• Kristin Lowe

Happiness vs. Meaning


Like many of you, my family and I have been navigating some significant challenges and changes over the past few months. Some days have included feelings of happiness, others have been quite sad, and a lot of them have simply been exhausting.


But through it all, we've been grounded by a sense of what matters most to us as a family: supporting each other and finding ways to stay close across distances (and travel bans) and new stages of life.


This clarity informs the many quick and difficult decisions we've had to make; it acts as a compass through the storm. We may not have been feeling a lot of "happiness" (comfort, ease, elation) each day, but we are still experiencing joy, gratitude, and a sense of purpose.


Along these lines, I've been exploring the work of Emily Esfahani-Smith, a writer who draws on psychology, philosophy, and literature to write about the human experience - why we are the way we are and how we can find grace and meaning in a world that is full of suffering.


🧭 The 4 Pillars of Meaning


In her TED Talk and book (linked below), Esfahani-Smith asserts that our culture is obsessed with happiness, but the pursuit of meaning is a more fulfilling path.


She states that "people who have a strong sense of meaning in life - or the ability to find meaning in their lives, despite their circumstances - are far more resilient to suffering."


So how do we find meaning? There are four pillars we can build...


  • Belonging: Being in relationships or communities where everyone is valued for who they are intrinsically

  • Purpose: A long-term goal that orients your life, is meaningful to you, and makes a contribution to the world

  • Storytelling: The narratives we create to make sense of our lives; do they hold us back, or do they pull us forward?

  • Transcendence: Moments when we’re lifted above the hustle and bustle of daily life and come into contact with something bigger.


🌱 Resources for Further Learning


For more of Esfahani-Smith's work on meaning...


👉 How About You?


What's your primary pillar of meaning? Try taking Esfahani-Smith's Pillar of Meaning Quiz to find your primary source of meaning in life.


Feel free to send me a chat message anytime (at the bottom of the screen) and/or follow me on LinkedIn where we discuss these posts and I share research-based positivity and wellbeing micro-coaching questions each week.


About the Author

Kristin Lowe is a former international school teacher who now works as an organizational psychologist and positive psychology coach.


Kristin’s work centers around helping international school communities cultivate what is best within themselves and leverage these strengths to support our next generation of changemakers.


You can read more about Kristin’s background and qualifications here.


If you’d like to speak with Kristin about positive psychology coaching and consulting services, please send a message, schedule a call, or start a chat below...