There's more to life than being happy
TED简介：2017 | 活中我们是不能只有乏味和痛苦的，需要不断追求快乐，人生才有意思。但是这个世界似乎总是无法满足追求快乐的人，这是为什么？作家艾米丽·史密斯（Emily Smith）女士来到TED演讲，提出了几点建议，告诉大家怎样的人生才有意义。
I used to think the whole purpose of lifewas pursuing happiness. Everyone said the path to happiness was success, so Isearched for that ideal job, that perfect boyfriend, that beautiful apartment.But instead of ever feeling fulfilled, I felt anxious and adrift. And I wasn'talone; my friends -- they struggled with this, too.
Eventually, I decided to go to graduateschool for positive psychology to learn what truly makes people happy. But whatI discovered there changed my life. The data showed that chasing happiness canmake people unhappy. And what really struck me was this: the suicide rate hasbeen rising around the world, and it recently reached a 30-year high in America.
Even though life is getting objectively better by nearly every conceivablestandard, more people feel hopeless, depressed and alone. There's an emptinessgnawing away at people, and you don't have to be clinically depressed to feelit. Sooner or later, I think we all wonder: Is this all there is? And accordingto the research, what predicts this despair is not a lack of happiness. It's alack of something else, a lack of having meaning in life.
But that raised some questions for me. Isthere more to life than being happy? And what's the difference between beinghappy and having meaning in life? Many psychologists define happiness as astate of comfort and ease, feeling good in the moment. Meaning, though, isdeeper.
The renowned psychologist Martin Seligman says meaning comes frombelonging to and serving something beyond yourself and from developing the bestwithin you. Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but I came to see thatseeking meaning is the more fulfilling path. And the studies show that peoplewho have meaning in life, they're more resilient, they do better in school andat work, and they even live longer.
So this all made me wonder: How can we eachlive more meaningfully? To find out, I spent five years interviewing hundredsof people and reading through thousands of pages of psychology, neuroscienceand philosophy. Bringing it all together, I found that there are what I callfour pillars of a meaningful life. And we can each create lives of meaning bybuilding some or all of these pillars in our lives.
The first pillar is belonging. Belongingcomes from being in relationships where you're valued for who you areintrinsically and where you value others as well. But some groups andrelationships deliver a cheap form of belonging; you're valued for what youbelieve, for who you hate, not for who you are. True belonging springs fromlove. It lives in moments among individuals, and it's a choice -- you canchoose to cultivate belonging with others.
Here's an example. Each morning, my friendJonathan buys a newspaper from the same street vendor in New York. They don'tjust conduct a transaction, though. They take a moment to slow down, talk, andtreat each other like humans. But one time, Jonathan didn't have the rightchange, and the vendor said, "Don't worry about it." But Jonathaninsisted on paying, so he went to the store and bought something he didn't needto make change. But when he gave the money to the vendor, the vendor drew back.He was hurt. He was trying to do something kind, but Jonathan had rejected him.
I think we all reject people in small wayslike this without realizing it. I do. I'll walk by someone I know and barelyacknowledge them. I'll check my phone when someone's talking to me. These actsdevalue others. They make them feel invisible and unworthy. But when you leadwith love, you create a bond that lifts each of you up.
For many people, belonging is the mostessential source of meaning, those bonds to family and friends. For others, thekey to meaning is the second pillar: purpose. Now, finding your purpose is notthe same thing as finding that job that makes you happy. Purpose is less aboutwhat you want than about what you give. A hospital custodian told me herpurpose is healing sick people. Many parents tell me, "My purpose israising my children." The key to purpose is using your strengths to serveothers.
Of course, for many of us, that happens through work. That's how wecontribute and feel needed. But that also means that issues like disengagementat work, unemployment, low labor force participation -- these aren't justeconomic problems, they're existential ones, too. Without something worthwhileto do, people flounder. Of course, you don't have to find purpose at work, butpurpose gives you something to live for, some "why" that drives youforward.
The third pillar of meaning is also aboutstepping beyond yourself, but in a completely different way: transcendence.Transcendent states are those rare moments when you're lifted above the hustleand bustle of daily life, your sense of self fades away, and you feel connectedto a higher reality. For one person I talked to, transcendence came from seeingart. For another person, it was at church.
