To Emily Esfahani-Smith, there’s more to life than happiness. But we won’t find it through chasing esoteric secrets, reading the latest self-help book, or following some cultural standard for ‘the good life.’ In fact, our culture’s relentless pursuit of status, wealth, and ‘happiness’ can actually have the opposite effect: loneliness, dissatisfaction, regret. Instead, she says, the key to living a richer, more fulfilling life is through the search for meaning.
Ultimately, Smith believes, 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 nurturing our relationships 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.
In this inspiring focus session, Smith presents the latest in psychology and neuroscience (as well as the wisdom of our greatest philosophers) to help us live more satisfying lives. She unpacks what she calls the “four pillars of meaning”—belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence. Building some or all of these pillars in our lives and in our communities helps us give back, forge deep relationships, set purposeful goals, and make sense of who we are and our place in the world.
For individuals seeking something more, or for institutions looking to build a culture of meaning at work or school, Smith’s talk gives us the tool we need to build resiliency, gain a broader perspective, and truly deepen our lives.
Objectives related to finding purpose
Objectives related to finding meaning at work
About Emily Esfahani-Smith:
Emily Esfahani Smith, Journalist and Author of The Power Of Meaning: Crafting A Life That Matters.
The richest, most fulfilling Lives are those led by a search for meaning – not the pursuit of happiness.
Meaning, not happiness, is the key to a good life. 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 main stage talk—viewed over 7 million times—to her viral Atlantic article “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy,” Smith helps us develop genuine cultures of meaning: both at work, and in our lives at large.
“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 7 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 the novel Middlemarchcalled “You’ll Never Be Famous—And That’s OK.” Her essay for The New Criterion titled “Eleanor Clark’s Rome” sent her deep into the archives of Yale’s Beinecke Library to research the life and work of a nearly forgotten writer. And her profile for the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine of Joe Rago, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who tragically died at the age of 34, was shortlisted for a Folio magazine award in 2018.
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. Between 2013 and 2018, she served as an instructor in positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Smith grew up in Montreal, Canada. She graduated from Dartmouth College and earned a masters of applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.