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Study shows happiness and meaning in life may be different goals

muralWould you rather lead a happy life, or a meaningful one? New research suggests that while you can have it both ways, some people find their way along one path or the other. Published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, the study, which surveyed 397 people on their perception of their lives over the course of a month.

Researchers from Stanford, Florida State University and the University of Minnesota found five differences between participants' measure of happiness or meaningfulness. Stanford News reports:

"Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker," [study author and Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Jennifer Aaker, PhD,] said.


One can find meaning in life and be unhappy at the same time.


The unhappy but meaningful life involves difficult undertakings and can be characterized by stress, struggle and challenges. However, while sometimes unhappy in the moment, these people – connected to a larger sense of purpose and value – make positive contributions to society.

Happiness without meaning is characterized by a relatively shallow and often self-oriented life, in which things go well, needs and desires are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided, the report noted.

Previously: Now available: Full-length video of Stanford’s Roundtable on HappinessWhat is happiness? Stanford Roundtable experts weigh inAre you happy now? Stanford Roundtable spotlights the science of happiness and wellbeing and Study finds less time worked not always linked to happiness
Photo by Mike Cogh

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