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Some Key Differences between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life

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  • Baumeister, Roy F.

    (FL State University)

  • Vohs, Kathleen D.

    (University of MN)

  • Aaker, Jennifer L.

    (Stanford University)

  • Garbinsky, Emily N.

    (Stanford University)

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    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.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Stanford University, Graduate School of Business in its series Research Papers with number 2119.

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    Date of creation: Oct 2012
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    Handle: RePEc:ecl:stabus:2119

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    1. Carol Ryff & Burton Singer, 2008. "Know Thyself and Become What You Are: A Eudaimonic Approach to Psychological Well-Being," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 13-39, January.
    2. Alan Waterman & Seth Schwartz & Regina Conti, 2008. "The Implications of Two Conceptions of Happiness (Hedonic Enjoyment and Eudaimonia) for the Understanding of Intrinsic Motivation," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 41-79, January.
    3. Edward Deci & Richard Ryan, 2008. "Hedonia, eudaimonia, and well-being: an introduction," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 1-11, January.
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