In a TED talk entitled “There’s more to life than being happy,” Emily Esfahani Smith discusses her difficulty grappling with society’s search for happiness. It was not until graduate school that Emily realized true happiness arises from finding meaning within one’s life. Cultivating meaning can be narrowed down to four crucial pillars – belonging, purpose, transcendence, and storytelling. Belonging involves being truly accepted for you who you are by friends, family, community or other social groups. Purpose evokes the idea of obtaining one’s dream job, but Emily notes that purpose is really about utilizing our strengths to serve others. Transcendence entails complete focus during an activity. For example, this could be losing yourself while viewing artwork or writing a story. Finally, storytelling is the ability to edit and transform the stories we tell ourselves about our life. Reflecting on your personal narrative can bring about a deeper understanding of how you became who you are. Life is bound to be full of ups and down, but by cultivating meaning through some or all of these pillars we can make the journey more worthwhile.


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