Yuma 4×4

Media and Communications

There’s more to life than being happy | Emily Esfahani Smith

There’s more to life than being happy | Emily Esfahani Smith


I used to think the whole purpose of life
was pursuing happiness. Everyone said the path
to happiness was success, so I searched for that ideal job, that perfect boyfriend,
that beautiful apartment. But instead of ever feeling fulfilled, I felt anxious and adrift. And I wasn’t alone; my friends —
they struggled with this, too. Eventually, I decided to go
to graduate school for positive psychology to learn what truly makes people happy. But what I discovered there
changed my life. The data showed that chasing happiness
can make people unhappy. And what really struck me was this: the suicide rate has been rising
around the world, and it recently reached
a 30-year high in America. Even though life is getting
objectively better by nearly every conceivable standard, more people feel hopeless, depressed and alone. There’s an emptiness
gnawing away at people, and you don’t have to be
clinically depressed to feel it. Sooner or later, I think we all wonder: Is this all there is? And according to the research,
what predicts this despair is not a lack of happiness. It’s a lack of something else, a lack of having meaning in life. But that raised some questions for me. Is there more to life than being happy? And what’s the difference
between being happy and having meaning in life? Many psychologists define happiness
as a state of comfort and ease, feeling good in the moment. Meaning, though, is deeper. The renowned psychologist
Martin Seligman says meaning comes from belonging to
and serving something beyond yourself and from developing the best within you. Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but I came to see that seeking meaning
is the more fulfilling path. And the studies show that people
who have meaning in life, they’re more resilient, they do better in school and at work, and they even live longer. So this all made me wonder: How can we each live more meaningfully? To find out, I spent five years
interviewing hundreds of people and reading through thousands
of pages of psychology, neuroscience and philosophy. Bringing it all together, I found that there are what I call
four pillars of a meaningful life. And we can each create lives of meaning by building some or all
of these pillars in our lives. The first pillar is belonging. Belonging comes
from being in relationships where you’re valued
for who you are intrinsically and where you value others as well. But some groups and relationships
deliver a cheap form of belonging; you’re valued for what you believe, for who you hate, not for who you are. True belonging springs from love. It lives in moments among individuals, and it’s a choice — you can choose
to cultivate belonging with others. Here’s an example. Each morning, my friend Jonathan
buys a newspaper from the same street vendor in New York. They don’t just conduct
a transaction, though. They take a moment to slow down, talk, and treat each other like humans. But one time, Jonathan
didn’t have the right change, and the vendor said, “Don’t worry about it.” But Jonathan insisted on paying, so he went to the store
and bought something he didn’t need to make change. But when he gave the money to the vendor, the vendor drew back. He was hurt. He was trying to do something kind, but Jonathan had rejected him. I think we all reject people in small ways
like this without realizing it. I do. I’ll walk by someone I know
and barely acknowledge them. I’ll check my phone
when someone’s talking to me. These acts devalue others. They make them feel
invisible and unworthy. But when you lead with love,
you create a bond that lifts each of you up. For many people, belonging
is the most essential source of meaning, those bonds to family and friends. For others, the key to meaning
is the second pillar: purpose. Now, finding your purpose
is not the same thing as finding that job that makes you happy. Purpose is less about what you want
than about what you give. A hospital custodian told me
her purpose is healing sick people. Many parents tell me, “My purpose is raising my children.” The key to purpose
is using your strengths to serve others. Of course, for many of us,
that happens through work. That’s how we contribute and feel needed. But that also means
that issues like disengagement at work, unemployment, low labor force participation — these aren’t just economic problems,
they’re existential ones, too. Without something worthwhile to do, people flounder. Of course, you don’t have to find
purpose at work, but purpose gives you
something to live for, some “why” that drives you forward. The third pillar of meaning
is also about stepping beyond yourself, but in a completely different way: 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. For one person I talked to,
