Living a meaningful life does not mean that you have to orient your entire existence on the search for your own happiness. Instead, it’s about finding a goal and working towards it.
It’s mainly about feeling good about who you are, what you have and everything around you, no more, no less. In the hectic pace of everyday life, however, it is difficult to focus your mind, heart and gaze on an existential goal when what you encounter more often is meaningless.
Unfortunately, however, it is easier to become overwhelmed by the worry and negativity caused by stress and anxiety. How are you supposed to find meaning in your life if that takes up all your energy?
It’s complicated, no doubt about it. As the famous psychoanalyst Erich Fromm said, the meaning of life is simply the art of knowing how to live within yourself.
This is the key to psychological well-being: working on your inner harmony and balance. This involves developing good self-knowledge and applying the basic components of Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy. Let’s dive right in.
Logotherapy: Learning to Find Meaning to Live a Meaningful Life
Most people don’t think about the meaning of life unless they are dealing with adversity. That’s when you start asking yourself classic existential questions like, “Why is this happening to me and what does it all mean?”
Finding meaning, even when things are going badly and fate seems to be against you, is one of the most transcendental human behaviors.
Stoicism, a school of philosophy that emerged in 301 BC. founded by Zeno van Citium suggested that to be happy you have to accept things exactly as they are. That’s a nice thought. But is it possible? How do you achieve that?
It is extremely difficult to make peace with your circumstances. More often than not, we resist, get angry and suffer for what we have lost.
Irvin David Yalom, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, explains that it takes time to lead a meaningful life. At some point, you take the necessary step toward introspection to get in touch with your needs and find out what’s really relevant and important to you.
What does it mean to lead a meaningful life?
Viktor Frankl was one of the foremost experts on a meaningful life. So much so that he used it as the foundation of the therapeutic approach he developed for working with patients.
He called it logotherapy. Frankl argued that the desire to find existential meaning is a need that everyone feels at some point. By doing this and clarifying what a meaningful life is for you, it then offers support in difficult times.
- First of all, it is important to understand that everyone has their own definition of what it is to lead a meaningful life. It is unique to each individual and also changes over time. Your circumstances and goals vary over the years.
- This quest is also a source of motivation. Every time you ask yourself, “what is most important to me right now?” or “what gives me meaning and purpose?” focus on exploring your authentic self. This is an exercise in self-knowledge.
- To live a meaningful life, you also need to value your past and present experiences. It means finding harmony between what has always been important to you (your values) and what you want out of life (your dreams).
This exercise is important for your mental health. Because if you have some clarity about it, it gives you a reason to live. A reason to get up every morning and something to believe in, fight for and dream about.
Viktor Frankl’s Legacy: Logotherapy
Viktor Frankl is known for two reasons: he survived two concentration camps during World War II and his book The Meaning of Life. He was a well-known professor of psychiatry who wrote more than 30 books and lectured about 210 at almost every university in the world.
A special highlight of his legacy is logotherapy. This is a type of therapy that was part of the third school of Viennese therapy after Freud’s psychoanalysis. The driving force behind this psychological approach is helping people to lead meaningful lives. In this way he helped his patients to achieve that goal.
You have a body, mind and soul
Viktor Frankl’s therapy was not religious in any way. The concept of a ‘soul’ was a way of talking about one’s authentic essence.
He believed that everyone has a body, a mind and a soul that contains his or her life story. It is that part of you that contains your voice, values and personality. One of your goals is to create harmony between these three elements of who you are.
All your experiences, good or bad, are meaningful
Everything you experience in your life means something. Your goal is to identify what that is. Happiness, insecurity, adversity, passion, peace, fear… Try to figure out how to learn from every moment.
You are free to change the course of your life based on what makes sense to you
Sometimes you may feel trapped by your circumstances. For example, if someone leaves you and you feel alone. Or you lose a job during a difficult and uncertain time in your life. As these things happen, you are free to follow whatever path you think gives your life purpose. Only then will you achieve well-being.
Living a meaningful life means committing to follow whatever motivates you in dark times. The world around you is too chaotic to allow yourself to drift too far from who you really are.