I’ve been having this conversation quite a lot lately, so I thought maybe I’d share it with you. Let me know what you think.
Viktor Frankl tells us in Man’s Search for Meaning, “I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, “homeostasis,” i.e., a tensionless state. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.”
So many of us work so hard for that “tensionless state”. We look to find happiness or contentment through down time or leisure. We seek the couch and television each night, hoping that it will relieve our stress from the work day – that it will help us unwind.
But Frankl seems to be telling us, “wind it up” – don’t seek the the couch, don’t go in search of happiness, but look for new and interesting forms of stress, tension, and struggle. But look for it in a “freely chosen task” – something you want to struggle with.
It sounds a little crazy in our world that throws pills at us to calm down and pep up. Our culture frequently tells us how bad stress is, and that we need to eliminate it from our lives. But Frankl is telling us to skip the pills, embrace the stress and struggle away. He’s even suggesting we go in search of stress and struggle!
I think he might be on to something there.
Isn’t that why we propose resolutions at this time of year? Isn’t that why we set goals to lose weight, get fit, run the race, change our jobs, better our relationships, and improve our lives? I like to think of it as the “healthy tension” between who we are, and who we are becoming – pretty sure I read that somewhere, so I can’t take full credit for it.
So, I ask you, who are you today? Who is it you are becoming? What are you doing to get there? Are you seeking peace and contentment through sitting on the couch and binge-watching 1990’s tv shows or are you embracing the tension of becoming a better you and embracing a more meaningful life.