Viktor E. Frankl (1905-1997) is perhaps best known for his profoundly inspiring book, Man's Search for Meaning. In the epic book, which has sold more than 10 million copies in at least 24 different languages, Frankl, a psychotherapist by trade, describes poignantly his experience in concentration camps during the Holocaust. He observed that those prisoners who gave up on life, who had lost all hope for a future, were inevitably the first to die.
To survive the Holocaust, Frankl would keep hope (and himself) alive by summoning up thoughts of his wife and the prospect of seeing her again, and by dreaming at one point lecturing after the war about the psychological lessons to be learned from his Auschwitz experience.
Terrible as it was, his experience in Auschwitz reinforced what was already one of his key ideas: Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning.
The greatest task, to Frankl, for any person is to find meaning in his or her life. Frankl saw three possible sources of meaning: 1) In work (doing something significant), 2) In love (caring for another person), and 3) In courage during difficult times.
Frankl often refers to Friedrich Nietzsche's words, "He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How." Frankl believed that suffering, in and of itself, is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.
As always, here at The Financial Philosopher, we defer to the words of wisdom from the philosopher, them self, to get a true idea of their mind and spirit. Here are selected quotes from Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning:
A human being is a deciding being.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Challenging the meaning of life is the truest expression of the state of being human.
Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.
Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.
Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone's task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.
What is to give light must endure burning.
Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.Fear may come true that which one is afraid of.
For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment.
Life can be pulled by goals just as surely as it can be pushed by drives.
Live as if you were living a second time, and as though you had acted wrongly the first time.
The last of human freedoms -- the ability to chose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances.
Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked.
An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.When we are no longer able to change a situation -- we are challenged to change ourselves.
Illustration by Shannon
Source: Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl