Life’s a rollercoaster, and sometimes it plunges into darkness. But what if I told you there’s a way to find light even in the bleakest of times?
Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, had to grapple with immense suffering. Yet, he found a way to make sense of it all.
Frankl believes that even in the harshest conditions, we can uncover a sense of purpose that pulls us through.
Below, let’s explore 8 life-altering insights from Frankl that can help you find meaning in your own challenges, no matter how insurmountable they may seem.
1) Embrace your power to choose
One of the most empowering ideas that Viktor Frankl gives us is the concept of choice.
Even when you’re stuck in the most painful or challenging situations, you still have the power to choose your attitude.
It’s easy to feel like a victim when life throws curveballs, but that’s when you need to remind yourself: You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it.
This shift in perspective is liberating. Instead of letting circumstances dictate your mood or outlook, you claim the driver’s seat. Make a conscious effort to choose positivity, resilience, or whatever quality you need to face your situation.
Try this — next time you’re in a tough spot, pause and take a deep breath. Ask yourself, “How can I choose to respond to this?”
The answer might just offer you the direction you need to find meaning amidst the struggle.
It’s not about dismissing the pain, but about giving yourself permission to interact with it differently.
2) Look for purpose
Viktor Frankl often emphasized that life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
So, when you find yourself knee-deep in hardship, instead of asking, “Why is this happening to me?”, try asking, “What can I learn or gain from this experience?”
Shifting your focus to purpose can act like a lifeline when you’re drowning in suffering. It won’t eliminate the pain, but it can make it more bearable.
Purpose lends us the strength to endure, to push through obstacles and emerge stronger on the other side.
Take a moment to reflect on a challenging situation you’re currently facing or have faced in the past. Can you identify any positive outcomes?
Perhaps it made you more resilient, opened your eyes to what really matters, or brought you closer to loved ones. Recognizing the potential for growth or connection in painful experiences can be a potent way to find meaning.
3) Connect with others
When you’re going through hard times, your first instinct might be to isolate yourself, to wrap your pain in a cocoon.
While it’s natural to want space to heal, don’t underestimate the healing power of human connection.
Even in the isolation of a concentration camp, Victor Frankl found glimpses of hope through thoughts of his loved ones. Connecting with others can serve as a profound source of strength and a buffer against suffering.
Practice this today by reaching out to a friend or family member you feel close to. Open up about what you’re going through, even if it’s just a little at first.
Sometimes the most profound insights come from simple conversations with those who care about you.
It’s as if, through every hug, every listening ear, and every shared laugh, the clouds of suffering start to part, revealing a sky full of stars — each one a glimmer of meaning in the darkness.
4) Take responsibility
Taking responsibility for your life and choices is a central tenet in Viktor Frankl’s philosophy. While you may not have control over the cards life has dealt you, you do control how you play them.
Accepting responsibility is not about blaming yourself for the bad things that happen; it’s about acknowledging that you have the power to take meaningful action, no matter the circumstance.
By taking responsibility, you shift from a mindset of helplessness to one of empowerment. This doesn’t make the suffering disappear, but it equips you with the tools to navigate through it more effectively.
So identify an aspect of your life where you’ve felt helpless or stuck. Now, ask yourself, “What can I do, however small, to improve this situation?”
The key here is action. Even a tiny step, like making a phone call, seeking advice, or changing a daily habit, can be the beginning of a meaningful journey.
5) Create work that matters
Viktor Frankl often spoke about the value of doing work that holds significance, both to the individual and to society.
Meaningful work can serve as a lifeline, anchoring us even when we’re drowning in a sea of suffering. It provides a sense of purpose and an avenue for contributing to something greater than ourselves.
If you’re going through a tough time, immerse yourself in work that you find fulfilling. This doesn’t necessarily mean your day job; it could be a personal project, volunteering, or even helping out a friend or family member in need.
If you can’t think of anything, jot down a list of tasks or projects you’ve been wanting to do but have been putting off.
The goal is to find something that not only keeps your hands busy but also engages your heart and mind.
Even just an hour or two can make a world of difference in your mindset.
6) Face reality
Denial or escapism can only serve as temporary distractions from suffering, and they often prolong the very agony we’re trying to avoid.
By confronting our struggles directly, we create an opportunity to find meaning within them.
Frankl himself faced the harshest of realities in concentration camps, yet he found that acknowledging the gravity of his situation allowed him to navigate it with more resilience and clarity.
Facing reality doesn’t mean resigning yourself to it; it means understanding your circumstances well enough to find avenues for action and meaning.
If there’s a difficult situation you’re dealing with, write down the facts as objectively as possible. Strip away the emotions, fears, and what-ifs, just for a moment.
Look at the core issue and ask yourself, “What can I do about this?” Even if the options are limited, acknowledging them is empowering.
You might not like what you see, but at least now you can navigate through it. It’s a brave step, one that paves the way for more informed and meaningful choices.
7) Hold on to your beliefs
Your belief system, whether it’s spiritual, philosophical, or rooted in personal values, can serve as an emotional compass.
It can offer you solace, guide you through ethical dilemmas, and help you find meaning when life feels overwhelmingly chaotic.
Frankl had to hold tightly onto his own beliefs to survive the unspeakable conditions of concentration camps. It was his unwavering faith in humanity and the importance of finding meaning that helped him navigate through his suffering.
When you’re facing a challenge that seems insurmountable, take a few minutes to reflect on your core beliefs.
What really matters to you at the end of the day? What guiding principles have helped you in the past?
Write them down if it helps, and consult this list when you’re struggling to make sense of your circumstances.
This helps you anchor yourself in something greater, something that transcends your current suffering. It serves as a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there are enduring truths that can guide us, uplift us, and ultimately help us find meaning.
8) Find the silver lining
In the midst of suffering, it’s challenging but crucial to find the silver lining, another lesson Viktor Frankl emphasized.
Though it might seem counterintuitive, focusing on positive elements during hard times can offer you a different perspective and even alleviate some of your emotional pain.
This isn’t about sugarcoating your experience or denying the harshness of your reality. It’s about understanding that even in the worst situations, glimmers of hope and meaning can exist.
Frankl found glimmers of hope in simple things while enduring the hardships of the concentration camps — whether it was a thought, a memory, or a small act of kindness.
These tiny sparks were enough to give him something to hold onto, something that made the suffering bearable.
Try to actively seek out the positives, no matter how small. It could be a lesson you’ve learned, a kindness someone showed, or even an inner strength you didn’t know you had.
Make it a daily practice to identify these silver linings, and you’ll be better equipped to handle your troubles.
Claim your resilience: the power of finding meaning in suffering
Life’s trials can break us or make us stronger; often the difference lies in our ability to find meaning amidst the pain.
Drawing wisdom from Viktor Frankl’s insights, remember that even in the worst situations, opportunities for growth, connection, and deeper understanding exist.
It’s not about ignoring your suffering, but transforming it into something valuable.
Your journey might be hard, but it’s also a path to a more resilient, enlightened you. The strength you’ll gain will make it worth every struggle.