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For most of us ‘happiness‘ is viewed as a fixed goal and something we spend a lot of time – and in some cases a lifetime – trying to achieve. But what makes you happy at one stage of your life, won’t necessarily cut it as you get older.
In a video launched ahead of the 2015 summit Future of Storytelling that looks at how science and technology connect with human nature, social psychologists Jennifer Aaker, Cassie Mogilner and Sep Kamvar shared their research into happiness and its stimuli based on an analysis of 12 million blog posts. They found universal trends of age and what constitutes happiness, identifying 5 key changes.
“The meaning of happiness appears to systematically shift every five to 10 years,” says Aaker. Rather than just a change of taste, the team identified five distinct chapters in our lives that shape our happiness.
In our formative years, our purpose is all about learning and discovery and in our teens we often feel isolated, unloved and uncertain. “We’re searching for our goals, unsure of what they are,” explained Aaker.
As a result, when happiness is felt, it’s in the form of excitement. This ‘angsty’ form of happiness can come from discovering new things, learning new skills or coming across something unexpected that you haven’t experienced before.
When we enter our mid 20s, the story of our lives changes to pursuit.
“Having identified our goals we go out to conquer the world,” she says. This can be through travelling and adventure or climbing the career ladder.
Happiness in this chapter of life is characterised by feeling successful and capable, particularly when validated in the eyes of others.
As we move into our late 20s and early 30s, our levels of ambition and desire for success remain important but there’s also a significant shift.