Man’s Search for Meaning” is a profound book written by Viktor E. Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist. In this book, Frankl shares his experiences in Nazi concentration camps and his insights into finding meaning and purpose in life, even in the most dire circumstances. Here are 10 important lessons from the book:
1. The Search for Meaning
Frankl emphasizes that the primary human drive is the search for meaning. Even in the most challenging and dire circumstances, individuals can find purpose and meaning in their lives.
Frankl argues that while we cannot always control our external circumstances, we always retain the freedom to choose our attitude towards those circumstances. This inner freedom is a key aspect of human existence.
3. Suffering is Inevitable
Frankl acknowledges that suffering is a part of life, but he posits that we can find meaning in our suffering. By giving our suffering a purpose, we can transcend it.
4. Attitude Matters
Frankl writes, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” This underscores the importance of a positive attitude in facing adversity.
5. Purpose Gives Life Meaning
Frankl argues that individuals who have a clear sense of purpose are better equipped to endure suffering and hardship. Meaning acts as a driving force that can sustain us through difficult times.
6. Uniqueness of Each Individual
Frankl emphasizes the uniqueness of every person and their individual path to meaning. What is meaningful for one person may not be the same for another, and this diversity is to be respected.
7. Creative Values
According to Frankl, meaning can be found in creative pursuits and contributing to the world. When we create or offer something of value to others, it enhances our sense of purpose.
8. Love as a Source of Meaning
Love, both in its interpersonal and spiritual forms, is a significant source of meaning. Connection with others and a sense of belonging are essential for a fulfilling life.
9. Responsibility to Find Meaning
Frankl suggests that it is each individual’s responsibility to find their own meaning in life. This personal quest for meaning is a fundamental aspect of human existence.
10. Tragic Optimism
Frankl introduces the concept of “tragic optimism,” which acknowledges the tragic aspects of life while remaining optimistic about the possibilities for meaning and fulfilment. This perspective can help us navigate even the darkest of circumstances.
10 Lessons I Learned From Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
1. “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” These were actually Nietzsche’s words. Probably most of you have already read tons of articles stating the power of purpose. Even the book “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek draws from Frankl or Nietzsche. Yet, this is true. You will be able to face hard times way much easier if you manage to find meaning for your life.
2. You can adapt and get used to literally any condition. It is what Charles Darwin said: “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” Stepping out of our comfort zone will make us understand how further we can actually push our limits.
3. Have courage to accept the things you can’t control. While being high in self-control is important in achieving our goals, we must not waste our time with things we can’t control. What matters is how we react to situations that are beyond our control.
4. The way to achieve success is to avoid thinking about it and surrender to a vision. If you focus on making success your target, you are more likely to miss it. Dedicate your time and effort to a vision that is more significant than yourself, and let success becomes a by-product of this dedication!
5. “The salvation of man is through love and in love.” It is redundant to add something else. Love should make you the best version of yourself. It should motivate you, make you less selfish or judgmental, more positive, in a better mood, and the list can go on.
6. There is only one thing that cannot be taken away from you, your attitude. The true test of our character is revealed in how we act, and you have the complete freedom to choose how to respond in any situation.
7. There is meaning in suffering. Frankl explains clearly that if pain and suffering is avoidable, then we should avoid it, as there is no need to make ourselves suffer unnecessarily. However, some suffering is unavoidable. And no matter how crazy this would sound, experiencing pain is not necessarily bad. We often come out the other end softer, more thoughtful, more compassionate, more spiritual people than they would have been if we had never experienced the painful side of life. Also, the moment we make suffering meaningful, we will implicitly make it bearable, too.
8. You can resist the influence of even the most toxic environments — your actions are your own. No matter what the situation, you control what you think, how you respond, and your own state of mind. Nobody except you has control of your mind.
9. Human kindness can be found in the most surprising places. The world can be a tough place and people can be really mean, but don’t judge a person only by a situation. Each of us have a positive side as well.
10. Laughing and having a sense of humor will change the way you look at your life. Don’t forget to always take with you your positive mindset. If you want to be a successful person, note that positive thinking will not only give you more confidence, improve your mood, but also help you approach unpleasantness in a more productive way.
“Man’s Search for Meaning” ends with an interaction between a student and Frankl. The student concluded: “The meaning of your life is to help others find the meaning of theirs.” And yes, we can agree that this was Frankl’s meaning. Now what’s yours?