Emily Esfahani Smith
Journalist and Author, The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters

Tuesday, March 8 | 9:00 – 10:15 a.m.

As we near the end of the pandemic, the grief, anxiety, and emotional fall-out from the last year remain a challenge. How do we return to life after this crisis? It might be surprising that, through such adversity, the best thing we can do is search for meaning, not happiness. That’s the vital message at the core of Emily Esfahani Smith’s book, The Power of Meaning, which outlines four pillars essential to living a life that matters: belonging, purpose, transcendence, and storytelling. From her popular TED talk—viewed over 10 million times—to her viral Atlantic article “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy,” Smith helps us through these unprecedented times, not by ignoring our grief, but by setting us on the path to discover new meaning.

We’re all striving for happiness—but our culture’s obsession with instant gratification is only making us miserable. Drawing from over one hundred interviews, and years of research into positive psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy, Emily Esfahani Smith has discovered a more enriching way to live a good life: through the search for meaning. Smith offers methods for individuals to let go of unreasonable, unattainable standards of happiness, and pursue goals that reward over the long haul. And for organizations, it means embedding a sense of purpose into corporate culture—making beliefs and values align for personal wellbeing as well as the bottom line.

The former managing editor of The New Criterion, Smith’s articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and other publications. Her articles for The Atlantic “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy” (about the Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl) and “Masters of Love” (about romance and marriage) have reached over 30 million readers. In 2017, The New York Times published her article about rethinking success called “You’ll Never Be Famous—And That’s OK.”

Smith is a reporter for the Aspen Institute’s Weave project, an initiative founded by The New York Times’ David Brooks to address the problems of isolation, alienation, and division. At Weave, Smith finds and tells the stories of people who are working to rebuild the social fabric. She served as an instructor in positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Smith graduated from Dartmouth College and earned a masters of applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.