Photo Credit: Bob Jagendorf via photopin cc

Christmas is coming and before long many of us will be setting our goals for the New Year. Rather than getting lost in the mire of consumerism, now is an excellent time for reflection. That way, when the time comes for resolutions, we can choose to guide our lives in the direction of what really matters.

I’ve been reading Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he quotes Nietszche:

“He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”

We’re not talking about finding the meaning of life here. We all know the answer’s 42. We’re talking about the search for personal meaning. What matters to you. The guiding factor for your own life path. The why that gives you the strength to bear the hows.

Frankl does not use this quote lightly; as a survivor of the Holocaust, his words are loaded with meaning. He attributes his survival to his own personal why: before being taken prisoner, he worked as a psychiatrist and had begun to formulate a new therapy based on the importance of meaning in man’s life – Logotherapy. Frankl had a vision and a drive to survive the Holocaust in order to rewrite, complete and publish his manuscript. He had a sense of having a duty to fulfill, and thankfully he was able to do so.

When we have been drifting for so long, it can be hard to pinpoint our purpose. Perhaps it’s our passion. Perhaps the search for meaning can be a source of meaning in itself. Perhaps it’s the small things that matter. Perhaps we find meaning in each individual choice we make. Perhaps our meaning is not fixed.

Frankl speaks of a time in Auschwitz when he was called on to give words of encouragement to a group of prisoners:

“…we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.”

Perhaps no-one can tell us what our personal meaning is, but in publishing Man’s Search for Meaning, I for one am grateful Frankl asked himself what life expected from him.


A Why to Live For
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