“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life,” — Viktor Frankl
Viktor Frankl was a prominent Jewish psychiatrist who spent three years in a Nazi concentration camp. John McEnroe, the tennis player, was suspended by the World Tennis Association from June 1993 to December 1994 after an outburst during a match in Miami where he smashed his racquet on the court and kicked.
But somehow he survived the worst conditions imaginable and wrote a bestselling book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” that tells his experiences in the camp. Those who died were all those who never had a chance to live meaningfully.
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” — Viktor Frankl
Meaning is what kept Viktor Frankl alive, and meaning can also help you become the best version of yourself.
What is Meaning
“Here’s the truth. We exist on this earth for some undetermined period of time. During that time we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are unimportant. And those important things give our lives meaning and happiness. The unimportant ones basically just kill time.- Mark Manson”
You’ve been given the gift of life because you were born in God’s plan to make the world a better place. What is your purpose in life? There’s no simple answer to that question. When you think about finding meaning in your life, you tend to think about finding it.
“To be psychologically and spiritually healthy, we need to believe that our lives matter. We all need to discover ways to feel connected to something larger than ourselves — to feel that our lives make sense and that we have a purpose.” — Emily Esfahani Smith
But is there another way?
Can we create meaning instead of discovering it?
“So when people say, “What should I do with my life?” or “What is my life purpose?” what they’re actually asking is: “What can I do with my time that is important?” — Mark Mason
You create meaning is doing what is most important for you in life.
What is the difference between happiness and Meaning — fulfillment
“Happiness without meaning,” the researchers wrote, “characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desires are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided.” In other words, the life of a “taker.” — Roy Baumeister
There are three ways in which you can increase your overall sense of well-being, improve your mental and physical health, enhance your resiliency, and reduce your chances of developing depression.
Happiness is not found in living life for your own gain, but in helping others along the way. In order to be happy without meaning, you’ll be a self-centered, and self-absorbed individual.
The irony of the situation is that many people chase happiness because they don’t have a meaningful life.
“It is the very pursuit of happiness,” Frankl knew, “that thwarts happiness.” — Emily Esfahani Smith
You will never be happy without meaning in your life.
The Four Pillars Of Meaning
So, how do we find meaning?
In her book The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness Emily Smith outlines a new way to look at finding meaning that she refers to as the four pillars of meaning: Belonging, Purpose, Storytelling, and Transcendence.
“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” — Brene Brown
Many of us feel the need to belong to something. In our early years, it’s our family. As we age, we also belong to our schools, communities, and even our workplaces. Belonging is a big part of life. Belonging to a team, family, friends, and culture makes life worth living.
We are drawn together by our shared interest in the same kinds of things. Our belongingness tells us what we can become and do. It offers us access to the possibilities inherent in the universe. Belonging to something gives us the connections we need to make sense of our world.
“Purpose is a goal toward which we are always working. It is the forward-pointing arrow that motivates our behavior and serves as the organizing principle of our lives.” — Derek Beres
Purpose is about having something worthwhile to do with your life. It’s the inner voice that motivates your behavior, allowing you to make a unique contribution to the world. A: We can’t control how many times the question comes up.
When you live your purpose you are more motivated and resilient. You will have the ability to break through the walls that hold you back, reach your goals, and live a better, happier life. In your role as a social worker, your purpose may be to help the needy or the homeless.
You can do a lot of good for your community, your family, or your friends, through running for office. There’s no such thing as a meaningless purpose. Your purpose is your why.
“The stories we tell about ourselves help us understand who we are, how our lives developed, and how they could have unfolded differently. But we also find meaning in the stories told by others.” — Derek Beres
Storytelling is not what you think. It is not about telling others your life story. It is the story you tell yourself about your life that matters. How you make sense of your experiences and how they fit into the world around you.
“Storytelling is really about the story that you tell yourself about your life, about how you became you. It’s your personal myth.” — Emily Esfahani Smith
You are a storyteller even if you don’t realize it. You have a knack for telling stories and sharing your experience with others. You are constantly constructing your life story so that it fits your unique life experiences. People often tell themselves stories that aren’t true to help them make sense of their lives and make sense of the people around them.
Some people describe their lives as meaningful. What they mean is that they overcame a problem to grow. It’s important to tell your story.
“Those moments where you’re basically lifted above the hustle and bustle of daily life and you feel your sense of self fade away.” — Emily Esfahani Smith
Smith sees transcendence as about connecting with something higher, whether it’s nature or God. It means being in a mental state of total focus and engagement. Flow is what psychologists call it. It’s when you’re so engaged in an activity that you lose
Positive psychologists also refer to flow as being in the zone. When you are fully immersed in an activity, you don’t have time to think about other things, like what Flow is the ability to lose track of time and space. This is what it’s all about—being fully engaged with your work.
“You don’t have to change the world or find your one true purpose to lead a meaningful life. A good life is a life of goodness — and that’s something anyone can aspire to, no matter their dreams or circumstances.” — Emily Esfahani Smith
If you want to be the best version of yourself you have to have a sense of purpose. In life, without meaning, we will never find happiness and fulfilment, but with meaning, we can be happy and fulfilled.
We are always seeking meaningful connections with others, but the challenge is to find them when it’s hard. If we just knew how to identify when meaningful connections were available and how to connect in meaningful ways, life would be a lot easier.