Cam Taylor

Be inspired. Be focused. Be tenacious.

Viktor Frankl’s Keys to Happiness

“Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.”*

If you go looking for happiness you won’t find it. It’s a by product of the pursuit of something else. Viktor Frankl taught and more importantly lived, in a way that personified the ability to find meaning in life when faced with unimaginable suffering.

There were three principles and three values that undergird a person’s happiness or meaning in life.maze

The Three Foundational Principles

1. Life has meaning in all circumstances, even despondent ones.

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

I remember the day during my recovery when I discovered deeper meaning to life. It wasn’t because my circumstances had changed (they had gotten worse) but because I had discovered a way to live in my circumstances. In that moment of discovery, I found (with God’s help) a purpose that overshadowed the loss and pain of life.

2. The main motivational force is the desire to find meaning in life.

Motivation is an inside job. This principle says to me that if you find meaning to your life, you will find motivation.

“Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life.”

3. Humanity has the freedom of attitudinal choice, even in situations of unchangeable affliction

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Our power to choose is a gift we hold in our hands. If we choose a victim’s attitude instead of an overcomer’s attitude, the door to happiness and fulfillment stays shut.

Three Values that Produce the Fruit of Meaning

1. Creative values

Creative values are characterized by the achievement of tasks we engage in like painting a picture, tending a garden or writing a story. For several weeks during my recovery, I started playing the piano again. Looking back on that experience, I realize now how it helped me find meaning during the struggle.

2. Experiential values

Experiential values are expressed when you interact in a meaningful way with others – family, friend, those in need. This is love in action. “Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire.”

Another side to experiential values includes experiencing the world and appreciating the beauty around us.

3. Attitudinal values

Attitudinal values speak of the potential we have to make meaningful attitudinal choices in situations involving suffering and adversity. Frankl said, “Our greatest freedom is the freedom to choose our attitude.”

During his time in the concentration camp, Frankl remembers the men who walked around comforting others and giving away their last piece of bread. These men were living proof that everything can be taken but the human freedom to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.

Three Strategies for Greater Happiness

Certain practices and habits foster greater satisfaction and happiness. Here are three I’ve found useful during my journey of recovery.

  • Reflect. Take time to stop and notice what you see and feel. Review how you want to live and act. Keep a journal, talk to wise friends, go for a slow walk, lean into the parts of your life you’d rather ignore.
  • Refocus. Based on what you notice and learn, set a new direction then choose to walk there. Ask God to give you the strength to be outwardly focused, love deeply, and be the creative person you were born to be.
  • Respond. Instead of reacting to circumstances, respond by engaging in creative activities, life-giving experiences and with attitudes that will take you up the mountain, not down into the valley.

When you stop and reflect on your life, what do you see?
What needs to change for you find meaning in life?

Image source: Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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* All quotes are from Viktor Frankl. The research for this blog is based on an article found here.

About Cam Taylor

Life and leadership coach, transition & change specialist, husband, dad, leader, writer, life long learner.

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