Lesson for the Day: Dr. Frankl knew the meaning of his life, but if you still don’t know the meaning of yours, then consider this: The meaning of your life might be to help others find meaning in their lives. In his autobiography, Frankl explains the meaning of his life in the following historical context:
“I arrived at the clinic [i.e., the Policlinic Hospital in Vienna, Austria] in the morning and was greeted by a small group of American professors, psychiatrists, and students who had come to Vienna to do research. I had just responded to Who’s Who in America by returning the questionnaire they had sent. It had asked that I express, in one sentence, the meaning of my life. So I asked the group to guess what response I had made. Some quiet reflection. Then a student from Berkeley said, and his answer jolted me: ‘The meaning of your life is to help others find the meaning of theirs.’
“That was is, exactly. Those are the very words I had written.”1
Meaning is, according to Frankl, unique, and, therefore, differs from one person to the next. Frankl admits that the meaning of a person’s life may be hard to define and fraught with difficulties and disappointments. Nevertheless, for Frankl, each person is responsible for finding a meaning to his or her life. However, patience, persistence and courage are three requirements in the search for meaning. In the words of Frankl,
“[T]ry to be patient and courageous: patient in leaving the problems unresolved for the time being, and courageous in not giving up the struggle for their final solution.”2
- Viktor E. Frankl, Viktor Frankl Recollections: An Autobiography, trans. Joseph Fabry and Judith Fabry (New York, N.Y.: Plenum Press, 1997), p. 129. Italics are mine.
- ———-, The Will of Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy (New York, N.Y.: New American Library, 1969, 1st printing 1970), p. 95.