Some Key Differences between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life
Florida State University - College of Arts & Sciences
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management
Stanford University - Graduate School of Business
Emily N. Garbinsky
October 1, 2012
Stanford Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 2119
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.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 24
Keywords: happiness, personal identity
Date posted: October 30, 2012
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