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The Power Of Meaning

Crafting a Life That Matters

By Emily Esfahani Smith
13-minute read
Audio available
The Power Of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith

The Power of Meaning (2017) discusses the four pillars of meaning that a person should honor if they hope to lead a fulfilling life. This book encourages readers to discover themselves by searching for a purpose in life, connecting with others, engaging in transcendence and learning from past traumas.

  • Anyone interested in spirituality  
  • Those struggling through hardship
  • People interested in psychology, philosophy and literature

Emily Esfahani Smith is an editor at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and writes about culture and psychology for the New Criterion. Her articles have also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and The Atlantic.

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The Power Of Meaning

Crafting a Life That Matters

By Emily Esfahani Smith
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
The Power Of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith
Synopsis

The Power of Meaning (2017) discusses the four pillars of meaning that a person should honor if they hope to lead a fulfilling life. This book encourages readers to discover themselves by searching for a purpose in life, connecting with others, engaging in transcendence and learning from past traumas.

Key idea 1 of 8

Focus on the four pillars of meaning.

Take a minute to think about the current state of your life. Would you say that you live comfortably and have enough money in your pocket? Even if this is the case, you’re still not guaranteed to live a meaningful life.

Worryingly, suicide rates are actually increasing in wealthy countries. A study conducted by the psychologists Shigehiro Oishi and Ed Diener in 2014 found that even though people from countries such as the United States and Sweden were generally happier than those in poorer countries such as Togo and Sierra Leone, the suicide rate was significantly higher in the wealthier countries.  

As for the reasoning behind this, the study discovered that although modern life has its material and psychological benefits, the constant focus on the individual can sap life of true meaning. In fact, when it comes to the concept of “meaning,” the study found that nearly a quarter of Americans couldn’t say what makes their lives meaningful.

This is especially concerning because, according to psychologists like Roy Baumeister, who has specifically researched what makes a good life, having a meaningful life is far more fulfilling than having a happy one.

In order to start your journey toward living a more meaningful life, you should maintain these four pillars of meaning: belonging, purpose, storytelling and transcendence. These categories constantly reemerge whenever people describe what makes their lives meaningful.

Once, Mahatma Gandhi explained that living a meaningful life involved having the purpose of serving others, while the filmmaker Carl Laemmle believed that meaning comes from the belonging he felt when bonding with his children.

Philosophers and psychologists also frequently refer to these four pillars. From Aristotle to Baumeister, it has been argued that meaning arises from belonging, having a purpose related to contributing to something larger, making sense of the world and your experiences and connecting with something greater than yourself.

By keeping these four pillars in mind, meaning can be discovered in both fresh and unexpected places. In the following blink, we’ll start with the first pillar: you’ll find out how a sense of belonging can lead to a more meaningful life.

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