As the new year arrives, so does the impulse to make resolutions. However, rather than resolve for the umpteenth time to quit smoking, lose weight or get along with the in-laws, how about we give up resolutions entirely. Instead, let’s reflect on this question: “Do you have the means to live, but little meaning to live for?”
The question comes from Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who lived in Vienna during World War II. After the Nazi invasion, the good doctor and his family were arrested and sent to a concentration camp.
While imprisoned, Frankl saw his fellow prisoners treated with such cruelty they lost their humanity, their health and ultimately, their will to live.
But Frankl preserved his humanity and survived. How? By realizing his purpose in life was to study the experiences of his fellow prisoners and to share what he learned. This gave him the will to live – and the raw material for the book he later wrote, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
In his book, Frankl talks about the three drivers, or “wills” in life. The first driver is the will to pleasure – the desire to feel good and avoid pain. There is nothing inherently wrong with this driver. However, because it focuses on the self rather than on others, it only takes you so far.
The second driver is the desire to control your environment or other people. The will to power is a higher life force because to achieve power, one usually has to delay the gratification of pleasure. But like the will to pleasure, the drive for power is an inside-out motivator, which has a limited upside.
The third driver is what Frankl calls “the will to meaning.” Only by searching for – and serving – a higher purpose does one find happiness. Purpose can be work-related (being a tireless advocate for seniors), cause-related (volunteering for the homeless or for the environment), personal (being the world’s best Mom or Dad) or spiritual (learning and living in harmony with God’s will).
When you serve your purpose, you immediately enter “the zone” – an “outside-in” place of intense energy, passion, and focus – which allows you to accomplish incredible things. It’s a place where everything feels right and where you finally recognize yourself as the person you were destined to become. As a financial professional, this is the place to be.
So as 2008 beckons, do yourself the ultimate favor and resolve to embark on your personal search for meaning. Here’s what to do:
- Think about what your drivers have been in life. Pleasure, power, money, toys?
- Ask yourself whether those drivers have made you happy. Why or why not?
- Challenge yourself to find and serve the higher purpose that’s been eluding you all these years.
When you find that purpose (notice we said “when”), your life will be rich with both means and meaning. And what more is there except a better relationship with your in-laws?