Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl [Summary]
The Book In Three Or More Sentences:
Man’s Search for Meaning it’s a horrifying story with a lot of pain involved. Viktor Frankl, the author, describes in the book his time spent in captivity between 1942 and 1945 inside the Nazi death camps. Based on his own experience and on the experiences of his cellmates – who he later threats in his practice – Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering in life but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.
The Core Idea:
Understand, with every cell in your brain and with every tissue in your body, that living, in essence, involves a lot of suffering. Sometimes the pain is short but agonizing, other times is bearable but continuous. Trying to avoid pain in life at all costs it’s a fantasy, it’s even childish to desire it because it’s impossible to achieve. No matter what type of dreadful moments come into our lives, the way we handle them is of great importance.
Lesson #1: Life Is Not About Pleasure. It’s About Finding Meaning
For a 24 hours period, we can experience a mixture of feelings: anxiety, joy, sadness, anger, affection, boredom, etc. These mental conditions either help us, or prevent us from achieving what we wanted in a particular situation. The modern society is trying to persuade us that we should constantly feel joy, but the reality is different and we shouldn’t settle with what advertisers are selling.
Why? Consider the following situation:
If you’re attacked by a dog on the street, or a car is heading your way, or let’s say a fellow student wants to hit you because you’ve sent a text message to his girlfriend – you’ll surely don’t want to feel pleasure or happiness. You’ll want to feel anger, panic, anxious. This way you can defend yourself and avoid fatal ending. I mean, there is a good reason we have a portfolio of feelings which don’t only include joy.
In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” Viktor E. Frankl
Lesson #2: Do Not Aim For Success
Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. Fame shouldn’t be pursued blindly. It’s something that will emerge from our actions.
If success for you means having 1 million dollars at your disposal, what will happen if, let’s say within a year, you reach this goal? By the current social standards, you will be a millionaire, that’s for sure. You will also feel quite satisfied with your achievement. Again, something pretty normal. But what will happen afterward?
If you pursue merely the money, you’ll feel even worse when you achieve your goal. In the end, you might have one million dollars, yes, but you might have a job which you’ll probably hate.
The alternative to the above is this: Take some time to understand what kind of tasks truly motivate and inspire you. Devote your life towards executing these tasks. Finally, you become an expert in the field you’ve chosen, you have a meaningful life and if the work you do is good enough, you’ll most probably earn more than a million bucks.
Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.” Viktor E. Frankl
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