The Foundation for a Meaningful Life Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay Magazine: Summer 2018
Head's Notebook: Finding Meaning
What do students need to pursue meaningful lives, at Fay and beyond?
Two years ago, my administrative team and the Board of Trustees undertook a thoughtful process of reflection to articulate the defining aspects of Fay. We identified seven fundamental themes that make us who we are: nurturing each child’s potential; serious fun; enduring skills for a changing world; an expectation of excellence; unwavering support; a global community; and character matters. We believe that these elements combine to create a program that provides the foundation for a meaningful life—a phrase that has become the new tagline on our website.
The foundation for a meaningful life has stimulated ongoing conversations about Fay’s foundational role in the early years of our students’ educational journey. We now want to consider, as a community, what makes a life meaningful and how we can best prepare our students to pursue lives of depth and consequence. With this purpose in mind, Fay’s school-wide theme for the coming school year will be “Finding Meaning.”As a first step, this summer our faculty and staff will be reading The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith, which explains why the pursuit of happiness is misguided because, paradoxically, it results in lack of fulfillment. The book describes how the more we strive to maximize pleasure and avoid pain, the more likely we are to produce a life without substance, and why those who pursue meaning instead of happiness lead fuller—and ultimately happier—lives.
The Power of Meaning explains the important difference between being happy and being fulfilled: happiness is something you feel; fulfillment comes from something you do. Leading a self-absorbed, shallow life, in which most things come easily and difficulties are avoided, results in happiness without meaning. Fulfillment comes from active engagement with the world, which may cause more stress and anxiety than a superficial life but also creates deeper experiences. It’s by making sense of these experiences that we find meaning.
Emily Esfahani Smith concludes that the defining feature of a meaningful life is connecting and contributing to something beyond the self—working for more than our own personal gain, dedication to something larger than ourselves, and making a positive difference in the world. She writes, “there are sources of meaning all around us, and by tapping into them, we can all lead richer and more satisfying lives—and help others do the same.” I look forward to an extended, yearlong reflection about how all of us might find greater meaning in our lives and, as educators and parents, how we can best provide the foundation for our children to craft meaningful lives for themselves.