Viktor Frankl On Suffering and Living a Meaningful Life

On Suffering in Life and Understanding on how to craft Meaning in Life is worth our attention and reflection: Frankl recognizes suffering as an essential piece not only of existence but an important part of creating a more meaningful life:

Quote: ” If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete… 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.”   Viktor Frankl  

The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity — even under the most difficult circumstances — to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not. … Such men are not only in concentration camps. Everywhere man is confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering.

In working as a psychiatrist to the inmates, Frankl found that the single most important factor in creating the kind of “inner strength” vs. “inner death” that allowed men to survive or give-up on life was teaching them to hold in the mind’s grip some future goal. He cites Nietzsche’s, who wrote that “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how,” and argues against generalization when:

He writes :

Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost. The typical reply with which such a man rejected all encouraging arguments was, “I have nothing to expect from life any more.” What sort of answer can one give to that?

What was really needed to survive was a fundamental change in attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, 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. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life — daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way for all people. Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements. “Life” does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life’s tasks are also very real and concrete. They form man’s destiny, which is different and unique for each individual. No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any other destiny. No situation repeats itself, and each situation calls for a different response. Sometimes the situation in which a man finds himself may require him to shape his own fate by constructive action. At other times it is more advantageous for him to make use of an opportunity for contemplation or reflection and to realize assets in this way. Sometimes man may be required simply to accept (reality) fate, to bear his cross. Every situation is distinguished by its uniqueness, and there is always only one right answer to the problem posed by the situation at hand.

Reflection on Suffering, Happiness and Meaning for Living 

Many of us buy into the myths of happiness because we think that failure, sadness and suffering are the reasons we are not happier. We falsely believe that, if we’re not happy now, we’ll be happy “if and when” that perfect person comes into our lives or perfect boss and job magically appears, when we hit the Lottery, or when our suffering ends and on and on with these fantasies. When these things to not come to fruition or they come and we still aren’t as happy as we expected, we feel there must be something wrong with us or we must be the only ones to feel this way. Others have disaster fantasies about getting a life threading disease, finding the wrong partner or no partner at all, losing our money or our jobs and houses, or getting old. Really this type of thinking itself can lead to more suffering and unhappiness. Not only do our false expectations turn life circumstances into full-blown drama points, but, worse, they also steer us to make poor decisions and impair our psychological health. If we are convinced, for example, that a certain kind of marriage, job, and money would make us happy (and it doesn’t), then misunderstanding the power of “hedonic adaptation” may compel us to jettison perfectly good marriages and jobs, harm our relationships with our children, and become a miser with our money. If we are positive that divorce or old age would make us miserable forever, then not recognizing the power of grit and resilience and the rewards of being single and aging may lead us to remain in a bad marriage, settle for a poor romantic match, or undergo unnecessary suffering. The good news is that by practicing more effective strategies and experimenting with new approaches for coping with pain and suffering, adversity at work or with a partner we can grow and flourish– we can transform our crisis and suffering points into making us stronger and challenge us to face these difficulties and find new solutions for living a more meaningful, and fulfilling life.

Daily Quote and Reflection: Ralph Waldo Emerson on Success

Daily Quote:

” To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children,
to leave the world a better place,
to know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived,
this is to have succeeded”. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Reflection: If you are struggling to find a purpose in life this quote will get you going.It’s message clear, concise and compelling. Especially his focus on making one life better and leaving world a better place.

Self-Coaching Challenge: 

” If you want to fill your cup with knowledge, you must first empty your cup of your knowledge”. Confucius  

If you want to discover your purpose or meaning in life, you must first empty your mind of all the false assumptions and absolute beliefs. Some of these beliefs you have been taught by parents, teachers or spiritual leaders and others you have just made up to get by in life. 

So how to discover your purpose in life? While there are many ways to do this, here is one of the simplest ways to accomplish this challenge  The more open you are to this process, and the more you expect it to work, the faster your positive “self-fulling” proposition will kick-in for you. 

Here’s what to do:

  1. Take out a blank sheet of paper or open up blank document in your word processor .
  2. Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?”
  3. Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. A short phrase is fine.
  4. Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you energized and you feel in your gut. This is your purpose.
  5. Post your purpose statement in a visible place by your computer or on your mirror at home.
  6. Verbal repetition and affirm through practice will help you keep your purpose top of the mind as you go through a busy day. 

Boston Terrorism puts Everything in Perspective–One simple question for your Reflection

So sad and senseless is the tragedy in Boston I have only on question today–this haunting question comes from one of my favorite poets–Mary Oliver.

