The Meaning of Life
I’ve just finished reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. It’s an exceptional book and offers significant insights and perspectives on ‘the big one’ – the ‘meaning of life’.
As a survivor of Auschwitz, the stories told are harrowing. It truly makes you stop and be grateful for the smallest of things you’d normally never notice.
It also makes you wonder, how we as humans have the capacity to be so cruel.
I definitely recommend reading it. It’s a truly grounding experience that you can only grow and benefit from.
This post is not a book review.
What I want to do here, is present the most significant findings that Victor identified. Then, pose questions and ideas for you to grapple with – to help you find meaning and purpose in your life and relationship.
The book is rich in story and summarises the concepts and ideas in Viktor’s therapeutic framework – called Logo-therapy.
By looking at the most significant findings, we can…
- Break down the different areas we can find meaning in life.
- Take stock of where we are right now in life.
- Focus in on the specific areas and look at ways we can add meaning to our lives, by…
- Appreciating what’s right in front of us.
- Making an internal shift – and assigning meaning differently.
- Making small changes – and getting quick meaningful wins.
- Making big changes – and leaving a more significant legacy.
But before I mention the three core areas of meaning I have something for you to consider and ponder first…
An Outstanding Precept to Consider
Precept is a rule or principle, especially one governing personal conduct. While concept is an abstract and general idea; an abstraction. – explainqn.com
“Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you were about to act now”
This statement from the book stopped me in my tracks. It really stood out for me, and I’m presuming it has a similar effect for you. To be fair, I had to read it a couple of times to really make sense of it.
Can you imagine living your life a second time. Having memory and knowledge of your previous life. Would you make the same mistakes twice!? Would you take more responsibility for you direction and life choices?
How would you choose to live the second time around? Would you decide to be healthier, spend more time with friends and family?
Would you start your own business or dedicate your life to sports or social enterprise?
Or would you do and be the exact same person as you are right now?
How does that make you feel?
There’s no right or wrong answers. But this statement surely is powerful and puts you in a frame of mind beyond yourself.
It makes it abundantly clear – you only live once. This is it.
And dare I ask… What are you going to do about it?
Take a few moments now to ponder this before moving on to…
Three Core Areas of Meaning
In the book, three core ‘Areas of Meaning’ were called out. They are…
1. By creating a work or doing a deed.
2. By experiencing something or encountering someone.
3. By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.
The first is fairly obvious, that we create meaning in our work and hobbies. Fulfillment and satisfaction is achieved as you grow and serve others through your work and art.
Skipping to the third, finding meaning in suffering, is interesting and is what much of the book is all about. There are many concepts and stories that hold value in this space. I’m sure you have at least one personal example, where you have suffered through something but came out the other side stronger or wiser for it.
The second one, is what I want to get to. Experiencing Something or Encountering Someone.
Specifically toward ‘Encountering Someone’.
This is about experiencing someone. Victor goes on to say…
“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his [/her] personality.”
Viktor goes on to describe how through love you can see the essential traits and features in the beloved person.
In session working with you, I would talk with you about these things as being your values, your beliefs and the fondness and admiration you have of one another.
Furthermore, Viktor goes on to explain:
“You get to see the potential in your ‘love’ (partner). The potential that is not yet actualized, but ought to be.”
This love enables the beloved person to go forth and actualize (make come true) these potentialities.
By raising awareness of what he/she can and should become, makes these potentialities come true.
I really love this sentiment, as it’s love that enables us to become more than we could ever be on our own. For many this will be through their husband or wife. However I think these statements hold true for other deep relationships.
In my Save My Marriage program and working with clients in the Gottman framework, we can see similarities here with the 2 upper levels of the Sound Relationship House. That is…
- Make Life Dreams Come True – Find ways to support each others goals and dreams.
- Create Shared Meaning – Build a shared sense of purpose. What is your mission and legacy.
You can clearly see the similarities here between the two frameworks.
Making Dreams Come True
How do you make dreams come true and create shared meaning?
Through love, being in love, acknowledging the meaning…
It is (part of) the meaning of life.
The best thing is you get to decide what your dreams are, what your potential is, what your shared meaning and purpose will be.
With a refreshed awareness of life’s ‘finiteness’ and ‘finality’ – each day is precious, each moment is a small verse in your legacy.
Picturing your legacy, as a book. You get to decide if your legacy will be a multi-chapter thriller or a shorter, sadder and unfulfilling read, soon forgotten.
Now I know that might sound harsh and depressing, but I don’t want to beat around the bush here. I want to make it abundantly clear that a good portion of your meaning for life is wrapped up in loving relationships. The best of which comes from helping each other make your life dreams come true and the creation of shared meaning.
It’s why in my programs I have templates, tools and resources for you to get clear on your vision. Raise your awareness, dream, connect, do, be, aspire, encourage, laugh, and achieve.
Find Meaning in Your Relationship
Discover and Acknowledge Your Current Meaning
In books like Mans Search for Meaning, and even articles like this one, it can be easy to feel sad and depressed. You might feel you have failed, or have come up in short in some way.
