This was the premise of Victor Frankl’s epic bestselling book and perhaps the most recommended book since the dawn of publishing, “Man’s search for meaning” .
Frankl, a prominent psychiatrist and an Auschwitz Nazi death camp survivor, in his sobering yet enlightening memoir, conclusively makes that case that it is through suffering that we find meaning and the drive to keep us going.
Our goal in life is not to attain pleasure (happiness) or power but to ‘discover meaning’. It is the pursuit of this meaning that provides the purpose of life. During his death camp experience, Frankl observed that those who were able to hold onto the hope that they would be eventually rescued were the ones most likely to survive. Frankl himself managed to live to past ninety years old despite the morbid suffering he faced in the Auschwitz camps.
Specifically, the book advocates finding meaning in three different ways:
- Through making ourselves useful to others.
- Through unconditionally loving others.
- Through suffering.
Whilst the memoir has been out for decades, it seems that far too many of us still continue to chase happiness in the form of pleasure and constant satisfaction — yet too few of us focus on what it is that gives us purpose in life or meaning.
It is this ‘meaning’ that is the precursor to happiness. Revered hedge fund billionaire ‘Ray Dalio’, author of the bestselling book ‘Principles’, quite rightly says that if you have meaningful work and meaningful relationships in your life then you cannot be but happy.
“What allows us, as human beings, to psychologically survive life on earth, with all of its pain, drama, and challenges, is a sense of purpose and meaning”
Barbara De Angelis, American relationship consultant, Author and Television Personality
Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher, aptly stated that “he who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” A sense of purpose and meaning helps us to bounce back from difficult situations, making us more resilient as well as encouraging creative, out-of-the box solutions to challenges.
It helps reduce anxiety and makes us less conscious about what other people think of us. A clear sense of purpose and meaning contributes to longevity and allows us to better integrate the negative aspects of our lives with the positive.
Finding purpose and meaning is what motivates us to get out of bed every day, what drives us to go that extra mile and what allows us to smile in the face of adversity. Living our meaning and purpose every day means living our values; it ultimately means being true to ourselves.
A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, and life I launched Book Therapy as an alternative form of therapy using the power of literature. I create reading lists/personalised book prescriptions based on your individual needs, this is my signature personalised reading service. You can also check out Book Therapy’s other free reading lists and A- Z of book prescriptions (covering both fiction and non-fiction). These suggest books based on your existing life situation (e.g. anxiety, job change, relationship heartache) as well as interests (e.g memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction, crime etc). There’s also a Children’s A — Z of Book Prescriptions. Feel free to check out the blog for more literary gems. There’s also a post on my personal story of how I entered the world of bibliotherapy and book curation. And if you’d like to connect, email me at email@example.com or www.booktherapy.io.
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