Emily Esfehani Smith explores finding meaning in Grace A. Tanner lecture

Ask. Ponder. Educate. [X]. and the Grace A. Tanner Center collaborated to bring Emily Esfehani Smith to Southern Utah University on Feb. 3.

Smith is a writer in Washington D.C., focusing on psychology, philosophy and literature all while exploring the human experience. This is most notable in her internationally praised book “The Power of Meaning.”

Happiness is something that many are seeking during the current times, but happiness itself is not enough. Those who value happiness above all else tend to fail in their pursuit. Connecting and contributing to something beyond themselves is where meaning is found.

“Without meaning, we suffer in really profound ways,” Smith said.

She explored her four pillars of meaning belonging, purpose, transcendence and storytelling with the audience.

Belonging is found through the relationships formed and the communities where you are valued for who you are. By being valued for who you are as opposed to what you can offer, the relationships become more human. These forms of interactions lead individuals to feeling elevated.

Purpose is then defined by a goal or principle that organizes your life based on the needs of someone other than yourself. This pillar does not have to be grandiose either. By watering a garden or taking time to visit friends, your purpose is defined.

“When connecting beyond yourself you live longer and have greater reason to get out of bed in the morning,” Smith said.

The third pillar, transcendence, looks to a more spiritual aspect of life. It is defined as rising above the business of everyday life and experiencing a sense of awe. Smith emphasizes that the feeling of “oceanic oneness” shifts your mindset to greater positivity.

Storytelling finalizes the pillars and matches the idea of changing your mindset. Humans have a powerful negativity bias, leading them to focus less on the positive aspects of situations. By forcing yourself to review the positive, your story is not only more accurate but more meaningful.

Smith finished her lecture by reminding the audience of post-traumatic growth. Establishing these pillars creates a foundation that helps individuals to persevere through trauma and grow even stronger.

More information on Smith can be found here. Information on the A.P.E.X. series can be found here.


Article and Photo by Audrey Gee