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Some Key Differences between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life

Roy F. Baumeister, Kathleen D. Vohs, Jennifer L. Aaker and Emily N. Garbinsky
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Roy F. Baumeister: FL State University
Kathleen D. Vohs: University of MN
Jennifer L. Aaker: Stanford University
Emily N. Garbinsky: Stanford University

Research Papers from Stanford University, Graduate School of Business

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.

Date: 2012-10
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-hap, nep-hpe and nep-neu
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Citations: View citations in EconPapers (2)

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