“The Power of Meaning” By Emily Esfahani Smith

One of the most inspiring and helpful lessons I learned while writing my book was that not all of us will find a calling in life—but that doesn’t mean we won’t find meaning in life. There are sources of meaning we can all tap into all around us all the time, no matter who we are or what we’ve accomplished. Emily Esfahani Smith (author of The Power of Meaning), Signature Reads

Would you rather strive for happiness or for meaning? Author Emily Esfahani Smith, who did her research, opts to point you toward a meaningful life first and foremost. Her new book is The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters.

Publishers Weekly: “She states that despite a culturally ingrained appreciation for the pursuit of happiness, Americans report being more miserable than ever. Paradoxically, pursuing happiness for its own sake often leads to unhappiness, whereas studies show that meaningful endeavors instill a deeper sense of well-being.”

As presented on her website, Smith’s “four pillars upon which meaning rests”:

  • Belonging: We all need to find our tribe and forge relationships in which we feel understood, recognized, and valued—to know we matter to others.
  • Purpose: We all need a far-reaching goal that motivates us, serves as the organizing principle of our lives, and drives us to make a contribution to the world.
  • Storytelling: We are all storytellers, taking our disparate experiences and assembling them into a coherent narrative that allows us to make sense of ourselves and the world.
  • Transcendence: During a transcendent or mystical experience, we feel we have risen above the everyday world and are connected to something vast and meaningful.

What’s your primary source of meaning? Take her quiz.

Kirkus Reviews sums up The Power of Meaning:

Smith found these pillars emphasized in her own childhood, growing up in a Sufi community whose members did not doubt the value of their own lives. But even without the bulwark of religion, individuals can build their own pillars. No matter what work one does, even menial jobs, ‘when we reframe our tasks as opportunities to help others, our lives and our work feel more significant.’ Similarly, when we ‘feel understood, recognized, and affirmed by our friends, family members, and romantic partners,’ that sense of belonging bestows meaning. Creating a narrative about our lives ‘allows us to understand our lives as coherent’ and helps to define our identity; sharing those stories becomes an important way to connect with others. Awe when thinking about the vast universe or infinity can make us feel ‘connected to something massive and meaningful.’ Underscoring the power of connection, the author assures readers that finding meaning is not the result of ‘some great revelation’ but rather small gestures and humble acts.

Selected Reviews from Other Authors

Adam Grant: “Beautifully written, evidence-based, and inspiring, this is a book I’ve been awaiting for a very long time.”

Emma Seppälä: “A powerful invitation to live a life that is not only happy but filled with purpose, belonging, and transcendence. By combining scientific research and philosophical insights with moving accounts of ordinary people who have deeply meaningful lives, Smith addresses the most urgent questions of our existence in a delightful, masterful, and inspiring way.”

Barry Schwartz: “This powerful, beautifully written book weaves together seamlessly cutting-edge psychological research, moving personal narratives and insights from great literature to make a convincing case that the key to a good life is finding or creating meaning.”

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