We all seem to be looking for meaning at some point through our day – in our work, through our relationships, in our family, during our leisure. The search for “Meaning” is a drive that pushes us to productivity, and encourages us to seek out opportunities to improve ourselves. Simply stated, “Meaning” adds mental/emotional/spiritual/physical health to our lives, and lack of meaning can lead to instability and unhealthiness.
But the idea of “Meaning” – finding meaning in our lives, can be quite elusive.
If you’re familiar with 1980’s pop culture science-fiction, the meaning of life is quite simple, it’s “42”. How much more simple could it be? See Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for a brief expansion of the idea.
A few years later in popular culture, and we can examine the Nihilistic views of the antagonists in The Big Lebowski, who, as with any other Nihilist (a true philosphy), “beleef in nussing (believe in nothing)”. Their view would indicate subscribing to no beliefs would lead to… no meaning?
Today, with our ability to study any religion, philosophy, dogma, concept, or idea at any time, you would think we would have a better handle on finding Meaning in our lives. Unfortunately, as you walk the streets of any major city or small town and observe the populace walked hunched over and face down mystified by some magical device in the palm of their hand, I would argue, maybe we’re don’t have it figured out yet.
How do you go about answering the elusive question, “What is the meaning of life”? Or more pointedly, what is the meaning of YOUR life?
Viktor Frankl, Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor, offers these three questions to help direct the search for Meaning. (Actually, it is Dr. Ann V. Graber who designed the questions based on Frankl’s work in Logotherapy)
1 – What do I give to life through my creativity? What creative gifts have I offered through my work, my talents, deeds done, goals achieved that help meaning for me?
2 – What do I receive from life through my experiences? What experiences have I received from encountering other in relationships of all kinds, from nature, culture, or religion that were deeply meaningful?
3 – What is the stance I take toward life through my attitude? What attitudinal values have I realized by taking a stance toward situations or circumstances that was courageous or self-transending?
The next time you are struggling with feeling down and out, sad, or blue; the next time low-self esteem creeps into mind, or you are struggling with knowing who you are in the world, take a few minutes to answer these questions. Even better, give yourself a few hours – take a walk in the woods and allow yourself the time to really think through these ideas. And, as always, if you want to explore deeper, we can help. – Dan