The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith

The Power of Meaning

Emily Esfahani Smith

Stirring, inspiring, and story-driven, The Power of Meaning will strike a profound chord in anyone seeking more in life.


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In a culture obsessed with happiness, this wise, stirring book points the way toward a richer, more satisfying life.

Too many of us believe that the search for meaning is an esoteric pursuit—that you have to travel to a distant monastery or page through dusty volumes to discover life’s secrets. The truth is, there are untapped sources of meaning all around us—right here, right now.

To explore how we can craft lives of meaning, Emily Esfahani Smith synthesizes a kaleidoscopic array of sources—from psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, and neuroscientists to figures in literature and history such as George Eliot, Viktor Frankl, Aristotle, and the Buddha. Drawing on this research, Smith shows us how cultivating connections to others, identifying and working toward a purpose, telling stories about our place in the world, and seeking out mystery can immeasurably deepen our lives.

To bring what she calls the four pillars of meaning to life, Smith visits a tight-knit fishing village in the Chesapeake Bay, stargazes in West Texas, attends a dinner where young people gather to share their experiences of profound loss, and more. She also introduces us to compelling seekers of meaning—from the drug kingpin who finds his purpose in helping people get fit to the artist who draws on her Hindu upbringing to create arresting photographs. And she explores how we might begin to build a culture that leaves space for introspection and awe, cultivates a sense of community, and imbues our lives with meaning.

Inspiring and story-driven, The Power of Meaning will strike a profound chord in anyone seeking a life that matters.

Advance Galley Reviews

This is one of those books that can change the way you look at life and change your life if you let it. Ever wonder why some of the richest/first world countries are rated the "happiest" countries but have the highest suicide rates as compared to some of the poorest/third world countries? Meaning. People in poorer countries see their lives as more meaningful even if they have to work harder and suffer more. Having focus on other people versus yourself (like in individualistic -centered societies) has made people feel like their lives are more meaningful. Just because your life is easier and you do not have to worry about day to day survival doesn't always mean you see a purpose or meaning to life. There are studies and research throughout this book as well as stories to illustrate the point of having a meaningful life versus a happy life. It gives you ideas and inspires you to make your life more meaningful as well. This book took me a long time to read for such a short book but I was constantly looking things up or just thinking about what I read that I felt that it was well worth the read. I will definitely be rereading this book for ideas and inspiration. I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith was a small, thought-provoking book about how our lives need meaning to ultimately have happiness. I loved all of the personal stories showing how they've struggled but overcome with the different pillars of meaning. Also, I loved being introduced to the studies by psychologists and that I can do further research with this. Really enjoyed this inspiring work.

Everything here is a no-brainer. What the author did differently was kick it off by adding her own faith and wrapping it with stories and quoting other's research. As an OD professional, this info is all old hat to me and I thought the formatting of the book (bolding/calling out key concepts would've really helped in reading this lengthy text) could have been improved to help bring home the key concepts in the e-book sampler I received. Additionally, I thought the book needed better editing. A lot of the stories/chapters were overly long and needed tightening to stop some of the meandering and make the book more impactful.

This book was an extensively detailed investigation of living a meaningful life. It contains tons of research of the psychology of lives with meaning and references many studies done by psychologists, philosophers, and the like. There are also many stories of people who have found meaning in their lives and how they went about getting to that point. I enjoyed the book much more than I thought I would initially. Very insightful and thought provoking. I found myself looking up several of the references and reading further into the subject. You are given the pillars of a meaningful life, the science behind each pillar and examples of each. I walk away from this book feeling I have gained more knowledge.

Sorry but I have been unable to download this book.

While many people search for happiness, a more fortuitous quest may be that of the search for meaning. If you struggle with the question, "Why am I here?" this book may assist you in your endeavor to answer it. The author lays out the four pillars of meaning as: Belonging, Purpose, Storytelling, and Transcendence. The answers may or may not lie in religion, and it is possible to have a spiritual experience within or without the boundaries of organized religion. Even the most solitary among us has a basic need to BELONG somewhere and have people we care about and who care about us. In the very beginning of life this is absolutely crucial, as seen with infants deprived of parental interaction or touch. A sense of PURPOSE or meaningful work may actually bring about the happiness we so desperately seek. Often we are told to "follow our passion" and "do what you love," but perhaps a more practical and satisfying pursuit is to find or create work that is of some benefit to the greater good, be that a cause or society at large. Even the most "menial" jobs can serve a purpose and feel rewarding. Picking up trash makes the world a better place and/or provides financial support for your family. It's all in your mindset/attitude. Everyone has a STORY TO TELL, and telling it helps them figure things out You create your story, complete with good guys and bad guys, and the story you tell effects who you are. Whether you see yourself as a victim or a hero is up to individual interpretation. You have the power to change your story and change you life. Considering the "what-ifs" can also have a huge impact. Listening to other people's stories--truth or fiction--can also help you understand yourself better. TRANSCENDENT experiences can take you out of the mundane of the daily grind. They can help you figure out your place in the grand scheme of things. They can inform you that you are but a small part of something much larger than yourself. We all carry with us wounds from our past. Growth comes from pushing through the tragic events and perhaps later helping others push through their own. Often you will find you are stronger for having lived through a tragedy, and some people even use it as a motivation to make the world a better place so that others won't suffer the same pain. When bad things happen to good people, it may actually make their relationships stronger, give them a new sense of purpose, and help them discover how strong they actually are. Some people come out of trauma broken, while others find a way to not only survive, but thrive. Resilience CAN be learned. We can all benefit from finding our purpose and meaning in our lives. This book also contains an extensive list of resources (Notes) at the end with more information on many of the points covered throughout.

