Dreaming of a Brighter Future: Anticipating Happiness Instills Meaning in Life

van Tilburg, Wijnand A. P.; Igou, Eric R.
February 2019
Journal of Happiness Studies;Feb2019, Vol. 20 Issue 2, p541
Academic Journal
We theorized and tested that people's predictions of their future as brighter than the present fulfill an important purpose: they give a sense of meaning to life. We systematically tested this existentialist hypothesis by adopting a self-regulatory approach. Study 1 indicates that envisioning a happier future helps people to find meaning in everyday life behaviors, provided that these are perceived to be instrumental for the pursuit of happiness. Consistently, Study 2 shows that envisioning such increases in future happiness is particularly employed by those who are prone to seek meaning in life. Finally, Study 3 reveals that after people envision a brighter future their perceived meaning in life increases, and it does so especially for those prone to search for meaning in life. Together, these studies suggest that imagining future happiness in part serves the function of perceiving life as meaningful. This research is novel, and builds on and contributes to the literature on meaning making, happiness, well-being, and affective forecasting.


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