Finding the “Why” to Living

I have always enjoyed taking out moments in my day to read a book. One of which left a deep mark on my psyche and the way I think about life! This book is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

If you haven’t read it yet (and I highly recommend that you do so), the book is a meditation on the Holocaust survivor Frankl’s time at the Auschwitz concentration camp, and what it taught him about the meaning of life.

In the book, Frankl mentions an observation that the chief doctor of the camp made. Between Christmas 1944 and New Year’s 1945, the camp saw an exponential increase in prisoners deaths. This was not because of any external factors like the working conditions or food supplies – but because of an inner crutch that had slipped. These prisoners were expecting to return home by Christmas. When the day came and they did not, they lost hope and the will to live, thus weakening their body’s immunity.

Here he quotes Nietzsche’s words, saying: “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how”.

However, Frankl also stresses the fact that each one of us has a unique set of tasks set out for us by life, and thus must discover our own sense of purpose. This also means that our purpose keeps changing depending on where we are at in our lives.

We find our purpose in three ways:

1. By accomplishing something through work or a deed.
2. By experiencing something or someone- through truth, beauty, nature, culture, or love.
3. By the way of suffering.

This does not mean that we need suffering to find purpose. It simply means that if the suffering is unavoidable, as was in the case of the Holocaust survivors, then one can find meaning in it too.

And here’s the most important part: if there’s anything that people can’t take away from you, it is your freedom. So, no matter what your circumstance is, your destiny depends on your attitude towards life.

It speaks volumes about human hope when we read about the ways in which the concentration camp prisoners held on to their will to live. And this book opened my eyes to the importance of finding meaning in what I do every day.

When my business was not doing well, reminding myself of the “why” kept me going.  

The “why” to living can mean different things for different people.

For some it might be their family, for some it might be their dream of owning a business, and for others, it may simply be to enjoy the beauty of nature.

But in order to endure a million questions that life throws our way; we must seek to find meaning in what we do each day too. 

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