Quote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”


Let it be a life…Having Dignity and meaning

Quote: Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.”  John Gardner 

Reflection: THIS QUOTE IS ALL ABOUT CAPTURING  YOUR LIFE UP TO THIS MOMENT… KEEPING SCORE ON HOW I AM MAKING A DIFFERENCE or how am I living with a clear purpose and meaning in life.

Action Point: Are you living on purpose or sleep walking through life barely keeping your head above water. When are going to define a clear purpose for your life? Maybe today is the day to start!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Part 2: How to get a handle on our Negativity Bias?

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. ~Victor Frankl

The process of change begins with a moral grounding and solid reflection on who we are and what we are trying to do in making a difference in life. The ability to look in the mirror and see what we want to see must change to seeing the things in the mirror that are less obvious, like an undesired wrinkle or skin blemish.

It is this craving for meaning that I hear so loud and clear in many people . Despite all your doubts and fears be true to yourself. The searching you are doing is painful but necessary. It is a step on your path of self-discovery and a sign of growth.  It is also a great investment of positive energy. The seeker must learn to accept and live a life of authenticity. Remember–Victor Frankl’s words– “The only lost cause is the one we give up on before we enter the struggle.”

Reflection: When will the time come when we do more than just speak these words but actually implement them in action? Maybe we all need to just start with ourselves. I mean in all situations try to think first about others, be kind , respectful, tolerant, non-judgmental  and accepting of differences. These small interpersonal changes might get the ball rolling to “ the civil state” most of us want and need to live healthy and productive lives.

Daily reflection and exercise to improve Meaningful Constructive Living? Eliminate One Irrational Idea

Daily Reflection and exercise: On Clear and Rational Thinking.

Exercise: Identify which Irrational Ideas are true for you. Keep track this week how many times a particular IRRATIONAL IDEA is operating and interfering with you living a meaningful constructive life. Develop a plan for changing your thinking by identifying how you can think differently. Ask the questions: What can I do differently to create better results in my life?

By paying attention to your impact on others and listening to feedback from significant others you can eliminate irrational thinking and doing in your life. Significant others can provide straight talk about how your actions impact them. And others. Then you can decide what you need to change to be a more effective and congruent person. The congruent person has more comfort in life because their “inner thoughts” and feelings match what you show or do with and to others.

Daily quote and Reflection: Empathy and Openness Key to Meaningful Living

Quote: My experience and observations confirm that the key to Meaningful Living philosophy is the practice of empathy and open communications. 

Reflection: I do not deny, however, that it is not always easy to stay on this route. I want to do everything I can to raise the understanding of what our problems are and taking constructive action to solve them.  I mean chiefly the kind of relations that exist between the “have and have-nots”, between the powerful and the weak, the healthy and the sick, the young and the elderly, adults and children, businesspeople and customers, men and women, teachers and students, policeman and citizens, and so on… The idea that the world might be actually changed by the force of respect and truth, the power of the word, the strength of free and open discussion, and responsibility to act for the benefit of all citizens– my longing for fairness, caring and justice for all. I will call this servant leadership or “the just life”. Trying to make life more pleasant, more interesting, more varied, and more bearable for all is my purpose in life.”

Daily Quote and Reflection: Next Time around–What would you do more of…

Daily Quote: “ I dare to make more mistakes next time. I would limber up. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and skip more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more troubles, but I would have fewer imaginary ones. You see, I am one of those people who live seriously, hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments, but if I had to do it over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else, just moments,one after the other instead of living so many years ahead of each day.  I’ve been one of those people who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a rain coat, and a parachute. If I had it to do over again, I’d travel lighter than I have. I would start barefoot earlier in the Spring, and stay that way later in the Fall . I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go rounds. I would pick more daisies. Nadine Stair, 86 years old.

Reflection: I still have time so I am going to do more traveling,  spend more time in the mountains and at the beach. Continue to capture my thoughts and ideas in my blogging journal. I am going to worry less about money and more about enjoying the moment. I am going to spend more time with Grand Kids enjoying their wonder and fun.

Daily quote and Reflection—Failure is but a stopping point on the way…

Quote: “Our doubts are traitors, & make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing 2 attempt” . William Shakespeare 
” Failure … is, in a sense, the highway to success, in as much as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterward carefully avoid”.  John Keats, Poet

Failure is the world’s best teacher. If you fail enough, and continue to get back up, show you learn the lesson and then act with renewed knowledge and determination to reach your goal, will most likely succeed.  To accept failure, and to persist until you achieve, is the KEY to Success, in whatever you do. Without thoughtful action, reflection and reaction you’re left with just dreams. Dreams are okay but can become frustrating without action. and therefore are useless. By just dreaming you never have to test your ideas against reality and falsely exclaiming to everyone that you are a genius.

