate behaviors indicative of high wellbeing, their teams are more likely to have high wellbeing too.
  • Happiness can increase curiosity, creativity, and motivation amongst workers.
  • Happy people are more likely to engage cooperatively and collaboratively during negotiations.
  • Wellbeing increases our clarity about roles, responsibilities, and how to accomplish tasks ahead of deadlines.
  • Greater life satisfaction among employees is associated with better revenue, sales, and profits.

These statistics and findings illustrate the benefits you can expect in your organization when wellbeing is high in your employees’ personal lives. This is because our personal lives and lives at work interact and influence each other in a two-way flow.

Research also points to the potential effects of status and hierarchy on wellbeing. When hierarchy translates to felt inequality and a lack of opportunity for social participation, it can create negative consequences for wellbeing.

By factoring the hierarchy of your organization into its analysis, MAP Workplace can help you identify opportunities for greater autonomy and social engagement that protect the health and wellbeing of your employees.

Read more about how MAP works.

During COVID-19, we’re offering access to MAP Workplace and all its features completely free.

Sign up today at

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