Chasing happiness can make you downright unhappy.
Because happiness is the quick-rush, simple carbohydrate of emotions.
More money makes us happy. More cars make us happy. More attention makes us happy.
And so, we feel full for a while, but the feeling often disappears very quickly.
And then, we feel empty. And lonely. And hopeless.
This isn’t a lack of happiness, it’s a lack of meaningfulness.
Emily Esfahani Smith is the author of “The Power of Meaning.” In 2017, she delivered a talk called “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy” on the main stage of TED. It’s been viewed over 7.5 million times.
In it she talks about her research on how to live more meaningfully, and how she discovered what she calls the four pillars of a meaningful life. Here they are:
Belonging. Belonging comes from being in relationships where you’re valued intrinsically, and you value others. It’s your best bonds to family and friends. True belonging springs from love and kindness, not who you exclude or who you hate.
Purpose. This is not about finding a job that makes you happy. Purpose is less about what you want and more about what you give. It’s using your strengths to serve others. If that happens at work that’s great, but if not, it’s important to find it elsewhere so you have something that truly drives you forward.
Transcendence. This is about getting above the hustle and bustle of daily life. It’s about losing yourself (in a good way) and connecting to a higher reality, like nature, religion or art.
Storytelling. This refers to the story you tell yourself about yourself. The narrative we create about the events in our lives can bring clarity, and allows us, even in the face of adversity, to envision renewal and growth. We are authors with the power to interpret, edit and retell our story. Reflecting thoughtfully on wins, losses and learnings can bring new insights and wisdom.
As Smith puts it so well: “Happiness comes and goes. But when life is really good or when things are really bad, meaning gives you something to hold on to.”
Have a great week.
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