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?”

Reflections:

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.”