Scholars and common folk alike have long since debated what is the purpose of our lives? Is it the collection of transient objects that will come and go? Is it an abundance of trustworthy relationships? Or is it all about what we experience and how we process it?
The slightest difference between the two is that happiness is often self centered whereas meaningfulness is an outward sense of gratification. We can find meaning within our lives, but more often than not, it is a reflection of someone or some goal outside of ourselves. Happy people are those who have satisfied their wants and their needs. These include health, personal achievements and wealth and give people a sense of accomplishment and pride that they can feel happy about . All of these, however, don’t necessarily give a person meaning.
Another factor that differentiates happiness from meaningfulness is the time in which we feel the sensation. Happiness is a very present and somewhat fleeting emotion. It’s unstable to feel that we should be happy all the time, rather, we savor moments that bring us happiness like a sweet treat. Meaningfulness embodies the past, the present and the future and typically will follow someone for months, or even years at a time.
Although meaningful lives are romanticized as full of purpose and fulfilment, that does not mean they don’t come with their own downfalls. People who chase lives full of meaning are often more stressed, worried and have higher levels of anxiety than people who crave a life filled with happier experiences
Self expression is another key that people find gives them meaning but not necessarily happiness. The innate human desire to be heard and understood gives us purpose, but not necessarily happiness.
So the question is can you have both? Of course. However, aiming for purely hedonistic pleasures may be the wrong way to look for happiness. The best result for finding a happy medium is to set long-term, meaningful goals and take daily action towards achieving them.