transcendence came from seeing art. For another person, it was at church. For me, I’m a writer,
and it happens through writing. Sometimes I get so in the zone
that I lose all sense of time and place. These transcendent
experiences can change you. One study had students look up
at 200-feet-tall eucalyptus trees for one minute. But afterwards
they felt less self-centered, and they even behaved more generously when given the chance to help someone. Belonging, purpose, transcendence. Now, the fourth pillar
of meaning, I’ve found, tends to surprise people. The fourth pillar is storytelling, 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. Your life isn’t just a list of events. You can edit, interpret
and retell your story, even as you’re constrained by the facts. I met a young man named Emeka,
who’d been paralyzed playing football. After his injury, Emeka told himself, “My life was great playing football, but now look at me.” People who tell stories like this — “My life was good. Now it’s bad.” — tend to be more anxious and depressed. And that was Emeka for a while. But with time, he started
to weave a different story. His new story was, “Before my injury,
my life was purposeless. I partied a lot and was
a pretty selfish guy. But my injury made me realize
I could be a better man.” That edit to his story
changed Emeka’s life. After telling the new story to himself, Emeka started mentoring kids, and he discovered what his purpose was: serving others. The psychologist Dan McAdams
calls this a “redemptive story,” where the bad is redeemed by the good. People leading meaningful
lives, he’s found, tend to tell stories about their lives defined by redemption, growth and love. But what makes people
change their stories? Some people get help from a therapist, but you can do it on your own, too, just by reflecting
on your life thoughtfully, how your defining experiences shaped you, what you lost, what you gained. That’s what Emeka did. You won’t change your story overnight; it could take years and be painful. After all, we’ve all suffered,
and we all struggle. But embracing those painful memories
can lead to new insights and wisdom, to finding that good that sustains you. Belonging, purpose,
transcendence, storytelling: those are the four pillars of meaning. When I was younger, I was lucky enough to be surrounded
by all of the pillars. My parents ran a Sufi meetinghouse
from our home in Montreal. Sufism is a spiritual practice
associated with the whirling dervishes and the poet Rumi. Twice a week, Sufis would come to our home to meditate, drink Persian tea,
and share stories. Their practice also involved
serving all of creation through small acts of love, which meant being kind
even when people wronged you. But it gave them a purpose:
to rein in the ego. Eventually, I left home for college and without the daily grounding
of Sufism in my life, I felt unmoored. And I started searching for those things
that make life worth living. That’s what set me on this journey. Looking back, I now realize that the Sufi house
had a real culture of meaning. The pillars were part of the architecture, and the presence of the pillars
helped us all live more deeply. Of course, the same principle applies in other strong communities as well — good ones and bad ones. Gangs, cults: these are cultures of meaning
that use the pillars and give people
something to live and die for. But that’s exactly why we as a society must offer better alternatives. We need to build these pillars
within our families and our institutions to help people become their best selves. But living a meaningful life takes work. It’s an ongoing process. As each day goes by,
we’re constantly creating our lives, adding to our story. And sometimes we can get off track. Whenever that happens to me, I remember a powerful experience
I had with my father. Several months after
I graduated from college, my dad had a massive heart attack
that should have killed him. He survived, and when I asked him
what was going through his mind as he faced death, he said all he could think about
was needing to live so he could be there
for my brother and me, and this gave him the will
to fight for life. When he went under anesthesia
for emergency surgery, instead of counting backwards from 10, he repeated our names like a mantra. He wanted our names to be
the last words he spoke on earth if he died. My dad is a carpenter and a Sufi. It’s a humble life, but a good life. Lying there facing death,
he had a reason to live: love. His sense of belonging within his family, his purpose as a dad, his transcendent meditation,
repeating our names — these, he says, are the reasons
why he survived. That’s the story he tells himself. That’s the power of meaning. 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. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “There’s more to life than being happy | Emily Esfahani Smith

