Friday, October 30, 2015

Life: meaning, goals and the drive to survive

I have a lot of plans for my life, even when I'm much older. One of the most important aspects for survival in any given situation is a reason for doing so. Consider the case of Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who lived in Vienna. During WWII, Frankl was captured by the Nazis, forced into and ended up surviving several concentration camps, including two of the most notorious, Auschwitz and Dachau. According to psychiatrist, Claire Newton:

"Prisoners in concentration camps were deprived of everything which, in normal circumstances, contributes to a loss of psychological well-being, dignity, and worth. Yet it was in precisely these most adverse conditions that Frankl became convinced of the significant role of values in people's lives. Having something to live for was what enabled prisoners to hold on to the will to live in circumstances that made death seem like a solution.
Frankl believs in the (indestructible) significance of life. Death for Frankl is the boundary which makes life a unique, unrepeatable opportunity. he believes that life is given to us so that we can find meaning - even in suffering.
According to Frankl, suffering does not deprive us of the freedom to decide how we will deal with that suffering. If a situation cannot be changed, if suffering cannot be avoided, what is retained is the freedom to change ourselves. Suffering has meaning.
It offers us the opportunity to transcend adversity. By the way suffering is borne, a tragedy can be turned into a triumph. The freedom to live a life of worth and dignity remains, even in suffering."

Frankl himself said, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
He also said, "Live as if you were living a second time, and as though you had acted wrongly the first time."
Frankl found that if a person had a particular reason for living, they were much more likely to survive. The reasons could include reuniting with a loved one, completing a college degree, or even revenge against their Nazi captors. If didn't seem to matter as long as they had motivation. If there was a reason and they internalized it, they were much more likely to make it out at the end.
So too with life in general. If there is motivation to survive, despite the hardships, we are much more likely to do so--and to a very old age, I might add. Though we cannot thwart God's plans, we can maximize the life he has granted us. The bottom line is, have a plan, and have goals and you will be a victor. I'll end with one more Viktor Frankl quote: "Life can be pulled by goals just as surely as it can be pushed by drive."

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