In the voice of Victor Frankl, the holocaust survivor.
One of the most profound contemporary advices on life and overcoming adversities was given to us by Victor Frankl, a neurologist, a psychiatrist, a holocaust survivor and above all a great teacher and inspiration. The advice given by him to mankind is full of relevance for each day that we live.
He doesn’t just present some theoretical orientation towards life. On the contrary, each of the words that he shared with us comes along with the life changing experiences he witnessed at various concentration camps; experiences and adversities that changed his life in a positive manner and made him grow as a person. What a remarkable feat…finding meaning in the suffering and sharing that meaning with others.
Victor Frankl, was also the founder of Logotherapy which means healing through finding meaning. According to him finding a meaning in life is the primary motivational force in a man’s life.
He emphasises, no matter what state you are in, no matter how much you are suffering, no matter how hopeless you feel, finding a meaning and purpose to live, big or small, is enough to pull you through any tough circumstance. The idea is to stick to a meaning and purpose each day. Ultimately, you will come to find that all suffering has meaning and purpose and something to teach you.
Here are 7 Quotes by Victor Frankl to motivate you to find your purpose. They strike your reason and heart with a soft healing touch.
1. You always have a choice:
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”
Frankl says when he reached the first of the many concentration camps, he and all other captives were ripped off all their belongings…everything, even a small photograph of their family or a loved one was taken away from them.
However, he reiterates that in spite of being robbed off everything, what the camp guards could not take away from him was his inner freedom to choose how he will respond to the situation. Unlike many who became immediately hopeless, he did not fall into it, instead he tried his best each day, struggling through the harsh camp life, to see the next day.
He simply did not give up in spite of the atrocities of the camp life. He responded to the situation by generating an inner strength to move on no matter what and move on with meaning and purpose to see the day when he will finally be liberated and see his family again.
Unfortunately, he lost most of his family members in this ordeal but what is worth a praise was his attitude towards living a meaningful life. After his liberation, he went on to teach the world to not became slaves to external situations rather find their inner freedom, a freedom which is indifferent to the external constraints and life’s problems.
2. Sometimes we need to change ourselves:
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
The atrocities of the concentration camp were beyond Frankl to stop or escape. The situation was grim and the reality was dark. Everyday before sunrise, the prisoners would get up, march in rag like uniform and battered shoes; a bowl of soup and a piece of bread was all that they got in the name of food (no extra helping).
There was no way to run away or escape this harsh life of harassment and gut-wrenching suppression. There was no way he could change or escape this situation so what he did was changed himself. He accepted the reality, lived with single-minded determination to see the day of his liberation…which could be tomorrow, after a week, after a month or never but he still moulded himself to fight the situation, no matter what. He did not give up like many others did, rather he accepted the situation and changed his attitude...from giving up to fighting till the last breath.
3. Find your purpose:
“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”
Every single person on the face of earth comes across hardships, difficulties and trials. However, these hardships, difficulties and trials do not make life unbearable; it is how we view them and the beliefs we hold about life and living that make or break us.
Some of the most remarkable and inspirational stories have risen from the contexts of colossal sufferings but what was different about the people in these stories was they never gave up on life. They stuck to some meaning and purpose to keep living and trying amidst the hardships and in the end became epitomes of inspiration for generations to come.
Frankl was one of them and he could even find this meaning and purpose in a hopeless situation of a concentration camp. So why can’t we?
4. Find your reason to live:
“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.”
It is as vital as oxygen that we find a purpose in our lives. This purpose answers ‘Why’ you want to live in spite of all hardships and suffering. Once you find something really meaningful, something you want to dedicate your life to, you will automatically generate a newfound power to overcome any suffering.
This purpose can be anything that motivates you to work and live each day no matter what. It can be something you want to achieve or something you want to give back to society, anything.
Frankl could find his ‘why’ to live in the dark huts of the camps amidst the sorrowful column of smoke from the chimneys of the extermination camps. So why can’t we?
5. Value the present and act wisely:
“So live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”
Frankl advises us to make use of the present as it is not coming back again. He even suggests counterintuitive exercise whereby whenever you feel stuck in life, make yourself think that you are living the same situation the second time and are again on a path to make the same mistakes that you made the first time. Imagine yourself on your death bed and then imagine what sound advice you would give yourself to deal with the present situation constructively, saving yourself from further suffering.
He used the same techniques to survive in the darkness of concentration camps, which helped him to watch his attitude and response towards the situation, not becoming totally hopeless and instead of making the looming death his centre of attraction, he sanguinely submerged himself into the contemplation of the day of his liberation from the imposed suffering.
6. Practice Humour:
” The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living. Yet it is possible to practice the art of living even in a concentration camp, although suffering is omnipresent.”
Frankl emphasises the need for humour in our lives. A situation might look gloomy at the first glance but when we look at the same situation from a humorous point of view, we feel less miserable and more settled and in control. Had Frankl looked at what he experienced at the camps with misery and plight (which majority of prisoners did) he would not have fared so well and it would have driven him crazy and made him a living dead.
On the contrary, he found out that humor made survival a possibility. He would stick to humor even while witnessing the everyday merciless menace. While most gave in to such situations by getting emotionally overwhelmed, Frankl discovered an art of living with humor as the chief instrument. It prevented him from the emotional death that most of the prisoners encountered much before the physical death befell them.
7. You are also answerable to life:
”Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
The belief that you are entitled to happiness by default is a faulty proposition. The quicker we shed it the better. Yes, we do deserve to be happy and live a meaningful life. However, there is no room for whining and complaining here.
You don’t ask life, it is life that asks of you. You don’t blame life; it is life that will blame you if you are not fighting to lead a meaningful life. It is your life and your are responsible for it. Do not simply put the steering of your life on some external unknown factors rather take responsibility of your life actively. Live purposefully, live responsibly.
Frankl discerned this approach to life as he struggled for survival. He found out that blaming life will not solve any of his predicaments, instead he has to actively and responsibly preserve his life through a purposeful living and in that find the true meaning and purpose of his life.
It is very erroneous to hold the belief that Life owes us some favours and we are entitled to them by virtue of being born in this world. Sadly, that is not the case. The truth is life owes us nothing rather we owe life. We owe life Strength, Resilience and a Fighting Spirit…we owe life a purpose, a meaning. After all, Life is Impartial and all it asks of you is to live Responsibly.
These words of wisdom are gems to preserve in your heart, soul and spirit. Frankl has shown a path to live a meaningful life, it is up to you if you take this path or not. Make the right choice today.
So which quote you found the most profound for you? Let us know in the comments section.