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.

17 thoughts on “Waking Up To A Meaningful Life

  1. I have been searching for meaning for most of my life (and happiness too). I’m glad you put these two together. It’s weird that you are writing about this because I’ve also been thinking about it lately. I heard this song on the radio the other day, which had a chorus of, “I wanna go home,” I used to feel that way when I was really depressed. I used to repeat it to myself over and over, but there was never a “home” to go to. “Home”, I finally figured out represented a safe place where I was not depressed, not beaten down and not abused. A safe base from which to go out into the world. As the song went on, I realized I haven’t had that feeling in quite some time. It’s because of Miss S. Like your Victor Frankl said, when I became conscious of another person’s need for me I was unable to throw my life away. I realize that having a child isn’t everyone’s definition of “meaning” for their life and it may not always be mine, but for now she is my everything. What I do for her makes me happy. And like you said, happiness is not the goal, but a result.


    • Ribbons (can I call you Ribbons:) )

      I have read very little of Mr. Frankl, but what I have read, is so powerful. Just the ONE quote got to me. When you talk about Ms. S it is what he means when he says ““A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears towards a human being who affectionately waits for him,”. Or at least in your situation that is what I believe this to mean. Can you imagine Ms. S waiting for you, and you not returning? In the article he was talking about 2 men in concentration camps who were suicidal. (Mind you, I paraphrase here) and to help them he pointed out the meaning in their lives. One man had a small child waiting in another country for him. Can you imagine the child waiting, as so many did during that time, to never have momma or poppa come home?

      Our meaning to someone else is so valuable to our existence. Your existence has meaning.

      I am glad you are finding home, with Ms. S.

      I hope you sing that to her. 🙂


  2. Many times I’m asked if I could meet one person alive or dead who would it be and my answer is Viktor Frankl. When I was very very ill with Lyme disease I read his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” and I kid you not when I tell you it changed my life. One sentence did it and I paraphrase, “You can have everything taken from you but one thing, what you make your attitude.” Remarkable how we can change the world with that one concept because the world lives inside of me and my perception of it. I love your posts but this one goes to my heart and soul. I’m glad to have started my day with it. Thank you. Paulette


    • You’re welcome Paulette. First, I’m hoping the Lyme Disease issues are way past over.

      And I fully agree with you. I read the entire article my friend gave me, but it was Mr. Frankl’s direct quotes that got to me, and that I fully felt. I have not read his book, but, another one to add. You must be my Book Whisperer. 😉

      If only we all understood his concept and applied it. Can you imagine???? Wow!!!


    • I’m glad you like it Koji. Often when I write something it is with a wistful eye on the past. But always with a hopeful and eager eye on the future. For me. For you. For anyone who ‘likes’ it. Thank you for always being so supportive.


  3. I can see that Mr Frankl’s words have resonnated deep within you. That in itself is a good feeling yes?

    So what will you do? To have a more meaningful life I mean? *gentle smile* … I suspect that those people that think this way … the ones that one day start to think such … near altruistic thoughts … they seem to me to be the ones that have already started to have an impact on others.

    Now, perhaps you will find something new in life to work towards and with … perhaps you will find that what you are seeking you are already doing. I don’t know. But I sense that you will find ‘it’. And that too is a grand feeling I suspect.


    • Very interesting points, questions, Irish Katie. I thought about that as I wrote this. I was sitting at work when I read the article. And I immediately thought that the things I change, to have meaning, have to start with my attitude, my perception and my actual “doing”. I strongly believe in my work. Though I often get “angry” at work. Angry because of what some people expect, angry at people who don’t “know” or understand, but mostly, I get angry when there are no answers to be found and I feel responsible for not being able to “fix” things. I have to change this. There are “some” things I can fix (and I don’t necessarily mean me personally, but I know where to find the answers), there are “some” people who care, there are “some” people who do understand, and there are some people who don’t understand but are willing to learn. I need to do what “I” can, be willing to do more than I thought I could, and also be ready to understand that not being able to change some things (mental health, life style choices, etc) is not a fault or even a problem. It is the way things are. And it’s not a failure on my part…..hmmmm, this could be an entirely new post. 😉


      • *smiles* …. I am a little late getting back to this..

        I find that blogging leads not to just allowing others into our lives a little…but often results in many an introspection into one’s own life and thoughts.

        I see you doing that a lot right now. I hope it does not feel like an invasion when I say that it is an absolute interesting process to witness.

        So …

        Changing our attittudes and how we approach things we wish to change … that is hard I know. Often it takes something very personal event in our lives. Almost as if something so significant happens that we CANNOT not change. In your case … I sense this is not the case? More of a concious effort? Sort of a meeting of the mind and the heart?

        Oh lord…I am rambling and sounding like a dork I fear…*smiles*


        • No invasion what so ever. 🙂 Ah…the Irish cannot sound like dorks. Ever.

          I have had many significant events in my life. Nothing so much right now. But now, it seems, I find myself reflecting somewhat, so that in moving forward, I remember my lessons. Or in review, get a better perspective.

          I really appreciate your feedback.


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