  1. One of the most inspirational talks…especially the last thought that searching for who you are can be your purpose.

  2. Hi Emily, that is the best and meaningful story that i ever hear for a longer time in my life. That also what i am locking for my life. Thank you very much and God bless you, Emily.

  3. Eat many happy meals…I can't even finish watching you…so this will make me happy..
    Good luck to you & Jonathan

  4. The diagnoses are accurate. The solutions lack specificity and are just generic prescriptions. They're essentially meaningless.

  5. As someone who is intensely interested in the connection between story-telling and happiness, I found this TED Talk as a standout among others. An entire industry thrives on stories and fills living rooms and phones all over the world, yet so few people even give story-telling a moment's worth of attention. An interesting watch for anyone interested in this connection.

  6. Life is meaningless. The meaning of life is for species to survive. For humans, a better word than "meaningful" is "enjoyable." You can't assign life more meaning than survival of the species but you as an individual who is experiencing life can stumble upon some fleeting enjoyment from time to time.

  7. Creativity and Passion are only ways to be happy in true sense. They develop stature and you find enjoyment in simple things.
    Purpose has to be creative and it comes from passion. Other things follows from creativity and passion. Passion comes from honesty in life, to self and others and being rational.
    Creativity comes from ethics/rationality, detachment and being broad and deep, which comes from understanding others and their point of views and analysing things.

  8. I think happiness is the ultimate goal of humanity. There is confusion between true happiness and pseudo happiness. Pseudo happiness is what is discussed here. True meaning brings true happiness in life. Belonging and Purpose result in true happiness.

  9. I didn’t think this would be that good but I was really pleasantly surprised. I have been battling depression for over a decade now and the pursuit of happiness just makes me more depressed. I didn’t know there was an alternative to the pursuit of happiness. I am going to try this and start by rewriting my story that I tell myself. I hope it works. At least I have nothing to lose by trying this. It sounds like it makes sense. You would think this would be obvious to pursue and yet I have never thought of it. Thank you for your talk.

  10. When you realise the comment section still doesn't quite understand the difference between happiness and having meaning in life. Stop being so inclined to thinking happiness is what we're all after.

  11. Im happy when i watch my kids play. And when i fold clothes. So i let my kids play outdoor daily and i dont get on my phone during those times. And i unpack the closets and refold the clothes too often

  12. The premise is completely wrong. You confuse happiness with success and wealth. It's so much simpler than that… the rest of the ideas are good and they bring happiness as well…

  13. Since I couldnt distinguish between happiness and meaningfulness, I a bit disagreed with her when I first saw the title. However, after she defined happiness and how it is different from meaningfulness, the video started to give me a new perspective toward my life.

  14. ده چیز بر ده گروه خاصه بر دانش پژوهان نکوهیده است : دروغ گفتن به فرمانروا ، سپهبدی که زر بر سپاه خویش نپراگند ، مرد سپاهی که از پیکار بهراسد ، دانشمندی که چون چیزی در نظرش مطبوع افتد دل به هوس سپارد و از گناه نترسد ، پزشکی که خود بیمار و دردمند شود . تنک مایه ای که به دروغ به سرمایه و دارایی خویش نازد ، سفله ای که بر هر کس که چیزی دارد رشک برد ، خردمندی که زود خشم بود ، و به چیز کسان طمع ورزد ، کسی که رهنمایی از نادان امید دارد ، و آنکه کارگاه و یا بنیادی عظیم را به کاهلی سپارد ، و بی خردی که خردجوی نباشد
    بزرگمهر
    فسا

  15. This talk in no way addresses its title. Basically, the talk opens with "we all seek happiness, the world has gotten subjectively better, yet people are still not achieving happiness." The talk then continues with "it turns out that if we have meaning, we are happier, more resilient, ect. Now, heres how you get meaning." This is still saying that the goal to life is happiness, as the end goal of achieving meaning is to be happy. It states that meaning is not some alternative source of 'drive' —if you will— but instead an alternate means of achieving happiness. This whole talk is misleading, and frankly missing the point of the deeper philosophical conversations around this topic. Instead, I would say it serves as more of a 'motivation' or 'self help' talk.

    These types of talks have value, but should not be disguised under the blanket of intellectual, interesting, and informative talks that TED has provided.

  16. Happiness in life: It comes from meaning. And meaning comes from belonging to and serving something beyond yourself. And from developing the best from within you.

  17. Still the final goal is happiness. You need meaning in order to be happy. All roads lead to happiness, didn't argument anything unfortunately. Everything stated in the video is to become happy. Even taking a bullet for someone is to make YOU happy, because it would be worse if you wouldn't take that bullet. So happiness is the final goal of life, but there's a million things in between to make the trip exciting.

