June Blog 2014 - Happy or Meaningful: Which life do you want?by Susan Myhre Hayes on 06/09/14
June Blog 2014 - Happy or Meaningful: Which life do you want?
Readers of Peace in the Puzzle: Becoming Your Intended Self frequently ask me if they will be happier when they find their piece of the puzzle or what they were born to do. I usually ask them which life they want – a happy one or a meaningful one. As with most of us, they want both. Is there a difference between happy and meaningful? Can we have both?
A paper published in the Journal of Positive Psychology last year gives some insight into whether a happy life is the same as a meaningful one. The results of the study led by Roy Baumeister, Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, suggest that there are important differences between happiness and meaningfulness. Two interesting high level distinctions came out of the study for those who seek both happiness and meaningfulness:
1. Short Term and Long Term
Happiness seemed to come from present time
satisfaction of wants and needs and was seen as fleeting. Meaningfulness seemed to last longer. Happiness occurs in the present. Meaningfulness involves thinking about
and connecting what happened in the past, what is occurring in the present and what
that may mean for the future.
Looking at “your tracks in the snow” to determine where the universe is
leading you and then acting on those nudges can lead to a meaningful life.
2. Less stress and More Stress
Happiness seemed higher when stress was lower. Meaningfulness was rated higher when such challenges as worry, stress and anxiety were present. The journey toward long term goals in a larger context was seen as more stressful. Looking beyond yourself to find the purpose in what you are doing, creates challenges, but again, was seen as leading to more meaningful and longer lasting satisfaction. Meaningfulness was higher when concerns over personal identity were present. Happiness was not linked to self-expression.
Some suggest that this is really a question of semantics, but as I’ve discussed before in this blog the words we use and what we understand them to mean, do make a difference.
The results of the study suggest that happiness is easy to find but short lived and that finding and enjoying experiences in the present moment will make you happy no matter what your stress level. Happiness is always available in the present moment, and by stringing together these moments over time, you will have a happy life.
Meaningfulness, however, takes more work to find and is frequently stressful but provides longer lasting results.
So, if you want a happy and meaningful life, enjoy the present moment thoroughly and frequently while you seek your purpose – your unique piece of the puzzle, to find lasting satisfaction. Happiness is always available even during your search for your unique place.
In this case, Yes, we can have it all.