Do you think there is a difference between being happy vs. being
fulfilled? This past Monday, I had the opportunity to be the speaker for the SW Grief Coalition and shared a TED Talk, titled "There's More to Life than Being Happy", by Emily Esfahani Smith. (The SW Grief Coalition is a collaboration of six churches in the southwest metro: Family of Christ, Immanuel Lutheran, St. Andrew Lutheran, Pax Christi Catholic Community, Eden Prairie United Methodist, and Prairie Lutheran Church. The purpose of the coalition is to provide an opportunity for people to find support for grief issues arising from the death of a loved one.) The TED Talk was not necessarily geared towards people in grief, but the overall content has food for thought not only for everyday folks but for grieving people, too. I liked it so much that I wanted to share it as the pondering this week.
Emily Esfahani Smith researched and interviewed hundreds of people and found that, overall people were more fulfilled and more resilient when they searched for meaning vs. happiness. So she asked the question, "How can we live more meaningfully?" Her research led her to categorize living more meaningfully through these four categories: Belonging, Purpose, Transcendence and Storytelling. That is to say that people who felt more fulfilled in their lives had some grounding with one or all four pillars of meaning.
- Belonging stems from the bonds we have in our relationships with family and friends. Belonging is about being valued for who we are, not who we think we should be. She says, "true belonging springs from love," which led me to think that our belonging is not only about our human relationships but also about our faith relationships. As people of faith, we are beloved children of God and belong body, mind and spirit to a God who loves us - that never changes. She goes on to say that through our belonging we can "lead with love." I really liked that. What if we led with love in our relationships? How would it change us? How would it change our world?
- This is less about what we want and more about what we give. For many people their purpose comes through their work. So it could be your work that gives you purpose, but it might be something other than that. It's about some "why" that drives you forward. It's about using your strengths (or things that bring you joy) to serve others.
- This is about believing in something outside yourself, a higher reality. She speaks about how transcendence lifts us above the hustle and bustle of daily life. It's about refueling your soul. For Christians, we believe in a God who loves us and the world God made - and that there is more to life than what we know here.
- This is the story you tell yourself about you and your life. It's the events and experiences you've had and how you take them in, interpret them and reflect on them. For most of us, our stories include joys and sorrows along with accomplishments and losses. Depending on what season we are in we might be telling ourselves "my life was good but now it's bad," because of some unwanted situation. But here's the thing, we have a chance to weave meaning into our story even during the struggles. For me, this isn't just about seeing the glass as half full; rather as one who follows a loving God and a God of new beginnings, I believe that good can come out of bad, and that God's love is part of my story, no matter what.
I believe that God's love is part of your story too, no matter what. There is a place for happiness in our lives, but maybe Emily Esfahani Smith is on to something . . . might living meaningfully have more to offer?
See you in church!