What Makes You Happy Will Change 4 Times Throughout Your Life

Photographed by Georgina Martin.
It probably goes without saying that what made you happy in elementary school (cough, Darien from Sailor Moon) isn't what makes you happy now (sorry, Darien, I moved on). On the surface, this may seem like a simple matter of your tastes changing. But, social psychologist Jennifer Aaker, PhD, argues it's a bit deeper than that. Your happiness is determined more by the motivating forces that drive you — think discovery, achievements, or balance — than it is by your likes and dislikes.

"[Our] meaning of happiness appears to shift in systematic ways every five or 10 years," she explains in the video below, which was prepared for the Future of Storytelling's 2015 summit. Dr. Aaker clarifies that, rather than rewriting our definition of happiness every decade, the definition actually evolves. She refers to these stages as chapters, and the average human life can be broken down into five of them.

In your childhood and teen years, you typically find happiness through discovery and excitement (yes, exactly, like the excitement and novelty of Sailor Moon, thank you). You seek out things that help you understand the world around you, which is still pretty new to you.

As you enter your 20s and 30s, Dr. Aaker explains, you likely progress through the second and third chapters: pursuit and balance. Succeeding and feeling validated by others motivates you early on, and then stability (settling down, maintaining your personal health) may start to take priority. In other words, you'll find that practicality becomes more pleasing between chapters two and three.

The closer you get to middle age, your sources of happiness will probably become much more, well, selfless. Caring for others will take precedence over the pursuit of personal accomplishment, and reflecting on what you already have will make you especially happy. Dr. Aaker explains that by chapter five, you will most likely seek out a much more tranquil kind of happiness, compared to the excitement you found the most gratifying in your youth. She suggests that older people derive joy from feeling content and connected.

Dr. Aaker also describes her research on the subject of happiness and its stimuli, which she conducted with colleagues Cassie Mogilner and Sep Kamvar. Check out the full video to hear about their findings on other ways age and happiness work off of each other — and how these chapters vary from person to person.

The Future of Storytelling is an organization dedicated to understanding how technology and science interact with human nature and communication. You can browse the rest of this year's summit videos here.
Video Via Vimeo.

More from Spirit

Let us all hold hands and increase the peace. This Monday, September 26, a rare event is happening in the skies. The radiant Sun and broad-minded Jupiter ...
What a week it’s been, stargazers. First, we were told our Zodiac signs have changed, that there's now a 13th sign, and that apparently everything we ...
Change is in the air: The days are ending earlier, the summer heat is dying down, and these are only signs of bigger things to come. The autumn season ...
(Paid Content) Your love life heats up as Venus heads into fun and flirty Virgo this month. And your beauty game responds in kind. Look for makeup that’s ...
If you're a big fan of personality quizzes, you probably know everything a quiz can tell you about yourself, from your Myers-Briggs type to what your ...
In case you missed it, this past weekend bore witness to an astrological shake-up thousands of years in the making (and also one that we'd already lived ...
Was your flight delayed? Blame Mercury retrograde. Notice some suspicious charges on your credit card? Blame Mercury retrograde. Get into a shouting match ...
(Paid Content) As eclipse season unlocks hidden desires in your love life, you’re able to approach relationships from a place of knowledge. Let that be a ...
Tired of stressing and obsessing? Turn your solo missions into tag-team ventures and watch how easy everything becomes. On Thursday, the sun wraps its ...
Here at Refinery29, we invest a lot of meaning in the astrological sign we were born into — like, a lot a lot. Imagine our surprise (and okay, slight ...
This month's full moon and 2016's final eclipse will collide this Friday, September 16. East Coasters will be able to see the moon as early as 3:05 p.m, ...
St. Matthew Catholic Church: LEAD Ministry from Eric Kruszewski on Vimeo. When journalist and videographer Eric Kruszewski first learned about LEAD, an ...
Supersize swagger? Check! This Tuesday, pushy Mars locks into a tangled angle with the ego-driven sun. While it's great to be confident, we could get ...
This article was originally published on April 29, 2016. Remember the pilot episode of Friends? There’s a scene where Ross, recently divorced, enters ...