“The quest for meaning is the key to mental health and human flourishing... When a man cannot find meaning, he numbs himself with pleasure.” — Viktor Frankl
Viktor Frankl survived four Nazi concentration camps. During those three long years, he became intimately acquainted with three fundamental truths:
Good can be found in the darkest and most unlikely of places.
There is no end to the depths of human suffering.
One can only live by having a meaningful future.
The third truth is perhaps the most important of all, for even unavoidable suffering ceases to be suffering when it has meaning. As Nietzsche once said, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”
The quest for power or pleasure, along with their close cousins, success and happiness, are fruitless endeavors when directly sought after. With no higher meaning, you are reduced to an addict desperately seeking the next dopamine spike. Success and happiness elude. They are fleeting at best.
According to Frankl, “Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself.”
There is comfort in the struggle for something worthwhile.
But what is worthwhile? What is this great cause?
The answer is found as a personal pursuit of that which cannot be repeated and for whom cannot be replaced. It is your meaning in life or “will to meaning.” It is unique to you and can only be discovered by you.
You have the freedom to begin and to change at any instant. As events unfold in life, your meaning may change. Regardless, it is meaning that blesses you with a future worth living.
Life truly is a quest for meaning.