Happiness is an important goal in life. I have mentioned that mindfulness and positive thinking contributes to happiness, but there is another thing that can bring us happiness. That thing is having a meaningful life. What is a meaningful life? Living a meaningful life is about doing things of value, worth, significance etc… Roy Baumeister and Kathleen Vohs believed there were four main needs to having a meaningful life:
- Purpose: Present events draw meaning from their connection to future outcomes — objective goals and subjective fulfillment.
- Values, which can justify certain courses of action
- Efficacy, the belief that one can make a difference
- Self-worth, reasons for believing that one is a good and worthy person
We don’t want to feel useless or worthless. We all want to bring something to the world, and to others. We want to be able to inspire, or influence others with our talents. It can be writing, drawing, composing, painting, designing etc. You just have to find that thing you are passionate about to share to the world. When you are able to do this it can bring much happiness and satisfaction into your life. We all like to feel like we are contributing something to the world, or in people’s lives. Human always want to find meaning in life, so it isn’t surprising that we want to live a meaningful life. It can be with work, hobbies, family, or friends. We should find meaningful connections in these areas. It is great to have a job, family, and friends, but it won’t bring much happiness, and fulfillment if there isn’t any meaning there. There needs to be a deep connection. A feeling of worth and value.
I read an interesting article about some differences between happiness and meaningfulness that I like to share. In a study by Positive Psychologist Jennifer Aaker, she found that happiness and living a meaningful life don’t always go hand in hand.
- Getting what you want and need: Having things you desire can bring happiness, but it doesn’t cultivate meaning. You can buy all the things you want, but it won’t give you a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.
- Past, present and future: Being in the moment/mindfulness can cultivate happiness, but can also decrease meaning. One must link the past, present and future to live a meaningful life, which may decrease happiness.
- Social life: It is great to hang out with family and friends. This can increase happiness, but deeper connections can increase meaning. If there isn’t a deep connection than meaning decreases. It may want us looking for more.
- Struggles and stresses: Struggles in life are very important in creating meaning in our lives. Our struggles make us stronger, and teach us lessons. We can also help others from our struggles, so struggles and stress may reduce happiness, but create meaning in our lives. There are plenty of jobs that can cause stress and can make a person unhappy, like Social Workers, Nurses, EMT’s, Doctors and many more, but they can also bring meaning to their lives.
- Self and personal identity: Self-awareness and self-worth are key in creating a meaningful life. Getting attention from others can bring you happiness, but might not give you meaning. It is great to get likes and attention, but what happens when you don’t get that attention? Your worth decreases. This is why self-acceptance is important.
Now happiness and meaning doesn’t have to be polar opposites. Meaning can create happiness. For me meaning in life gives me a sense of happiness. Being able to help others with my knowledge of psychology brings satisfaction and happiness in my life. I am sure there is something you may be passionate about that gives you satisfaction. You just have to find that thing that intrigues you. That thing that you can share to the world and others. That gives you a sense of fulfillment. Now the research by Aaker’s showed that meaning and happiness don’t always go together. That doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to incorporate the two together. You can find friends whom you can have a deep connection with, which can increase both happiness and meaning, or if you have a stressful job, find time to do something that can relieve the stress-meditate, use mindful techniques, exercise, do an activity, or hobby you enjoy for a couple of minutes. You can try to live in the moment as much as possible, but also use the past and future to inspire meaning in your life. There are ways to bring both meaning and happiness to your life. You just have to find it, so you can live a happy and meaningful life.