27 Feb What’s the difference between a happy life and a meaningful life?
Take a few minutes to read this thought provoking article from the Greater Good Science Centre…
Philosophers, researchers, spiritual leaders—they’ve all debated what makes life worth living. Is it a life filled with happiness or a life filled with purpose and meaning? Is there even a difference between the two?
Think of the human rights activist who fights oppression but ends up in prison—is she happy? Or the social animal who spends his nights (and some days) jumping from party to party—is that the good life?
These aren’t just academic questions. They can help us determine where we should invest our energy to lead the life we want.
Recently some researchers have explored these questions in depth, trying to tease apart the differences between a meaningful life and a happy one. Their research suggests there’s more to life than happiness—and even calls into question some previous findings from the field of positive psychology, earning it both a fair amount of press coverage and criticism.
The controversy surrounding it raises big questions about what happiness actually means: While there may be more to life than happiness, there may also be more to “happiness” than pleasure alone.
Five differences between a happy life and a meaningful one
“A happy life and a meaningful life have some differences,” says Roy Baumeister, a Francis Eppes Professor of Psychology at Florida State University. He bases that claim on a paper he published last year in the Journal of Positive Psychology, co-authored with researchers at the University of Minnesota and Stanford.
Baumeister and his colleagues surveyed 397 adults, looking for correlations between their levels of happiness, meaning, and various other aspects of their lives: their behavior, moods, relationships, health, stress levels, work lives, creative pursuits, and more.
They found that a meaningful life and a happy life often go hand-in-hand—but not always. And they were curious to learn more about the differences between the two. Their statistical analysis tried to separate out what brought meaning to one’s life but not happiness, and what brought happiness but not meaning.
Their findings suggest that meaning (separate from happiness) is not connected with whether one is healthy, has enough money, or feels comfortable in life, while happiness (separate from meaning) is. More specifically, the researchers identified five major differences between a happy life and a meaningful one.
Happy people satisfy their wants and needs, but that seems largely irrelevant to a meaningful life. Therefore, health, wealth, and ease in life were all related to happiness, but not meaning.
Happiness involves being focused on the present, whereas meaningfulness involves thinking more about the past, present, and future—and the relationship between them. In addition, happiness was seen as fleeting, while meaningfulness seemed to last longer.
…keep reading the full article HERE