This wise, stirring book argues that the search for meaning can immeasurably deepen our lives and is far more fulfilling than the pursuit of personal happiness.
There is a myth in our culture that the search for meaning is some esoteric pursuit - that you have to travel to a distant monastery or page through dusty volumes to figure out life's great secret. The truth is, there are untapped sources of meaning all around us - right here, right now. Drawing on the latest research in positive psychology; on insights from George Eliot, Viktor Frankl, Aristotle, the Buddha, and other great minds; and on interviews with seekers of meaning, Emily Esfahani Smith lays out the 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.
To bring those concepts to life, Smith visits a tight-knit fishing village on the Chesapeake Bay, stargazes in West Texas, attends a dinner where young people gather to share their experiences of untimely loss, and more. And she explores how we might begin to build a culture of meaning in our schools, our workplaces, and our communities.
Inspiring and story-driven, The Power of Meaning will strike a profound chord in anyone seeking a richer, more satisfying life.
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"Smith persuasively reshapes the reader's understanding of what constitutes a well-lived life." - Publishers Weekly
"While Smith makes thorough points, her work tends more toward a doctoral dissertation than general self-help, making this quality discussion material for philosophically inclined readers." - Library Journal
"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. A good choice for self-help seekers but not likely for others." - Kirkus
"Beautifully written and rigorously researched, The Power of Meaning speaks to the yearning we all share for a life of depth and significance. In a culture constantly shouting about happiness, this warm and wise book leads us down the path to what truly matters. Reading it is a life-transforming experience." - Susan Cain, author of Quiet
"A riveting read on the quest for the one thing that matters more than happiness. Emily Esfahani Smith reveals why we lose meaning in our lives and how to find it. Beautifully written, evidence-based, and inspiring, this is a book I've been awaiting for a very long time." - Adam Grant, author of Originals and Give and Take; professor at the Wharton School
"From sleep-deprived teens to overworked professionals, Americans are suffering from an epidemic of stress and exhaustion. It's clear our definition of success is broken. As Emily Esfahani Smith shows, only by finding our purpose and opening ourselves to life's mystery can we find true well being. Combining cutting-edge research with storytelling, The Power of Meaning inspires us to zero in on what really matters." - Arianna Huffington, author of Thrive
"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." - Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice; emeritus professor of psychology, Swarthmore College
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Emily Esfahani Smith is the author of The Power of Meaning. She writes about culture, relationships, and psychology. Her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Time, The Atlantic, and other publications.
Emily is also a columnist for The New Criterion, as well as an editor at the Hoover Institution, where she manages the Ben Franklin Circles project, an initiative to build purpose and community throughout the nation.
Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Emily grew up in Montreal, Canada. She graduated from Dartmouth College and earned a master of applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.
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