Emily Esfahani, who is a writer and the author of the book: “The power of meaning“, “Craving a life that matters“, took off her TED Talk by saying:
“I used to think that the whole purpose of life was pursuing Happiness; everyone said that the path to happiness was success, so I searched for that ideal job, that perfect boy friend, that beautiful apartment; but instead of ever feeling fulfilled, I felt anxious and a drift. I wasn’t alone, my friends, they struggled with this too.”
She decided to go to graduate school for positive psychology to learn what makes people happy. She then got to discovered that:
Chasing Happiness can make people Unhappy; even though life is getting objectively better by nearly every conceivable standard, more peoplestill feel more hopeless, depressed and alone!
She went further to say that: there is an empties in everyone of us and we don’t have to be clinically depressed to feel it;
According to the research, what predict this despair is not lack of happiness, but a lack of something else; a lack of having meaning in life.
These then raised these questions to her:
- Is there more to life than being happy?
- What’s the difference of being Happy and having a meaning in life?
Happiness is a state of comfort and ease; a feeling good in the moment; while
A “Meaning in life” comes from belonging to or serving something beyond yourself and also, developing the best within you.
Our Culture is obsessed with happiness but seeking meaning is the more fulfilling path; study shows that people with meaning in life are more resilient and they do better in school and at work and they live longer. This then made her wonder: How can we each live more meaningfully?
There are four (4) pillars of a meaningful life and we can each create life of meaning by building some or all of this pillars in our lives.
Belonging comes from being in relationships where you are valued for who you are and where you value others as well. But some groups in relationship deliver a cheap form of belonging – where you are value for what you believe and who you hate and not for who you are.
True belonging springs from LOVE; it lives in moments among individuals and it’s a choice. You can choice to cultivate belongings in others.
Sometimes, we all reject people in small ways without realizing it;
- Walk by someone we know and barely acknowledging them,
- Check our phones when someone is talking to us;
These acts devalue others and makes them feels invincible and unworthy; when we live with love, we create a bond that lifts each of us up. So for many people, belonging is the major source of meaning – those close bonds to family and friends.
Finding a purpose is not the same thing as finding that Job that makes you happy.
Purpose is less about what you want and about what you get. The key to purpose is using your strength to serve others. Purpose gives us something to live for, and finding someone that drives you forward.
Transcendence is about stepping beyond ourselves in a completely different way. Transcending state are those rear moment where we are lifted above the hustle of our daily lives; where our sense of self fades away and we feel connected to a higher reality. For someone, transcendence can come from seeing arts, and to another, a church and to someone else, it can come from writing; where you can get engrossed and you lose all sense of time and place.
Story-telling involves the story you tells yourself about yourself; creating a narrative from the events of your life which bring clarity – helping you understand how you became “You”. We are the authors of our stories and can change the way we’re telling them. Our lives is not just a list of events, we can add, interpret and retell our story even if we are constraint by the facts. People who tell stories in this form: “…my life was good, now is bad” actually tend to be more anxious and depressed.
In Life, We don’t just change our stories overnight, after all we’ve all struggled and suffered; but embracing those memories can lead to insights and wisdom in finding that good that sustains us.
The same principles apply in other strong communities such as Gangs and Cults, whose cultures of meaning uses the four (4) pillars above and gives people something to live and die for; but that is exactly why we as society must offer better alternatives by building these pillars within our families and institution to help people becomes better version of themselves.
Living a meaningful life takes work – it’s an ongoing process; as each day goes by, we are constantly creating our lives, adding to our stories, though sometimes we can get off track.
Happiness comes and goes but when life is really good, and when things are really bad, having meaning gives you something to hold on to!