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Some Key Differences between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life

Stanford Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 2119

24 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2012  

Roy Baumeister

Florida State University - College of Arts & Sciences

Kathleen Vohs

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management

Jennifer Aaker

Stanford University - Graduate School of Business

Emily N. Garbinsky

Independent

Date Written: October 1, 2012

Abstract

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.

Keywords: happiness, personal identity

Suggested Citation

Baumeister, Roy and Vohs, Kathleen and Aaker, Jennifer and Garbinsky, Emily N., Some Key Differences between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life (October 1, 2012). Stanford Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 2119. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2168436 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2168436

Roy Baumeister (Contact Author)

Florida State University - College of Arts & Sciences ( email )

United States

Kathleen Vohs

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management ( email )

19th Avenue South
Suite 3-150
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Jennifer Lynn Aaker

Stanford University - Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Emily N. Garbinsky

Independent

No Address Available

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