Waking Up To A Meaningful Life

A friend handed me an article today about Viktor Frankl.

There is no way I can begin to tell you about him.  Much smarter people than I, have written about him.   This is just my very humble stumble upon his waking me up.  And how just a few of his words illuminated some of the thoughts I couldn’t find in my own head.

Smart guy.  Look him up.

I read the article.   Copied it to bring home.

And all I ever thought I wanted in life was to be “happy”.

I have said, and say it still, that I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.

After reading the article I know one thing.

As I grow up I want my life to have meaning.

I want what I do to be meaningful.

I can’t stop thinking about that.

Then I went to the dojang (training hall) and met with a fellow instructor.  While we worked on our forms we talked about our respective days.  I told him about Viktor Frankl.   I paraphrased a lot of what the article said.   But I told him basically what got to me the most in this article was the difference about pursuing happiness vs. pursuing meaning, a meaningful life.

We discussed how we have lived pursuing happiness.  Instead of, as suggested, pursing a meaningful life.  I told him about always saying I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and he said “I still say the same thing”.

I told him that today I realized that what Viktor Frankl said is at least giving me something to pursue, with passion, now.  I understand it.  That I want my life to have meaning.  That I want what I do to have meaning.   And meaningful does not mean pursuing happiness for myself.  It’s not about wishing for things, or ease, or my worries to be taken away.

Our discussion circled back to what we were doing.  Martial arts.   In both of our lives we have come from a background of:   victim.  It was part of our identity.   Now, thanks to martial arts and that inner drive we both possess, we are in positions of power.   And when I say power I mean it as we, as individuals, have worked very hard to empower ourselves with value.  We value who we are, the lives we have, the people in our lives, and what we can do.   We feel good about what we did  for ourselves.   But.  There should be more.  Our existence should have meaning.  It should have value.  What is it that we do, for others, that in the doing of it-makes us happy?   We don’t do it to be happy.   We do it because it is needed, and it fulfills a need in someone else.  And doing this for someone else is the goal.  The happiness we feel from doing it, is a result, not a goal.

He threw his arms open to envelope the area of the dojang and said “I don’t do this for me anymore. I do it for my kids, and the other people that walk in here”.    What he does for others has meaning.

So I sit here still thinking about the article my friend gave me.  The discussion I had with another friend.

And I wonder…

Is the passion I have been searching for in life more about doing for others?  Providing something for others that I can do, and that ‘they’, who ever they are, need.   Is my passion about meaning.  And not about happiness.

But in finding true meaning.

I will be happy.

Is that the key?

Viktor Frankl:   “A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears towards a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life.  He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how'”.

When a man can survive a concentration camp and the horrors of war to know the truth of a good life, then I can live the life I have and fulfill my unfinished work.  I can live my life pursuing the responsibility I have towards others.   And this will indeed make me happy.

There is unfinished work waiting for me.

And I want to finish it.

The work that holds meaning for me is far greater than ……me.