concentration camp

The Meaning of Life

It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual. ~ From Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl.

If a man can find meaning in a concentration camp – where he has been imprisoned for no wrongdoing of his own. Where there is no end in sight – surely we can find meaning in our daily lives where we think none exists.

Having a reason is one of the most powerful and important things to have in life. No matter how dark, hopeless, and uncertain our lives get, a strong enough reason and sense of meaning can turn something average into something great. Something weak into something powerful. It can give our suffering meaning. Our pain a point.

What does life expect of you?

We far too often think about our expectations of life. We expect success. We expect wealth, a new job, love, happiness. But what does life expect of us? To find meaning in our suffering. To use that meaning to give our maximal effort, help others and, in our own way, to contribute.

But why should we try at all when quitting seems like a much easier route to take?

Well, I can do a better job talking about my own experiences than speculating on anyone else’s. Even though my situation pails in comparison to Dr. Frankl’s, I think it’s something that we can all relate to: taking a risk. One that’s filled with uncertainty.

I quit a job that offered me comfortably in knowing that my pay checks would arrive every 2 weeks. With the new business venture, I didn’t know if and when I’d get paid. Which can be a scary thing. But, even though I didn’t know when or if I’d get paid, I worked because I believed in what I was doing.

I knew the upside was much greater than my 9-5 financially, but so was the downside. The new venture did, however, have a much greater upside in that I was being pushed in ways that my 9-5 couldn’t push me. I was doing something that I loved, and I felt – and feel like – I’m contributing to the health and well-being of others.

I kept working when people told me to start thinking about a plan B. I kept working when people close to me – who out of love – wondered if I was doing the right thing for myself and my future.

Without a reason I would have quit. If I didn’t understand why I was throwing away comfort for fear and risk, I would have never reaped the rewards. I’d probably still be unhappy, unfulfilled, and lacking the challenge in life that starting a business offered me.

Life can be dull, boring, and can seem hopeless. But it never is.

Life expects us to work our hardest, yes. But also to understand why we’re working out hardest. Is it for your kids, your wife, and the people who depend on you? Is it for the people you don’t know that you can help? Is it a mission that you feel you have to finish?

Why.

When things seem the darkest, don’t think about what life owe’s us, or what we want, but how can we learn from the challenge we’re facing.

Frankl says that in the concentration camps, men learned how to grow spiritually. They held on to the idea that they had people waiting for them, that counted on them to stay alive when they were eventually freed – if that day were ever to come. They realized that they had work that they wanted to complete. A mission in life they wanted to fulfil. What they were going through in those camps wasn’t going to stop them, no matter how horrendous it was or how hopeless it seemed.

Why. It’s not a question. It’s a fact. We need one and we have one. Identify what yours is.

Why are you training?

To live longer for those who depend on you. To live better with more energy everyday, and with more confidence to live how you should be living. To be prepared for an emergency situation should it ever arise. The reasons are important, and they’re endless.

Why were you fired?

There’s opportunity to become a stronger person when the shit hits the fan. It ain’t easy to see by any means. It sucks and it’s depressing, but there’s an opportunity.

I go back to an article I wrote a week ago: We Are Exactly Where We’re Supposed to Be. It doesn’t mean that you don’t try and move forward, to learn more, earn more, and live more.

Think about your “Why”, your reason. When you’re in the gym, think about why you’re there, or who you’re there for. When you’re working at a job that seems mundane or hopeless, think about what you can learn or how you can grow. Think about who benefits from you working harder and better.

Life ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It can be a cold, hard existence. But there is meaning to it all, even in our suffering.

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  • Tony

    such a great article. read that everyday and I don't care who you are you will be a success.

  • Rob

    Favorite quotes; “The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.”– Ayn Rand
    and
    “There are four questions of value in life… What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same. Only love.”– Johnny Depp as Don Juan DeMarco

    I think they both hold an incredible truth to them.

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/blog/ Chad Howse

      Awesome. Thanks for those quotes Rob.

  • Alex

    I read the book of Dr. Viktor E. Frankl book, and its on my top reading shelve. I am going read the book until it gets in my every corner of the brain. Love the article Chad, and keep writing great article like these everyday.

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/blog/ Chad Howse

      I'm the same way. I'll read it at least another 3 or 4 times. It's truly a great book.

      Glad you liked the article Alex, thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/thomasbkin @thomasbkin

    Thanks for the refernece to this article Chad, I loved this one as well !
    Going through any of these types of articles you publish should improve anyone's mood.
    Can't wait to see the ones you write in the future !

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/blog/ Chad Howse

      thanks Thomas!