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The University of Southampton

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

Wijnand A. P. van Tilburg

University of Southampton

We propose that people predict their future to be brighter than their present and that this positive outlook can be used for an important purpose: it can give life meaning. The results of Study 1a demonstrate that people expect the future to be happier than the present, even though Study 1b confirms that actual changes in happiness over time are negligible. Study 2 adds that envisioning a happier future helps people to find meaning in those everyday life behaviors that are instrumental for happiness. Study 3 indicates that positive forecasts are particularly employed by those who seek meaning in life, and Study 4 reveals that reminding these people of a brighter future increases their perceived meaning in life.

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