Friedrich Nietzsche writes, “He who has a Why to live can bear almost any How.”
Besides the power of thoughts and will, there is a powerful driving force that unfolds the great potential of every human being.
The power of Why. The driving force of life. The power of Why is the reason why one does the things he or she does.
Every person needs a reason to live. Every person needs to see the meaning of his or her human existence.
The meaning is not connected with the accumulation of wealth and material things. Yet, one too many times, over-satisfied children feel a sense of meaninglessness reaching to short-lived pleasures to soften the sense of emptiness one feels.
One of the reasons people fall into depression when unemployed is not just the fear of misery, but the sense of being unproductive and unfulfilled, of being futile. When one finds an useful activity, he or she begins to see meaning and the depression begins to disappear, although the material situation may have not improved.
In the same way, we can speak of retired individuals. Whey one retires and remains at home, and his or her children no longer need help, the elderly person suddenly begins to surrender.
And not because one is too old or ill, but because one begins to feel unfulfilled and one cannot find any sense of usefulness.
When an individual finds meaning, this meaning strongly motivates and inspires him or her, it give the individual strength to go through any circumstances, overcome difficulties, deal with pain and fear. With having a Why, anyone can go through all How.
As I have written many times, I have always been in awe by the power of the human spirit, the power of when people struggle with an intolerable fate that cannot be changed (remaining crippled, having the loss of a loved one, suffering from incurable disease). This indomitable human spirit makes one’s suffering a triumph and makes an individuals achieve what seems impossible.
All of these individuals have a purpose, they see a reason to continue, they find a sense of their existence even in the most severe and limiting circumstances.
Viktor Frankl, Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, devoted his life to understanding and studying “meaning.” Life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering and death, he writes.
In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” he writes about his experiences in a concentration camp. There, all circumstance are joined together to make the camp lose support. All known goals in life are extracted. Dr. Frankl, himself, lost everything — his family, his father, his mother, his wife, and his brother; all were dying in the camp and were sent to the gas chambers.
Despite the indescribable experiences — pain, hunger, hopelessness, and obscurity, there was only one thing that could bring people back together — that forthcoming objective, the Why of aiming towards something — something to fight for, something for which you are worth living for.
For some of the campers, it was the thought of that “someone” waiting for them out there, for others was the hope of a job waiting for them, or dear memories of one’s past.
Only those who did not see a point to continue were doomed.
In fact, these experiences brought Dr. Frankl to the discovery of the logotherapy.
Unlike psychoanalysis, which focuses on man’s past and the release from negative feelings and old patterns, Dr. Frankl’s theory aimed to the future, more precisely, the discovery of meaning.
In his work as a psychiatrist, Dr. Frankl often asked the question to his patients, “Why don’t you kill yourself?”
Individuals’ responses gave him the opportunity to find guidance for his therapy, and to thread the thin threads of important things for the individual in healthy tissues of sense and responsibility.
Undoubtedly, the discovery of meaning is a force that can help you deal with illnesses, go through life’s trials and keep you“flying” forward.
Yet, what is the meaning of life?
The meaning of life is something very individual. Apart from the fact that it is different for each person, it changes and differs from time to time.
This meaning never ceases to exist.
Every situation is a challenge to a person, and under all circumstance, no matter how miserable and heavy a circumstance might be, one can always find a meaning.
Logotherapy shows three ways an individual can find a meaning in his or her life.
The third one is the most important to understand, because often in tough, hopeless situations, an individual ceases to see meaning.
Dr. Frankl writes that it can be found even in the suffering:
There are situations in which one is denied the opportunity to do his or her job or enjoy his or her life, but what can never be eliminated is the inevitability of suffering. Given the challenge of bravely suffering, life makes sense until its last moment and keeps that meaning literally until the end. In other words, the meaning of life is unconditional, as it even includes the possible meaning of inevitable suffering.
How do you find meaning?
Often you ask, “What’s the point of life?,” as you expect someone to answer you, but you really need to ask this question your own self.
Of course, the existence of life has a deeper meaning; each person has his or her own mission and contributes to the development of the Universe.
But here I am talking about finding a particular meaning at any moment.
Finding the meaning of your existence at any moment of life is your responsibility.
What could be a meaning of your life?
What conceives your life does not need to be something extremely great. The point is not even the fulfillment of your desires.
The meaning is rather an inner feeling that completes you; it is satisfaction that makes you feel grateful, it is what makes you feel alive.
People most often find this meaning in:
Remember that meaning never ceases to exist, both in a particular life plan and in a deeper level.
It is constantly changing according to the situation.
Think about it — what is the thing that completes and makes you feel alive, which gives you hope and desire for life, which makes you feel satisfied and fulfilled, which makes you happy?
Remember that no matter how hopeless your situation is, you can always find meaning.
Nick Vujicic, the man with no legs and hands, instead of self-pity and complaining of his heavy fate, has become one of the most world known motivators. He teaches people how to succeed through strength and hope.
Viktor Frankl, when he is in Auschwitz, one of the most terrible concentration camps, where there is nothing to give him hope, he begins to help campers find meaning in their seemingly lost lives.
These examples can help you look at life as if you were still in your past and you are at the end of your earthly path. Now look back and think — “was my life meaningful, was there anything to live for?”
What would you like to say when this moment comes?
What is the meaning of life to you? How have you found it?
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About The Author
Dr. Mila is an internationally known Change Catalyst. She teaches individuals and organizations about awareness, connection, and the need for change – personally, socially, and professionally.