While I do not think that this book is for everyone, it's a book that I definitely needed to read at this point in my life. I agree that it isn't important to just be happy, your life needs to have meaning. Of course, while it is up to me to find my own life purpose, I found that this book at pointed me towards the right direction. Good information, and inspiring, hopeful stories.

First off, I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. This is an interesting book. I got this book because I wanted to see what people are saying about finding meaning in your life. I'm in a place where I could use a little more meaning in my life. This is a winding kind of clinical look at how to find meaning without really letting you how know to find it. There are some vague notions about how to find meaning, but nothing really specific. It is an interesting read though.

While most of the subject matter is this book is not new, the author writes in a compelling way that made me want to keep reading. It's written in very understandable terms that make the concepts of meaning versus happiness accessible to everyone. Basically, to bring yourself happiness, do things for others, and in this doing, we are given more meaning and also happiness to our own lives.

Do I think this book is for everyone? No. It's very philosophical, and unless you're particularly thoughtful or willing to reconsider your ideas, this won't resonate. I'm someone who has spent time in therapy, though, and I found this book spot on for people who could benefit from introspection. It's so refreshing to read a book that's not about finding happiness--what a fleeting thing!--but instead pursuing something more substantial. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who found worth in books like "Man's Search For Meaning" by Vicktor Frankl, for instance. I loved this book, and I'm so glad I read it.

The Power of Meaning makes the reader stop and question what is the meaning of your life. What gives it purpose, why are you here. I'm a cancer survivor and this book brought back memories for me of when I was going through treatment and asking myself why me. What is the meaning for me to go through this scary time. I found my purpose was to tell my story about surviving cancer to whoever wanted to listen so that maybe I can help ease any doubts and worries they might have when they are faced with cancer treatment. I have talked with several friends and friends of friends to share my knowledge. This was a wonderful book that reminded me of what the meaning of my life is about. Now I hope to make a difference in someone's life through my writing and sharing my love of books with my neighbors through my Little Free Library. This is a reminder that the meaning of your life doesn't have to be grand, it can be something small that makes you happy and makes you want to live.

This book was very thought provoking and philosophical. I think that I will need to revisit this one when I am in a mindset to consider and understand those things. I enjoyed that it had research woven in with real stories and I feel like that sets up a profoundly meaningful book for people, I just wasn't ready for that during this read. Thanks for the opportunity to review.

The Power of Meaning is a very inspiring book on how we find what is really the true meaning of life. A very thought provoking read that I would recommend to all those interesting in living a more meaning life.

The Power of Meaning was a refreshing philosophical read as it does not promote the search for happiness, but rather what gives our life meaning. Smith explores several needs we have as humans such as a sense of belonging, purpose, storytelling,growth, resilience and transcendence. This is what makes life worth living and while good fortune can bring opportunity; sometimes its tragedy or disappointment that opens us up to our true path or higher purpose. Smith proposes that happiness and meaning don’t come from be happy all the time, but rather from allowing our selves to examine, contemplate and feel a sense of wonder in our lives.

I found this book very hard to get through. I almost gave up after the first few chapters, but managed to make it to the end. I just didn't feel a connection with what was written. I am not sure I learned anything from the book and thought it would be more informative as to how to seek out meaning in life. It read more like a bunch interviews.

Smith delves into not only theory but also practice and storytelling in her new book "The Power of Meaning". I was impressed at her ability to weave all three into a compelling narrative. Just reading through the experiences of others, especially through The Moth, had me thinking about meaning in my own life. I have kids who depend on me, so I can't disappear to a convent for six months, but I can absolutely ask myself the questions those terminal cancer patients considered in their therapy and use that introspection to figure out the meaning in my life. I've also decided that resilience is something I must impart to my children. In the 24 hours since I finished reading the book, I have brought up Smith's research in two heart-to-heart discussions about friends and family members facing hardship. I would recommend (and have already recommended) Smith's work to anyone.

I just could not get through this one. By the end of the first chapter (which, admittedly, I only read the first half of the chapter) I was asking myself, 'what is the meaning of this book?'. Although finding certain parts interesting - like Tangier Island, of which I had never knew existed - I found the rest of the quotes and case studies and general ramblings terribly boring.

"The stories we tell about our lives reveal how we understand ourselves and how we interpret the way our lives have unfolded." This book explores some interesting concepts about value in life. However, I was expected a more practical look at application. While the author talks about the importance of belonging and how trauma shapes one's experience, there's very little about what to do about it or how to use this understanding in the day to day. The author also uses the introduction to talk about her Sufi background and how different religions influence one's perception of value. There are interesting studies quoted about people feeling more valued when they believe they're well-liked and how someone's perception of happiness can be measured but I wasn't blown away with any of the information presented. It was mostly things that were common sense - people with meaningful relationships tend to be healthier and happier. To me, this read less like what it means to craft a life of meaning and more a look at how different people define and find meaning in their lives.


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