There is a myth in our culture that to find meaning you have to travel to a distant monastery or wade through dusty volumes to figure out life’s great secret. The truth is, there are untapped sources of meaning all around us: right here, right now. Drawing on the latest research in positive psychology; on insights from George Eliot, Viktor Frankl, Aristotle, the Buddha and other great minds, Emily Esfahani Smith identifies four pillars upon which meaning rests: Belonging, Purpose, Storytelling and Transcendence.
She also explores how we can begin to build a culture of meaning into our families, our workplaces and our communities.
Inspiring and full of contemporary examples, The Power of Meaning will strike a profound chord in anyone seeking a richer, more satisfying life.
I have to admit that I’m not really a great fan of the whole idea of ‘self-help’, mainly because I feel it over-simplifies complex mental health issues and trivialises them. However, I was intrigued by the premise of this book.
It is very well-written and there is a great deal of very interesting stuff here. The idea of a life that means something being far more important that a fruitless search for happiness did strike a chord with me. I found the opening chapters, with the inclusion of ideas from many psychologists, philosophers, and thinkers the most interesting and though-provoking part of the book.
The idea here is that it is important to find meaning in whatever you do, and that connections to others are vital to living a life that means something. The author backs up this theory with lots of research and references and also with anecdotal evidence.
The book lost it for me though when it went on to discuss the four pillars central to a life of meaning, and to look at real-life examples. For me, the references to religion, while not the central theme here, left me cold, and I did feel some of the accounts were rather biased and one-sided. It was a little simplistic.
This book was very well researched and referenced, and the premise is a strong one – being part of a community and feeling that you matter, and connections with others certainly are good for mental health and well-being and these ideas will help people. However, living with mental health issues is much more complex than this.
So this didn’t work for me. I found some of it very interesting, and the idea of a meaningful life is one that does resonate, but, on the whole, this wasn’t for me.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy for review.