Why Purpose, Not Hope, Will Make You Happier. A Book Review on Man’s Search For Meaning By Viktor Frankl

Before the year comes to an end, I would like to recommend and review a book that made an impact on me. This book took me on the search for more in life than just letting things happen to me.

The book is Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. And I would like to share it with you and I look forward to knowing your thoughts on this book.

Enter Viktor

He who has a “why” to live for, can bear with almost any “how”. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Like a hitchhiker missing the incoming car, it’s easy to let life runs by us without catching it. When a ride finally comes along, we hope that the car that picks us up will lead to a story worth telling to our friends and future kids.

As with life, we always hope for the best. But we use hope too often to make room for our inaction. We cannot drive and let hope guide us to the destination. Reaching a destination takes purpose.

And purpose is what we need in life.

Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning” tells a story of a man finding his purpose in the least expected place – a Nazi’s concentration camp.

From ashes, the flame burns again

Viktor regularly, but not too regularly, gives us a glimpse into his life in the camp. He describes to us how the guards are going to torture them, how his comrades are dying in a gas chamber next door, hinting the suspense that his life may be over in any second.

Don’t worry, Viktor does not write this book to scare but to inspire, he does not overplay the torture details. He merely uses his experience as a subtle and clever storytelling tool to share his learning of meaning with most of the dialogue happens internally, and it pulls us into his world in an empathetically enjoyable way.

The Good

It helps that Viktor displays a sense of composition and relativity that is distinctly different from telling a story from an authoritative perspective. “Man’s Search For Meaning” is a no-nonsense, lean book – the best kind when it comes to biography. It feels like every paragraph has been considered carefully as the story beats like the dying heart of a man without hope to live, perfectly setting up the emotional stakes and the learning of having a purpose.

The story has a calming sense of narrative, almost all of it taking place in the concentration camps that Viktor finds himself being sent blindly to, knowing that despite the sufferings, he will find his purpose and the importance of it. This is not one of those biographies who beg for your sympathies. It is a personal story that arouses the idea that life can be so different when you have a purpose.

Which, is the crux of logotherapy.

The Message

At the core of “Man’s Search For Meaning”, it is a message that in order to live meaningfully, we need to find meaning in every aspect of our lives. Even in sufferings, as experienced by Viktor and some of his cell mates.

It is a book about self-discovery that led to self-actualisation, and it is that emotional and personal hook that elevates the message. It helps a great deal that Viktor completely bares all his inner struggles out.

My Thoughts

With almost no dialogue, “Man’s Search for Meaning” relies a great deal on the storytelling for the lessons on logotherapy to be sifted through. At times, I needed to reread some paragraphs to understand the impact of those sufferings had on him as a logotherapist.

While the lessons are not listed in bullet points or 12 how-to steps, Viktor has used concise sentences to deliver his message in a poetic manner. It is nitpicking but I would love to learn more on how one can find his own meaning or purpose in this modern life.

What Did We Learn?

We live in such a world which emphasises so much on pleasure that it is difficult to imagine we need to dig into our pains to find our meanings. We avoid any discomfort at all costs and sometimes at the expense of others, when it is necessary. So many books out there are written that you have to find your passion, search for the meaning in what you love, it is a part of who we are as a species.

Viktor suggests an alternative, that not only we can find meaning in what we love, but in everything, that having a purpose makes a life whole. Regardless of your situation, “Man’s Search For Meaning” asks a question, if a man knows that he is most definitely likely to be dead, in a dire conditions where living is harder than dying, what keeps him alive.

To answer the question, VIktor summed it all up in a Nietzsche’s quote – he who has a why to live for, can bear with almost any how. You don’t just put down this book having experienced a tough wake up call, you put it down on a high, the kind of high that only comes from the fire burning in your belly.

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