For me, I'm a writer, and it happensthrough writing. Sometimes I get so in the zone that I lose all sense of timeand place. These transcendent experiences can change you. One study hadstudents look up at 200-feet-tall eucalyptus trees for one minute. Butafterwards they felt less self-centered, and they even behaved more generouslywhen given the chance to help someone.
Belonging, purpose, transcendence. Now, thefourth pillar of meaning, I've found, tends to surprise people. The fourthpillar is storytelling, the story you tell yourself about yourself. Creating anarrative from the events of your life brings clarity. It helps you understandhow you became you. But we don't always realize that we're the authors of ourstories and can change the way we're telling them. Your life isn't just a listof events. You can edit, interpret and retell your story, even as you'reconstrained by the facts.
I met a young man named Emeka, who'd beenparalyzed playing football. After his injury, Emeka told himself, "My lifewas great playing football, but now look at me." People who tell storieslike this -- "My life was good. Now it's bad." -- tend to be more anxiousand depressed. And that was Emeka for a while. But with time, he started toweave a different story.
His new story was, "Before my injury, my life waspurposeless. I partied a lot and was a pretty selfish guy. But my injury mademe realize I could be a better man." That edit to his story changedEmeka's life. After telling the new story to himself, Emeka started mentoringkids, and he discovered what his purpose was: serving others. The psychologistDan McAdams calls this a "redemptive story," where the bad isredeemed by the good. People leading meaningful lives, he's found, tend to tellstories about their lives defined by redemption, growth and love.
But what makes people change their stories?Some people get help from a therapist, but you can do it on your own, too, justby reflecting on your life thoughtfully, how your defining experiences shapedyou, what you lost, what you gained. That's what Emeka did. You won't changeyour story overnight; it could take years and be painful. After all, we've allsuffered, and we all struggle. But embracing those painful memories can lead tonew insights and wisdom, to finding that good that sustains you.
Belonging, purpose, transcendence,storytelling: those are the four pillars of meaning. When I was younger, I waslucky enough to be surrounded by all of the pillars. My parents ran a Sufimeetinghouse from our home in Montreal. Sufism is a spiritual practiceassociated with the whirling dervishes and the poet Rumi. Twice a week, Sufiswould come to our home to meditate, drink Persian tea, and share stories. Theirpractice also involved serving all of creation through small acts of love,which meant being kind even when people wronged you. But it gave them apurpose: to rein in the ego.
Eventually, I left home for college andwithout the daily grounding of Sufism in my life, I felt unmoored. And Istarted searching for those things that make life worth living. That's what setme on this journey. Looking back, I now realize that the Sufi house had a realculture of meaning. The pillars were part of the architecture, and the presenceof the pillars helped us all live more deeply.
Of course, the same principle applies inother strong communities as well -- good ones and bad ones. Gangs, cults: theseare cultures of meaning that use the pillars and give people something to liveand die for. But that's exactly why we as a society must offer betteralternatives. We need to build these pillars within our families and ourinstitutions to help people become their best selves. But living a meaningfullife takes work. It's an ongoing process. As each day goes by, we're constantlycreating our lives, adding to our story. And sometimes we can get off track.
Whenever that happens to me, I remember apowerful experience I had with my father. Several months after I graduated fromcollege, my dad had a massive heart attack that should have killed him. Hesurvived, and when I asked him what was going through his mind as he faceddeath, he said all he could think about was needing to live so he could bethere for my brother and me, and this gave him the will to fight for life. Whenhe went under anesthesia for emergency surgery, instead of counting backwardsfrom 10, he repeated our names like a mantra. He wanted our names to be thelast words he spoke on earth if he died.
My dad is a carpenter and a Sufi. It's ahumble life, but a good life. Lying there facing death, he had a reason tolive: love. His sense of belonging within his family, his purpose as a dad, histranscendent meditation, repeating our names -- these, he says, are the reasonswhy he survived. That's the story he tells himself.
That's the power of meaning. Happinesscomes and goes. But when life is really good and when things are really bad,having meaning gives you something to hold on to.