I saw a tweet earlier today from Jennifer Aaker, who’s a Professor of Marketing at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, that linked to a paper she was a contributing author to: “Some key differences between a happy and a meaningful life.” When I clicked over to see the paper, it got me pretty excited or a couple of reasons.
The first, it’s going to be published in the Journal of Positive Psychology. It was during my senior year of undergrad when I first came across positive psychology — what I think is a rather brilliant subject. In fact, I was even a student member of the International Positive Psychology Association for a brief time. The second, the lead author: Roy Baumeister. During my time at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (now called, Sofia University), I remember reading a lot of articles by Baumeister. In fact, one of the papers I wrote on “transpersonal belongingness” relied on a paper by Baumeister.
Anyway, below is the abstract to the paper that Prof. Aaker linked to. If you find it interesting, I hope you take the time to read the whole journal article.
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 ones 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.