How Important is Being Happy?

In this TED Talk, Emily Esfahani Smith talks about the difference between a happy life and a meaningful one.

We live in a world that fetishizes a certain definition of happiness. Smith describes it as, “that ideal job, that perfect boyfriend, that beautiful apartment.” But do those†things really make†us happy? Smith suggests that instead, they cause us anxiety. In fact, Smith explains, there’s a lot of research suggesting “that chasing happiness can make people unhappy.”

Related: 5 Harsh Truths No One Tells You About Happiness

That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? If we feel like we need†a†picture-perfect life to be happy, it becomes a almost impossible†to achieve. No one’s life is perfect,†and Smith argues that instead we should work on building up what she calls the “Four Pillars of a Meaningful Life”.

Rather than focusing on finding happiness in an unattainably perfect†life, what if we looked for life’s deeper meaning? She explains that happiness is about a feeling†in a certain moment, but meaning is more consistent. It’s a connection to community and a feeling that you’re part of a whole that’s greater than just yourself. Meaning pushes you to be your best you.

In Smith’s talk, she dives into her†Four Pillars of a Meaningful Life. You don’t need all four to have a meaningful life, but†she says that even having some of these pillars†gives life deeper meaning.

Four Pillars of a Meaningful Life

1. Belonging

Belonging seems simple enough on its†surface, but Smith explains that there are some types of belonging that don’t give us the deep meaning†we need.†Deep belonging†is about sharing mutual respect†with people who value you for who you are, not for your beliefs or who you do or don’t like.

2. Purpose

When we chase that idealized version of happiness, we†are often looking for a sense of purpose. That search for the perfect job is†often about filling this void.†Smith explains that your job doesn’t have to fulfill†you in that way at all. Finding your purpose is about finding the way that you can serve others. Sure, that can happen at work, but it can also happen at home or†in your community.

3. Transcendence

This pillar of happiness is about letting go and connecting with a deeper meaning in the universe in whatever way works for you. Maybe that means going to church or temple, but it doesn’t have to. You can find transcendence in art or by flexing your creative muscles. It can happen for you during†a long walk, your yoga practice†or a daily meditation session. Whatever helps you zone out and let go.

Related:†Donít Interfere With the Flow

4. Storytelling

“We don’t always realize that we’re the authors of our stories,” Smith explains, “and we can change the way we’re telling†them.”†When you dive into that idea, it’s powerful. The narrative you tell yourself about who you are has a profound impact on your life’s meaning.

Storytelling isn’t about lying to yourself, as Smith explains it.†It’s about perspective. Is your story a sad one, or†one of “redemption, growth, and love”?†It can take hard work to change your story, but Smith says that changing your story can change your life.

Related at Care2

What is the difference between a happy life and a meaningful one?

42 comments

heather g
heather g1 months ago

Another excellent TED talk. With 'storytelling' often I rethink the impression I gave to others about my perspective. It is so easy to give others the wrong impression by sharing negative thoughts - although you're a born optimist.

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Paulo R
Paulo R1 months ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R1 months ago

ty

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Ruth S
Ruth S1 months ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M1 months ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M1 months ago

Noted.

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen1 months ago

Thank you

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen1 months ago

Thank you

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Mia G
Mia G1 months ago

thank you

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Philippa Powers
Philippa Powers1 months ago

Thanks.

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