Paradox Podcast Episode 53: Happiness Is Overrated (and So Is ‘La La Land’) with Emily Esfahani Smith

Journalist and author Emily Esfahani Smith joined the Paradox team this week to talk about her new book, The Power of Meaning, and share insights from her research about why your main goal in life shouldn’t be simply happiness.

Terrible Opinions

Emily and Jordan both contribute pop culture opinions, while Matthias gets somewhat political. With just a few hours to go until the Oscars at the time of recording, Emily pans “La La Land,” saying it was a nice film but overrated and not Best Picture-worthy. Jordan thinks Carrie wasn’t the true protagonist in “Sex and the City,” instead arguing that Charlotte kept the show anchored and quietly influenced all of the other main characters. Matthias wants Chelsea Clinton to “slide into the background” for a while since everyone is still Clinton’d out after the election.

Meaning >>> Happiness

Emily talks about pursing happiness versus pursuing meaning in life and how research shows that the latter is actually much more satisfying in the long run.

As her book details, people find meaning through four pillars: belonging, purpose, storytelling and transcendence. To find meaning, we need strong relationships with other people; a sense of purpose in the work we do; an internal narrative that makes our lives into powerful stories; and experiences of beauty and/or religion that make us part of something bigger.

We get more in-depth with questions like “Do people find meaning by looking for it?” and “How do you move forward and find a sense of meaning again after failure?” Emily describes how a “meaning mindset” is more important than results in a meaningful life.

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