A new book explores how writers, philosophers, and everyday people think about pursuing meaning in life.
Could pursuing meaning be the path to true happiness?
We at Greater Good have written often about the differences between a happy life and a meaningful life and found that the two are closely related. When we aim for a life of meaningful pursuits, we are likely to feel more sustained happiness and life satisfaction—even if there is some discomfort, sadness, or stress along the way—than if we aim for a life of pleasure alone. In fact, seeking happiness directly may actually backfire, while pursuing meaning may increase our health and well-being.
Now a new book takes a stab at figuring out just what pursuing a meaningful life entails. In The Power of Meaning, journalist Emily Esfahani Smith draws from the texts of great writers and philosophers—Emerson, Aristotle, Buddha, and Victor Frankl, for example—as well as interviews with everyday people seeking to increase meaning in their lives, to try to distill what’s central in this pursuit. The book, though only loosely tied to research, is mostly an engaging read about how people find meaning in life through “four pillars” of meaning.
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