Victor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” is one of those classics that I have just gotten around to reading. What a gem. While the book in part relates Dr. Frankl’s experience in a Nazi concentration camp, the book primarily deals with how we answer the question of the meaning of life. He points out that many people suffer because they struggle with this issue.
His conclusion and psychological suggestion is very practical. We make our own meaning. He suggests that instead of asking the vague question of “what is the meaning of life?” that we should be asking the concrete question “what is this life asking of me?”
It is like a existential twist on President Kennedy’s famous challenge: “ask not what life can do for you, but what you can do for life.”
As he goes on to explain there are three main areas to make meaning: creating a work or doing a deed; experiencing someone or something; and/or “turning a personal tragedy into a triumph.” We might think of these as creation, relation and evolution.
With my coaching clients, we often explore purpose. Whether it is uncovering a purpose around work, family, exercise, or all of the above, purpose helps us make consistent choices and unlock positive power and initiative. Lack of purpose can result in us just going through the motions, loss of energy and development of a “learned hopelessness.”
Dr. Frankl’s insights are timeless and can help in the development of purpose. As you consider this question, be concrete and think about what you can do or create; what you can experience or who you can be in relation with; and/or how you can evolve and grow from where you are now.