I have the feeling that most of you, like myself, want to live a purpose driven, meaningful life. I think about my role in this world often, and some days the answer is clear. But sometimes, the water is muddy and the answer is less obvious.
Awhile back, Laura Petrolino suggested I read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl.
Frankl, a psychiatrist and neurologist, uses his personal experience in World War Two concentration camps to analyze human’s desire to lead a purpose-driven life.
My eyes glaze over when I see cutesy graphics cheerfully exclaiming “follow your passion.” Where these platonic phrases fall flat, Frankl’s analysis provides something I can sink my teeth into.
Despite living through one of history’s bleakest memories, Frankl derived moments of human beauty and universal truths.
Choose Your Attitude
An essential theme woven throughout Frankl’s analysis is human’s absolute and universal freedom to choose one’s attitude.
His personal accounts provide powerful examples of how no one can take this freedom away – not even within the confines of concentration camps. Frankl claims this freedom makes life meaningful and gives it purpose.
I witness this theme’s validity daily.
While personally facing fears and overcoming uncertainty, I strive to adapt this approach. By choosing a positive attitude, difficult scenarios provide welcome challenges and opportunities for growth.
Adopting a permanent positive posture is not an overnight transformation. I am continually reflecting on how I respond (or react) to different scenarios. If I adopted a different attitude from the get go, how would this situation have played out differently?
Life’s Meaning Isn’t Universal
Frankl carefully explains that life’s meaning cannot be defined by a general claim. He explains through right action and conduct we will find our own meaning.
“No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any other destiny.” -Viktor E. Frankl
Our tendency to compare hurts our confidence and sense of accomplishment. And yet, most of us can’t stop.
This reminds me of times on the yoga mat. Instead of comparing someone’s flexibility to my own, I strive to tune out those voices and focus on my own practice. I am working on infusing this practice into daily life, so someone else’s accomplishments will not dim my own.
Life’s Meaning Will Evolve
I highly recommend reading Frankl’s book. Whether your feet are stable on your chosen path or you feel yourself stumbling, the lessons are powerful reminders that life’s meaning is continually evolving.
This evolution is correlated to the different trials and situations one may face. For instance, despite the bleak circumstances in the concentration camps, Frankl focused on his responsibility to others and the deep desire to publish his unfinished manuscript.
After finishing the book, I arrived at a greater acceptance of life’s transitory nature and how this presents opportunities for uncovering what life asks of us.
Discovering Life’s Meaning
Frankl’s analysis opened my perspective on finding life’s meaning. It no longer feels like something to pin down and define. Life’s meaning can and will develop.
The responsibility lies with me and how I choose to respond to life. This is our freedom – a freedom that can not be taken away.
I hope you are inspired to read the book. I’d love to hear your perspective on finding your own life’s meaning.