Emily Esfahani Smith is the author of The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed With Happiness. In her book and TED Talk, she argues that we’re chasing the wrong goal — a life of meaning, not happiness, should be our aim.
Our culture is obsessed with happiness. Even though we devote vast amounts of time and resources trying to be happier, many of us feel aimless and alienated nonetheless. With depression and loneliness trending upward for decades and the suicide rate rising around the world — recently reaching a 30-year high in the United States — it’s clear that something is wrong.
In recent years, social scientists have been trying to understand what exactly the problem is. What they’ve found is striking. What predicts the rising tide of despair sweeping across society is not a lack of happiness. It’s a lack of something else — a lack of having meaning in life. In fact, chasing and valuing happiness, the way our culture encourages us to do, can actually make people unhappy.
For Smith, realizing that a meaningful life and a happy life are different was eye-opening. It set her on a journey to understand what constitutes a meaningful life. After extensive research and reporting, she came to see that there are four pillars of a meaningful life — and she lays them out in this inspiring talk. Ultimately, she discovered that the search for meaning is far more fulfilling than the pursuit of personal happiness — and we all have the power to build more meaning in our lives. Check it out below…
You can also check out Emily’s book The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed With Happiness here.