The Power of Meaning
Crafting a Life That Matters
With feelings of anxiety, helplessness, and grief on the rise globally during the pandemic, how can we cope with the emotional fallout of this challenging moment in history? It might be surprising that through such adversity and crisis, the best thing we can do is search for meaning, not happiness. That’s the vital message at the core of Emily Esfahani Smith’s book, The Power of Meaning, which outlines four pillars essential to living a life that matters: belonging, purpose, transcendence, and storytelling. From her popular TED talk—viewed over 10 million times—to her viral Atlantic article “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy,” Smith helps us through these unprecedented times by setting us on the path to discover meaning.
“Combining cutting-edge research with storytelling, The Power of Meaning inspires us to zero in on what really matters.”— Arianna Huffington
We’re all striving for happiness—but our culture’s obsession with instant gratification is only making us miserable. Drawing from over one hundred interviews, and years of research into positive psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy, Emily Esfahani Smith has discovered a more enriching way to live a good life: through the search for meaning. It’s the subject of her compelling and acclaimed book The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters: called “persuasive” and “elegant” by the Wall Street Journal, and “a life-transforming experience” by Susan Cain, it’s now been published in over 15 languages. In keynotes, Smith offers methods for individuals to let go of unreasonable, unattainable standards of happiness, and pursue goals that reward over the long haul. And for organizations, it means embedding a sense of purpose into corporate culture—making beliefs and values align for personal wellbeing as well as the bottom line.
“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
With a TED main stage talk listed as one of the top ten most popular of 2017—and currently viewed over 10 million times—Smith is a keynote speaker who helps us think differently about the stories we tell ourselves and help us identify what makes life worth living.
The former managing editor of The New Criterion, Smith’s articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and other publications. Her articles for The Atlantic “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy” (about the Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl) and “Masters of Love” (about romance and marriage) have reached over 30 million readers. In 2017, The New York Times published her article about rethinking success called “You’ll Never Be Famous—And That’s OK.”
Smith is a reporter for the Aspen Institute’s Weave project, an initiative founded by The New York Times’ David Brooks to address the problems of isolation, alienation, and division. At Weave, Smith finds and tells the stories of people who are working to rebuild the social fabric. She served as an instructor in positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Smith graduated from Dartmouth College and earned a masters of applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.
“Your time with us was brief but powerful for our community. Everyone I've spoken with has been deeply appreciative of the evening, and your wise, humble, warm presence. I hope you continue to pursue this, as we really do need to hear what you have to share. I hope we can welcome you back here again.”The Jung Center
How can we not only weather a crisis, but actually grow from it? For Emily Esfahani Smith, the secret to finding more to life is through the discovery of tragic optimism. This is the idea that in the middle of a global pandemic, we must try to maintain hope and find meaning despite the inescapable pain, loss, and suffering. We must adopt the spirit of tragic optimism to actually grow through adversity.
In this inspiring keynote, Smith presents the latest in psychology and neuroscience (as well as the wisdom of great philosophers) to help us live more satisfying lives through the pandemic. She unpacks what she calls the “four pillars of meaning”—belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence—and how we can build some or all of these pillars in our lives through the lockdown. Together, these pillars help us give back, deepen relationships, set purposeful goals, and make sense of who we are during challenging times.
Ultimately, a meaningful life lies in connecting and contributing to ideas beyond yourself—whether it’s your family, your job, or humanity at large. Our most meaningful pursuits—from starting a business to mastering a musical instrument—require hard work, sacrifice, and long-term vision. We don’t necessarily do them to be happy; we do them because they’re meaningful. For individuals seeking something more in these unprecedented times, Smith’s talk gives us the tools we need to build resiliency, gain a broader perspective, and truly deepen our lives.
We all need to find our tribe and forge relationships in which we feel understood, recognized, accepted, and valued—to know we matter to others. We can find belonging in our communities, in relationship to those we love, or with in micro-connections with strangers we encounter in daily life. Belonging lives in moments and is a choice: we can choose to cultivate belonging with others. In this interactive workshop, Emily Esfahani Smith puts theory in action, showing you and your team members how to cultivate meaning in real time. Leading a variety of research-based activities, Smith will give you the practical tools to interact with colleagues, support each others’ intentions, and find meaningful purpose in daily life—at home and at work.