Recently I read an interesting article in The Dallas Morning News written by Emily Esfahani Smith, an associate editor at The New Criterion, about happiness. We all know the importance of happiness in our lives. We strive for it every day, but happiness is not all we should be looking for.
In her article, Smith said that in addition to happiness, we should strive for meaning in our lives: That in the long run, meaning will help us over the difficult times more than happiness. To support her point, she cited the example of Viktor Frankl, a prominent psychiatrist in Vienna who was put in a Nazi concentration camp in 1942, along with his whole family.
Frankl survived the three years of imprisonment, and went on to write a book in 1946, Man’s Search for Meaning. In the book, he outlines what he believed was the difference between those who survived and those who didn’t, and that difference, in most cases, was “meaning.” Frankl wrote, “A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how.'”
When I read Smith’s article, it reminded me of what I learned when I studied to be a hospital chaplain. We learned that having a sense of being worthwhile is as important for humans to thrive as food and water and shelter. At the time I took the classes, that surprised me, as I had never thought anything was essential beyond the three basics.
However, as we explored the concept, it became clear that people are more content, and able to face life’s challenges better when they feel significant, when their life has meaning. Finding meaning in life can take many forms. It might be as simple as being part of a loving relationship that is nurturing, not destructive, or having a job that brings as much satisfaction as income, and/or sharing time and talent helping others. It is something that feeds your spirit and makes you smile and say “ahhh” at the end of a busy day.
I wasn’t surprised when I read Smith’s article, and I join her in urging people to strive for meaning as much as happiness. Happiness can be fleeting, but meaning stays with us.
The important things in my life that feed my spirit are my family, my current gig as farmer, and my creative outlets.
What are some of yours?
By the way, Frankl’s book is still in print. Well worth the read.
8 thoughts on “Monday Morning Musings”
Thank you for always posting great blogs and highlighting other interesting posts via Google. They never disappoint.
Your post really made me think, Appreciating the little things is what I’ve tried to remind myself of everyday, on purpose, because the negatives of this world are so overwhelming. But finding the meaning — yes, I can see how that would also benefit all of us.
I know that my children have always given me meaning, but as they move forward with their lives that changes.
Very thought provoking, thank you!
Wonderful post. Consciously trying to make every encounter a positive one gives many tiny moments of meaning to every day. In the big picture, my family and friends give meaning to my life, with the circle spreading to include my community. 🙂
You are welcome, Yolanda. Glad you find them all helpful and interesting.
I liked what you said about appreciating the little things and reminding yourself to do that every day, on purpose. That is such a good habit to develop.
Thanks for coming by and sharing, Marian. Many people I talk to cite family as the main thing that gives them meaning in life. That always reminds me of what my father told me just before I married. He said that he may not have two nickles to rub together, but he is still a rich man, because of family.
I agree with what you’re saying about leading a meaningful life, and believe that happiness is only elusive if one is actively chasing it. It always remains just out of reach if one is consumed with attaining it, but is a blessed byproduct if one merely lives a life of purpose and gratitude.
Are you familiar with Abbe Pierre? He was the French priest who founded the Emmaus movement, which is dedicated to helping the poor and homeless. The first man he helped later said of him, “Whatever else he might have given me- money, home, somewhere to work- I’d have still tried to kill myself again. What I was missing and what he offered, was something to live for.”
Susan, I do know of Abbé Pierre and the Emmaus movement. We had an Emmaus group at our church that I was active in for several years before I moved into hospital ministry.
I absolutely believe this philosophy is true. Thank you for sharing it so eloquently. What a wonderful reminder for putting my week on the right path.
… And I love that you are a farmer. I garden, and enjoy reaping the rewards of my efforts.
Thanks for coming by Shaunda. I must clarify that I am not a farmer in the true sense of the word. I have some acreage and a few animals that I care for, but I don’t put in crops or otherwise work the land like a true farmer does. I just putter around my property and play with my animals.