Lessons from the book Man‘s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
Man’s Search for Meaning is a 1946 book by Victor Frankl that describes his experience as a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz during World War II. When Victor Frankl died in 1997, the book had sold over 10 million copies in 24 language. The main theme of the book is finding meaning and purpose in life even at times of extreme suffering and setbacks and it contains important lessons for individuals in all walks of life. Here are the most striking ones:
Meaning of Life
Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. It does not really matter what we expect from life, but rather what life expects from us. We need to stop asking unanswerable questions about the meaning of life, and instead imagine we are being questioned by life. Our response cannot be just talk but the right action and conduct.
Don’t aim for success because the more you make it a target, the more you are not going to achieve it. Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself. Happiness cannot be planned; it must happen, and the same applies to success: you have to let it happen without thinking about it all the time . Then you will live to see that in the long run, success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.
Master of Your Own Way
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms. This is the freedom to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Your decisions every day, every hour will determine whether you are your own self or merely a plaything of circumstance.
Handling Difficult Circumstances
The way a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails gives him ample opportunity — even under the most difficult circumstances — to add a deeper meaning to his life. The choice is to remain brave, dignified and unselfish or in the fight for self-preservation to lose human dignity. Such men are not only in concentration camps. Everywhere man is confronted with his fate, with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering or misfortune.
A Why to Live
In working as a psychiatrist to the other inmates in the concentration camp, Frankl found that the single most important factor in creating the inner motivation to survive was teaching them to focus on some future goal. He cites Nietzsche, who wrote that “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”
Two Kinds of Men
The reality is there are two races of men in this world, but only these two — the “race” of the decent man and the “race” of the indecent man. Both are found everywhere; they penetrate into all groups of society. No group consists entirely of decent or indecent people.