The Power of Meaning

Emily Esfahani Smith

Thursday, February 27, 2020

3:45 p.m.-5:15 p.m.

(Book signing to follow)

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, says Smith, the key to living a richer, more fulfilling life is through the search for meaning

In this inspiring keynote, Smith presents the latest in psychology and neuroscience (as well as the wisdom of great philosophers) to help us live more satisfying lives. She unpacks what she calls the “four pillars of meaning”—belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence—and how we can build some or all of these pillars in our lives and in our communities. Together, these pillars help us give back, deepen relationships, set purposeful goals, and make sense of who we are and our place in the world.

Ultimately, 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 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. For individuals seeking something more, Smith gives us the tools we need to build resiliency, gain a broader perspective, and truly deepen our lives.

About Emily Esfahani Smith

Emily Esfahani 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. She served as an instructor in positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Smith graduated from Dartmouth College and earned a masters of applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of The Power of Meaning.

Watch a Video of Emily's TED Talk