Ep 6. Emily Esfahani Smith: The Four Pillars of Meaning

Ep 6. Emily Esfahani Smith: The Four Pillars of Meaning

“Living a meaningful life is all about connecting and contributing to something bigger than you are.”

-- Emily Esfahani Smith

Emily Esfahani Smith is author of The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters.  She writes about psychology, culture, and relationships, in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Time, The Atlantic, and other publications.   Esfahani Smith has researched the essence of what brings meaning into our lives in our lives.  Her viral article “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy,” published in The Atlantic in 2013, drew the important distinction between meaning and happiness.  

In this episode, Stew and Emily take listeners through the “four pillars of meaning to life” from Emily’s research: belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendance. You will learn both what each of these pillars entails as well as steps you can take to strengthen them in your own life. An overarching theme of the conversation is that meaning comes from thinking about our actions and choices in broader contexts, beyond ourselves.

Listen below or on StitcherSoundCloudiTunes, or Google Play 


Show Notes (times when new topics start)

5:50. Meaning and happiness. Finding meaning in life is not about finding happiness. 

8:15. Belonging. One pillar of meaning is the feeling of being connected to others. 

11:55. Purpose.The second pillar is having a sense of purpose for one's life, which need not necessarily be a grand enterprise but can be simply gaining respect in your profession or helping your family function. 

16:50. Storytelling. We tell stories about key episodes in our lives to create a deeper understanding of our identities and thereby enhance meaning. 

21:35. Finding meaning. Feeling ego-less and connected to the infinite is the fourth pillar of meaning, and it can be experienced in nature, religion, and in other ways. 

Selected Links

Emily's book The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters

More info on Stew's Total Leadership course mentioned in the podcast

Emily's Atlantic article, "There is more to life than happiness"

Emily Esfahani Smith is the managing editor of the Hoover Institution journal named Defining Ideas

Follow Emily on Twitter @EmEsfahaniSmith

Share your questions, ideas, and stories by tweeting @StewFriedman