The writings and experiences of Victor Frankl are almost legendary. His book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ has sold over 10 million copies in 24 languages and is an inspiration to many.
In it, Frankl details his experiences of surviving Nazi concentration camps in World War 2, before outlining the principles of his approach to therapy: logotherapy.
Central to Frankl’s approach is the belief that humans have a need to find meaning in their lives in order to sustain them and promote growth. Of course, in Frankl’s experience, the meaning of life was deeply challenged through the horrific experiences of concentration camps and the sheer terror faced on a daily basis.
On a superficial reading, Frankl’s book can be seen as promoting the value of having a ‘positive attitude’ in the face of challenges. This misses his point. Frankl’s book challenges us to seek and create meaning in our lives, particularly in the face of difficulty. There is a transcendental nature to Frankl’s writing that challenges us to rise above that which we’re facing, to make our experiences and lives larger than the problem itself.
A specific example from the text which stood out for me was Frankl’s account of being asked to give what was, essentially, a ‘motivational speech’ to camp members. Frankl, bereft of what to say that would even remotely stir hope in the face of such desperate circumstances, asked those around him to use their imagination…
To imagine that those we loved most in the world were in the room, watching us in this moment – what would they’d most want to see in us as we face this challenge? How would they most want us to act in the face of such difficulties?
For Frankl, constantly asking such a question carries the potential of infusing any moment with meaning and serves as an act of soul-enriching revolt.
Whilst Frankl’s writing may seem a long way off from the world of sport, business and personal development, I wonder what differences it may make for you should you ask yourself the same question in relation to an ongoing difficulty.