  18. of course there's more to life than being happy, we all have to come together and storm area 51 to clap some alien cheeks

  19. 💕impressive..
    Meaning of Life
    -belonging: be there at the moment
    -purpose: about what you give
    -transcendence: enlightenment
    -storytelling yourself: redemtion, growth, love

  20. Happiness is not a thing external to ourselves it is a "feeling" that resides inside each of us. Therefore you can never FIND happiness. As Neville Goddard says feeling is the secret. When we become AWARE of the feeling of happiness (love, god, inner peace) that is available to each of us, all of the time we will begin to realize and speak the Truth to ourselves that "I AM " already happy. The answer lies within and anything aside from that is just commentary.
    So for those who do not believe that they are already happy, you will be well served by exploring the work of GP Walsh and Abraham Hicks just to name a few.

  21. You have to be happy I’m sorry I just lost my friendship with my best friend of 12years a complicated situation it’s been almost a year she has hurt me used me lied to me broke my trust but in spite of it all I love her but I’m very depressed I cry everyday I’m lost hurt I feel betrayed most of all I feel empty inside she was my better half she was the sister I never had I don’t know how to move on I’ve tried I really don’t want to go in this has been the hardest thing I’ve had to go through in my life I really want to end my life I don’t care about anything anymore I’m holding in by a thread I don’t know how much longer I can hold on it won’t be much longer

  22. Your understanding of happiness at first place is skewed. You relate happiness with all the material things which is incorrect. Please spend sometime (which is a lot less than 5 years btw) to read this book – The Art of Happiness

  23. These people have to have passion for something that supersedes love,or being successful smh and aww yes the needy yes you do exist crises..hmm i like her positive views

  24. I have had these thoughts a lot and still do. I have tried to chase happiness in so many ways only to feel empty. I researched all sorts of stuff like becoming successful, high status and all that. What I learned is what matters is self sacrifice, love, deep relationships and serving Christ to the best of my ability is what matters. When I give myself over to serving a higher power (God and Christ) and self sacrifice and being mindful of others is when my life changed.

  25. Ya that's bullshit. You clearly haven't been tested or been damage by others taking advantage of because your need for external validation as a "good" person.

  26. Happiness can only be found on virtues action and its a state of mind a sick person can be happy a poor man can be happy and vice versa our purpose in life is to find our purpose to live! Transcendance experience for me is when I’m sleep deep REM 4 complete at least 4 to 5 hrs sleep we’re happy n recharged inspired motivated when we wake up!

  27. I think her talk is totally right…. But I think that there is a higher condition which is believe in God that make you satisfie even you don't have family, health,
    ,This connection with God makes you okay and helps you always to tell good story about your self.
    Makes you fear nothing

  28. Оочень хорошая и поучительная история ,о смысле жизни ,в большинстве жизни я полагаю делать добро ,когда делаешь добрые поступки в глубине души остется неописуемое приятное чувство ,но к сожалению не всегда удается делать ,от обстоятельств и отмесфера влияет и мы в большинстве жизни зависим от графика повседневной и устоями вокруг нас созданной ,счастливо жить не обезательно иметь многомиллионные $,,счастья и счастливо жить в наших сознании и каждый человек может чувствовать счастливым не смотря на его материальную благосостояния , имея многомиллинные $$ многие несчастные в жизни

  29. Great talk. Heart attacks are easily avoided for the majority of people – whole food plant based diet – Forks over knives.

  30. Thumbs down to every clown copying and pasting the “pillars” from the video.
    I want to hear it from the talk, not your comments.

  31. in Islam its way simple than this, you achieve happiness by helping others, cz when you help someone your brain gives you the hormone of happiness

  32. “There’s more to life than being happy”
    Proceeds to tell you things you should do that will make you being happy

  33. I bet he'd go back to drinking and freedom and life before he had in a heartbeat though…all he did was cope with new life finally and had to find a way to make it feel bearable and worth living.what else can ya do? We all adapt.I wonder if this speaker had a hard life, was a middles to lower class upbringing where things weren't as easy and opportunities limited…I just don't buy this crap anymore.

  34. Jonathan and the vendor: Remember the joy you get from giving to others? Never deprive them the joy they get from giving to you.

  35. True belonging ; we know when we see it .
    Like beauty there is no debate no formula you know it when you see it .
    Truth is something we need to recognize naturally as well . not easy in this society.

  36. Get to know Jesus. Ask your Creator what you were made for and then you will find your meaning.

    Colossians 1:16 
    16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

    Jeremiah 1:5 
    5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    and before you were born I consecrated you;
    I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Leave comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.