Answer to Life's Meaning is Simplier Than You Think
By now we are all aware of the fact that the majority of what contributes to our happiness is either things we can not control (genetics) or things that are in our minds. In other words, the way we look at things. Only a small portion of our happiness is truly due to our circumstances. Still, we live life as if we believe in order to increase our happiness we must also improve our circumstances. We still think that the job promotion, new car or new house will bring us even greater happiness. ut the truth of it all is that that has little to do with our happiness.
Recently, I read a book entitled Man's Search For Meaning. Viktor Frankl is a Nazi death camp survivor who labored in four different camps. While his parents, brother, and pregnant wife all perished, he survived to live and share his experience on how he coped with the situation and found meaning in life despite his dire circumstances.
Viktor's story caught my attention because here we had a Nazi death camp survivor who in the face of the most difficult situations, was able to view life in a positive light and found meaning and purpose in life. Certainly if he was able to find meaning while living in a Nazi death camp, surely we should be able to do the same in our significantly more favorable circumstances.
For the most part and like most people who live in the United States or Europe, I have what most people in other parts of the world do not. I have a roof over my head and have never had to worry about not having food on the table. I've also been blessed with a great family and friends. Most people would be happy to have what I have. But for one reason or another, I'm never satisfied. I constantly find myself wanting more. While it is great to have goals, I find myself constantly pushing for more things and as a result I lose sight of the here and now.
As we get older, we become more subjective to nostalgia. In looking back, we tend to see only the good and forget about the bad. While this may temporary give us relief from present difficulties, doing so makes it difficult for us to see the opportunities that presently exist. Exceptionally difficult circumstances give us an opportunity to test our inner strength. Those in the concentration camps who chose to live in the past, ultimately did not see the opportunity and as a result life for such people became meaningless.
"Life is like being at the dentist. You already think the worst is still to come, and yet it is over already."
"We could say that most men in a concentration camp believed that the real opportunities of life had passed. Yet, in reality, there was an opportunity and a challenge. One could make a victory of those experiences, turning life into an inner triumph, or one could ignore the challenge and simply vegetate, as did a majority of the prisoners."
Rather than seek to find answers to what we expected out of life, ask yourself what life expects from us. Take responsibility for finding the right answers to problems in life and do what it takes to fulfill those tasks. Whether it be physical or mental, suffering will always be there as it is a part of human life. The opportunity in this comes from the way in which you deal with suffering. Choose the way in which you bear your burden.
Viktor knew that if he were to get out of the camps alive he and others would still have the opportunity for health, family, and a position in society. He gave others at the camp hope and treated the sick. He found meaning in his suffering and sacrifice, which ultimately led to his survival in the death camps.
You can find meaning in three different ways :
1) Creating work or doing a deed
2) By experiencing something or encountering someone
3) By the attitude we take towards unavoidable suffering
Having said all of this, I leave all of you with three quotes on life.
"Live life as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!"
"Don't take your life too seriously! You must realize that the world is a joke. There is no justice, everything is random. There is no grand purpose in the universe. It just is. There's no particular meaning in what decision you make today about how to act."
"The meaning in life is to help others find the meaning in theirs."