When you act you must act over and over again– remember the 10,000 hour rule of performance and experience to reach mastery of your goal. This is hard work – constant action, data collection, feedback and retrying learning cycle.   The more you act on a single goal, the more you will fail, and with failure comes success!

You cannot achieve anything without constant, single-minded action toward a goal. At first (and many times along the path) you will fail. Why is that important? Because as Keats said  “Failure is the world’s way of pointing out exactly what you need to achieve before you can move on to the next level of success.”

Getting started on Meaningful Constructive Living:Are you Ready for the Challenge?

Memory grips the past, hope secures the future. You don’t take the trip, the trip takes you. John Steinbeck, author

As you begin to explore and contemplate changes in your life there are at least three things you must under take to be ready to explore more growth, development and  self-awareness.  The following  is self- diagnostic premier to assess your readiness  for increasing self-awareness:

1. You must be open to accepting the challenge for figuring out who you are and how and why you function and react as you do.

2. You must accept that you are responsible for doing the hard work of reviewing and capturing your thoughts, feelings,  values, needs and actions.

3. You must stop rationalizing, denying or just plain lying about who you are to avoid the discomfort and pain of self-discovery.

4. You must be willing to question everything and draw your own conclusions based on the observations, and evidence you gather

So if you can answer yes to the above items I think you are ready to get started.  Tomorrow I will explore provide a framework for your exploration and a process to facilitate  your journey.


Daily Quote and Reflection: Living Your Life On Purpose

I cam across a couple of quotes the other day that I thought might be worthwhile to reflect on{
Quotes: “Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfect..”  St. Francis De Sales  Rumi, the poet,  once claimed, “It is better to live the questions than always know the answers.”

Reflection: For me these quotes  began a process of exploring life’s  two great questions, “Am I living my life in a meaningful way? Am I making a difference?  These questions are important and the answers are hard to find and accept. So maybe it is in asking the question that we gain the power of self-understanding because It awakens us to pay attention and observe what is going on around us rather than just sitting in our own bath water.  The earlier in our adult life that we confront this question the quicker we get on a path toward a life of meaning, significance, and purpose.  Realistically, it is a road filled with personal development and exploration, identity issues and strengths for us to focus on.

Asking the question is an indicator of getting beyond ones self-centeredness  and thinking about how we interact and support others. It begins the process of becoming… as Carl Rogers called it.  Of course, the next logical question is, “How will I make a difference?”

Over the years, many people have shared with me there frustrations and disappointments ,  they usually say something like this

—“At some point in my life, I figured I needed to make a change in my life.  I’ve discovered that my purpose is to make a difference.”  While acknowledging this important observation, I try to confront in a caring way  and ask, “Have you considered how your skills and strengths make you uniquely qualified  to be a difference maker?”  My hope is to move them toward a more concrete understanding and depth of seeing their greater contribution in more specific terms.

Of course On Becoming a difference maker begins by knowing who you are. When you know who you are, you hold a strategic advantage in life and work.

Challenge: Describe your best self?   Are you living your life constructively and on purpose?   Become who you are.

Be the best you are capable of becoming–Play to Succeed

“Life’s ultimate lesson–Do your BEST and do it with ENTHUSIASM and KINDNESS that’s all you can ask of yourself because no one is perfect.”  m.w. hardwick

Want to know success try some of the following–

1. Be  too gracious for animosity, and to humble to brag…just use what you have

2. Don’t focus on not losing. Focus on doing your best given what talents you have and the situation you are in.

3. Focus on your strengths not weaknesses–make the most of what you been given.

4. Keep illusions away by focusing on reality and who you are. Always live your beliefs and values. This will you on the journey rather than getting stuck in momentary wins or loses.

5. Real winners want thrive in moments of maximum pressure–they want ball at the end of the game. Pressure brings increased focus and improved performance.

6. Every relationship has its highs and lows just don’t let your disappointment over shadow the bright shinning moments. Agree to disagree is a relationship saver.

In order to grow and develop we have to change ourselves. I’m working on me, what about you? What are your life lessons. Share one for the community to discuss.

Want more support in Meaningful and Purposeful Living: Learn and Practice Naikan

These ideas are not new to Meaningful and Purposeful Living (MPL). This awareness can be found in many philosophies and spiritual disciplines. Meaningful living ‘s perspective derives from a Japanese practice called Naikan. This practice has been popularized in the West by the translator and writer of Constructive Living, Dr. David Reynolds. Living (CL) is a Western approach to mental health education based in large part on adaptations of two Japanese psychotherapies, Morita and Naikan therapy.

