What makes us happy?
There is more to life than being happy is the title to an excellent TED Talk by Ms. Emily Esfahani Smith. I think we all know this. On a fundamental level, yes having a meaningful life is what matters, but what does that mean? How do we have a meaningful life?
“Belonging, purpose, transcendence and story telling”, Ms. Esfahani Smith explains.
We need to belong to a community of people, a net that binds us together. For me, that is my neighborhood, for others it is their gym, their local coffee house, their friends, their AA groups. It can be subtle. When my mother died, the people who were not invited to the funeral but who had a strong impact on her and she had on them, were the baristas at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, the grocery clerk at the local super market. My mother greeted and hugged them for 30 years and they cried tears of sadness and grief when we went to these places and told them of her death. My mother belonged.
Purpose. I love this quote “Purpose is about less of what you want, and more about what you give.”
When I had my daughter, the freedom in living for someone else provided me a grounding like no other. My purpose was giving her a good home, a strong community, a sense of belonging, safely and love. And I did this, alongside my own tribe of mothers I met and developed friendships with.
“Transcendence states are those rare moments when you are lifted about the hustle and bustle of daily life, your sense of self fades away and you feel connected to a higher reality.” For me this happens when I observe synchronicity in my life. A person I was thinking about appears on the street.
Or I am writing and get into the zone. Or the golden moments as a therapist, when clarity comes in and their is a shift in that person’s well being and life. We all feel it and we all change together in the rooms. I observed it with my daughter and her play therapist. The play therapist came in and shared with me the moment when my daughter sat in her sadness and expressed it. Other people feel it when they are acting or playwriting or dancing or at their local synagogue or church or walking about in a museum or at a local protest or march. It is lifting above our individuality to a place beyond our egos to the collective consciousness.
We are meaning seeking people. We need to find it to feel good in life. By creating a cohesive story, by filling in the blind spots, and adding meaning to times that were challenging and times that were joyful, we develop a meaningful life.