The Happiness Collective September 3rd, 2020

Diving Deeper into the Pillars of Meaning

Last week, you got a chance to dip your toes into exploring one of the pillars of a meaningful life, as explained by Emily Esfahani Smith in her TED talk, The Power of Meaning.

As a refresher, according to Emily’s research, the pillars of a meaningful life are:

1. Belonging: “Belonging comes from being in relationships where you're valued for who you are intrinsically and where you value others as well. True belonging springs from love. It lives in moments among individuals, and it's a choice — you can choose to cultivate belonging with others.“

2. Purpose: “Purpose is less about what you want than about what you give. The key to purpose is using your strengths to serve others. Purpose gives you something to live for, some ‘why’ that drives you forward."

3. Transcendence: “Transcendent states are those rare moments when you're lifted above the hustle and bustle of daily life, your sense of self fades away, and you feel connected to a higher reality.”

4. Storytelling: “[It’s] the story you tell yourself about yourself. Creating a narrative from the events of your life brings clarity. It helps you understand how you became you. But we don't always realize that we're the authors of our stories and can change the way we're telling them. People leading meaningful lives tend to tell stories about their lives defined by redemption, growth and love.”

Now that you’ve waded into the waters of meaning, we want to give you the chance to dive in and swim around for a little while!

The Objectives

Remember: A happy, meaningful life is built by being intentional with how you spend your time and where you direct your thoughts and energy. So, let’s take some time to be intentional about exploring a bit of each of these pillars — how we may currently be using them to create meaning in our lives, and how we may not be.

:: If you missed watching or reading the TED Talk, or if you want a refresher, go ahead and do that first.
:: Over the next several days, take time to record your thoughts about how you experience each pillar of meaning. (We recommend focusing on one pillar per day, and spending about 15 minutes on each one.)

As part of this, answer the following questions you can ask yourself to help uncover how these pillars show up for you and assess where you may be able to strengthen them, if you decide you’d like to:


: In what ways do I naturally cultivate belonging with others? In what ways might I unintentionally reject others?
: What is the quality of my current relationships? Am I satisfied with that level of quality?
: How could I connect more meaningfully with people? Are there specific individuals and communities with whom I’d like to strengthen my connection?


: How clear am I on my long-term visions and goals?
: In what ways do I share my talents and gifts with others?
: How am I currently aligning my life and work around my sense of purpose?


: What things tend to evoke in me a sense of awe or wonder?
: What situations or activities most give me the feeling of being part of something bigger than myself?
: When do I most feel that I am interconnected with the world?


: How has my story brought me to where I am today?
: What’s the story I’m currently telling myself about my life? How does that narrative serve me, and how doesn’t it?
: In what ways can I re-interpret the parts of my story I don’t like so that it’s clear how I’ve been able to overcome and grow?

COMPLETING THE ACTIVITY: When you’ve completed the exercise, write up a reflection on your key insights, and if there’s anything around these pillars that you want to be more intentional about moving forward.

“Happiness comes and goes. But when life is really good and when things are really bad, having meaning gives you something to hold on to.” — Emily Esfahani Smith


Some Helpful Tips

:: No way is the right way, and no pace is the ideal pace. Maybe you take 4 days to do this, or maybe you take 14 — progress is progress, and we’re not judging your process.
:: Have troubles finding the time? Lock down your calendar. It doesn’t matter when, but plan it, then hold yourself accountable to just do it.
:: On the struggle bus? Reach out to us:

About the TED Talk

Emily Esfahani Smith - There’s More to Life Than Being Happy
Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but what if there's a more fulfilling path? Happiness comes and goes, says writer Emily Esfahani Smith, but having meaning in life -- serving something beyond yourself and developing the best within you -- gives you something to hold onto. Learn more about the difference between being happy and having meaning as Smith offers four pillars of a meaningful life.


About The Happiness Collective

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