The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith

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Emily Esfahani Smith was born in Zuerich, Sitzerland, and is the author of The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters, a psychology and self-help book (2017). She writes about culture, relationships, and psychology. Her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Time, The Atlantic, and other publications. She is also a columnist for The New Criterion, as well as an editor at the Hoover Institution.

Emily grew up in Montreal, Canada. She graduated from Dartmouth College and earned a master of applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.

As an editor at the Hoover Institution, she manages the Ben Franklin Circles project, an initiative to build purpose and community throughout the nation.

Her essay, The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters, was published in 2017.


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.

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One comment

  1. The Power of Meaning is an important and inspiring message in a world like the one in which we live, a book to revisit regularly. It brings a different perspective on life. It made me think about what happiness actually is. Discovering what your passion is and what matters for you will help you find your real meaning in life. Emily’s book was very helpful to me. I really enjoyed this book!

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