This is an easy and common trap people fall into when comparing.
So if that’s you. Pay particular attention to this section as we take a look at what’s right in front of you and what you’ve already got.
Take a Snapshot of your Current Relationship
Clients that work with me go through a fairly intensive discovery phase where we uncover everything about you and your relationship. This includes relationship and personal strengths.
What are your strengths? Look over the areas of your life and relationship and call out and acknowledge your strengths. Celebrate them and start thinking about the shared meaning in your relationship.
Notice in the above sections, nothing was said about the need to have a “celebrity lifestyle” or anything similar to have a meaningful life. You get to decide what’s meaningful. And like a good movie. Sometimes it only makes sense at the end.
To get started look over this list to discover your hidden strengths. Perhaps write down you strengths, so you can remember them and start thinking about ‘meaning’.
Bonus tip – Combine your strengths with your Life Values origins.
Your Personal & Relationship Strengths
Create New Meaning Together
Great! So you’ve acknowledged your current strengths and refreshed your current shared meaning. You’ve probably even touched on your goals and ultimate life vision. We will look at that in more detail soon.
For now, let’s continue with your strengths and connect them with other areas of your life and relationship and ask some good questions to discover opportunities for creating new meaning together.
Questions to Create New Meaning
In what ways could you create new meaning?
What are your values?
What intersects are there between your values, strengths, interests, career, and relationships?
What unique people, or things do you have access to?
What unique opportunities do you have?
What are you passionate about?
What new purpose could you serve.
What will this mean?
What will this mean to you, and to others?
Well done. Make notes and brainstorm your ideas.
Great thoughts like these can be ‘fleeting’ so you want to catch them in the moment and preserve them on paper – to stew over later.
You may surprise yourself and say:
“You know what – That idea is just crazy enough to work”
A core theme when working with me, and indeed in Logo-therapy, is responsibility.
My clients will know I foster a sense of “how can I take responsibility here” in their relationships and challenges they face.
This sense of taking responsibility leads to empowering change and ownership. And ultimately freedom.
When you start to think about ‘responsibility’ as an ‘enabling tool’ it allows you to make better decisions, and own the outcomes. Improving your self worth, confidence and direction. Greater purpose and greater opportunities open up as your vision becomes sharp, clear and bold.
The good influence you have on others increases too, as you are seen as a leader who owns his/her outcomes. Flaws and all.
Take this theme of responsibility and apply it to your dreams and goals in the next section.
Develop Your Dreams Together
I love listening and working with clients and uncovering their dreams and goals and understanding their life path.
Some clients, like all of us on some level, have childhood dreams gathering dust, while others are in the midst of achieving them.
The point I want to quickly get to here is about developing your dreams together. Learning more about each other and really spending the time to know each other intimately.
Start to think about how you can start living your dream today. Taking the first steps if need be, or dusting off the plans of older dreams that have been sidelined.
Bring out the best in each other. See a part of yourself in each other and believe in each other. Just like you’d love someone to believe in you.
Take responsibility of being that person for your partner, unconditionally.
Setting goals is the first step of actualizing your dreams.
Feeling down or de-motivated at any time?
Reflect on your past achievements. I bet there are so many examples of you achieving, surviving, and breaking through to achieve your goals one way or another.
Find Meaning in the Small Things
Sometimes we need to stop and smell the roses.
Other times it helps to look at life differently. Sometimes you need a friend or a partner, coach, or good book to ‘show you a new way’ and shed light on the subject from a different angle.
You’ll see a whole new side to the story. You’ll find new meaning, question your original assumptions and beliefs.
Take responsibility for unearthing the facts. Take responsibility for looking at things from a new perspective. Take responsibility for hearing a different opinion or viewpoint from someone you trust.
Find beauty in everything around you.
- Appreciate the shape of clouds in the sky.
- Wonder about the day-in-the-life of a garden lizard.
- Appreciate the shadows you cast as you take an evening walk.
- Appreciate the life of your partner, family and friends.
- Find awe in your own life achievements and dreams on the horizon.
Where do I find Meaning?
In the work that I do. On a daily basis with clients in person. I am truly grateful to be part of their lives and help to the best of my ability.
In my writing, recordings and products I make with Lee. The sharing of these works, products and ‘art’ with everyone around the world who visits my website and enjoys our products and services.
Reflecting on the positive experience, and meaning I’ve helped manifest in a client or visitor to my website.
My relationship with Lee and the many interesting layers and interwoven dreams, goals, ideas and opportunities.
My relationships with my children, their partners, grand-kids, family and more.
And of course, the life lessons and positive meanings I’ve grown from, through life’s challenges over the years.
Your Next Steps
Bookmark this page, and share it with your partner using the buttons below. Work on the questions and activities together.
Use the article as a talking point. An opportunity for connection. It could be the starting point for something great!
I encourage you to buy or borrow Man’s Search for Meaning. I have only scratched the surface on this truly deep and inspiring topic!