Meaningful and Purposeful Living is an expansion of CL beyond the Japanese philosophies by incorporating ideas on mindfulness, learning, mental toughness and rational living developed by American psychotherapists and behavioral science researchers and authors such as, Dr. Albert Ellis and Maltsby (RET and RBC) Dr. William Glasser (Reality Therapy)  Tim Gallwey and Dr. James Leoher Inner Game and Mental Toughness) Carl Rogers (Client-Centered therapy) and many others. In essence Meaningful and Purposeful Living principles are an educational method for approaching life realistically and rationally.  The action planning and execution phase  of Meaningful and Purposeful Living emphasizes accepting reality (including feelings), creation of personal vision, focusing on life goals , and doing what needs doing to achieve your full potential.   The gratitude and appreciation aspect of enables us to understand who in the past or present clearly guided and supported us in life. Naikan urges us to  live in recognition of the support we receive from others. One of the techniques used to open up awareness to Naikan’s power is the  use of  questions to help us gain a clearer understanding of reality and clearer view of life. The questions may be asked with reference to a person or an event in ones life. You are encouraged to use these questions as a daily reflection or action for change item. Called “Daily Naikan” practice, these questions provide a frame for assessing the day. I recommend keeping a Meaningful Life Experiences  journal to capture the details of the specific gifts, issues and ways to show gratitude and repay others.

These are the questions for reflection:

1. What have I received from ____?

2. What have I given to ________?

3. What difficulties and obstacles have I caused _____ ?

4. In what way can I show gratitude  for things done for me?

Try them out and add your own questions to see how this practice of giving back and gratitude practice will energize your life and help you stay on purpose.

First Rule Of Meaningful Living: Rational Thinking+New Mental Maps = Behavior Change

Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost.” M. Scott Peck Author

The essence of Meaningful Living Process is to develop a personal vision and strategic road map  linked to goals in all areas of your life: spiritual, personal, career, recreation, relationship, family, and finances. These seven areas became the foundation for creating a plan for Meaningful and Purposeful Living.

Are you one of the many people in this world who is dissatisfied with your life? Do you run day-to-day on autopilot? Have you settled for “good enough” rather than for “excellence” ? Are risks just too risky for you to try?  Are you sleep walking through life and don’t even know it?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are living by chance and default rather than “on purpose”.

In the next series of blogs I am going to attempt to facilitate your  breakthrough and discovery of meaning and passion for life through better thinking. This meaning and purpose will go beyond your career and material success—a passion that involves your identity, your self-worth, your relationships, and your health. It is time to emerge from your sleep, embrace renew your goals, embrace new-found energy and vitality, and approach life in a more constructive manner.

Meaningful Living  Personal Change Process is a practical tool that you can use to become more empathic and effective in many different situations. Change seems to happen when you have stopped “efforting” after what you think you should be and accept and experience–what you are. The magic questions are merely meant as broad guidelines to stimulate your thinking and actions.  As you become aware of what is, and of what you want, you become more at ease in establishing a meaningful dialogue with yourself. You need to develop flexibility in tailoring this process to fit your unique situation.  The key to success is for you to become more and more aware of how you are in charge …and all the options and choices that are yours to make in living a more constructive and fulfilling life.  You start to take action on your plans; even if they are just small changes.  This process will provide a simple structure for self renewal and personal coaching. Good Luck with the ML Self-Coaching model and keep us informed of your successes or when you get stuck. Remember in order to change– the new behavior must be put in place of old habits and this takes time (thirty to forty-five days). And never forget the old adage—Be the change you want to see happen.

The secret  to achieving self-renewal is to learn how to take more control over your rational and  irrational thoughts. This will require that you conquer the four interferences that are holding you back from living up to your greatest potential: need for approval and positive opinions of others, need for melodrama and being a tragedy queen, believe that the past is the determiner of present, and worrying about worry. By becoming aware of these prevarications and negative thought patterns  you will be better equipped to respond to uncertain times and to the challenges that crop up in your daily life.

Remember when you have an emotion, you first perceive it. Next you think and believe something about your perceptions. Then you have a gut feeling caused by your thoughts about an idea, person or situation and then you make a choice and act accordingly. Key concept is that actions usually follow feelings (positive or negative) not facts or events. In essence your thoughts cause your feelings so to change your behavior you must think differently. So in order to gain momentum for self-renewal it’s time to start to think rationally about your thinking so you can live a more meaningful and constructive life. As Maxie Maultsby, M.D. once said “You have to think better before you’ll feel better”.