We run around in our lives pursuing happiness.
We worry about finding meaning.
We fret in case we never realise our potential.
And the pursuit is often in vain.
But maybe that isn’t because those things can’t be found but simply because we’ve been looking in the wrong places?
Perhaps searching for what we should do, who we are and where we should go is actually a mistake?
Instead, maybe we should stop, look around, have a think about what is needed in the world and then see how we might be able to meet those needs.
This doesn’t imply that we shouldn’t develop our own unique potential.
On the contrary.
Meeting the needs requires us to be the best individual version of ourselves possible.
Man’s Search For Meaning
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who spent three years in a concentration camp. His wife and parents died in the camps and he himself saw and experienced inhuman suffering.
The conclusion he reached while in the camp about what he and his fellow inmates needed in order to survive was not the conclusion you’d imagine a victim of such horror would reach. But it is an insightful and inspiring conclusion –
What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude towards life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.
We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life and instead to think of ourselves as those who are constantly being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and right conduct…
These tasks and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. (1)
It’s a lens. If we look through it hoping to see our route to (simply) personal happiness it will be blurred by all sorts of extraneous matter.
However, if we look through it to see if we can work out how we might contribute to the well-being and happiness of humanity we’ll be more likely to see our path.