Over the last year in particular, I have struggled to find meaning. I haven’t been working and have slowly lost my identity as a mental health service user. Over the last few years, I have been distancing myself from the faith I was brought up with too. The longer this has been my reality, the more I’ve thought: what’s the point? I turned to The Power of Meaning in the hope of finding answers.
This isn’t a practical book. Emily Esfahani Smith has clearly done her research; turning to psychology, sociology, theology, biology and everything in between to set out what past and current generations define “meaning” as being. This will, perhaps unsurprisingly, have elements that will appeal to some people and not others. It is worth persevering through these areas of less interest, as I came across some useful points in the process.
As I’m currently at a crossroads, about to pursue what I hope will be my life’s career, it was the author’s consideration of work that I took the most from. She quotes Frederick Buechner, saying that vocation lies, “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” I thought this was a really powerful statement. What Smith really brought home too was that you don’t have to be in an overtly caring position to have a “service mindset,” which then leads to a sense of purpose.
It was the brief look at meaning in difficulty that I found inspirational in The Power of Meaning. Without religion, I’ve struggled to make sense of crises, but Smith talks about making them worth something, having the choice about how we tell our stories and the impact of our mindset. The message that you can have a meaningful life in spite of tough circumstances is vitally important because it speaks to everyone. It means everybody is capable of finding meaning and, therefore, living a life that’s worthwhile.
Many thanks to the publishers for a copy of this book for review. It is available to purchase here.