The other day, I watched a TED Talk where Emily Esfahani Smith talked about finding meaning in life. In her life, she went on to study the psychology of happiness, and in her talk she laid out the four pillars of meaning. The four pillars Smith discussed were; belonging, purpose, transcendence, and storytelling.
I’ll briefly describe each of the pillars Smith talked about. Belonging is about being in relationships (all levels of relationships) where you are valued for who you are intrinsically and valuing others for who they are, not for what you believe or who you hate. Purpose is about what you give, using your strength to serve others and the ‘why’ that drives you forward. Transcendence is about feeling connected to a higher reality (anything from your church, an art form you practice, writing, etc.). Storytelling is about reflecting on life thoughtfully — the story you tell yourself about yourself, but remembering that stories can be edited, you are the author of your story.
Though, for me, there was a much deeper message in watching Smith’s TED Talk. It seems that most people in my life — those I know through school, work, family and anything else I’m involved in — are busy to the nth degree. Everyone’s schedules are packed with classes, work, driving people to sports or activities, a second job, volunteering and everything else in between. Not to mention the need to eat and sleep at some point during each day of the week.
My point here isn’t that too many people are overworked or overbooked in their lives — though some people may very well be. My point is that, for everyone who may feel like their life is too busy week in and week out, the busyness isn’t a bad thing if you have meaning and appreciation for all of the things that you do.
If every time you come home from work, you feel drained and angry that another day has been spent giving time to a place where you don’t feel you are making a difference or being appreciated then that aspect of your life needs to change. But, if you come home from a job that takes up a great deal of your time, that leaves you drained and ready to hit the pillow before the sun sets, and you feel good about your day, you are serving others and you know your ‘why’ then that’s a good type of drained. If most of your weekends or weeknights are filled with volunteering or other activities, helping drive your kids around to better themselves, or doing things to better yourself, that is time well spent. Evaluate all the things you have going on in your life, and make sure you have meaning in what you are doing. If the things you do have value in your life or add value to someone else’s, you’re doing well.
Are the relationships you have with co-workers, friends, family or loved ones, relationships where you are valued for who you are, and are you valuing those around you who you spend your time with? Do you use your strengths to serve others? Do you have a ‘why’ that drives you day in and day out? What is your higher reality? Is it writing once a week, is it painting or going to church? Finally, when you thoughtfully reflect on your life, what is the story you tell yourself about yourself? Do you like your story? Cause if not, it’s time to start editing.