Meaning of Life



Quick introduction 

The book is written by  Dr. Viktor Frankl, founder of logotherapy, neurologist and psychiatrist. A Holocost survivor, who passed through couple concentration camps including Auschwitz. The biggest motivation for Dr. Frankl to survive was the work he was doing which is presented in the exact book.

In the next lines a quick resume of the book is going to be exposed, just in case you are asking yourself sometimes, what the meaning of life is? However I do recommend you to read the book.


“We have come to know Man as he really is. After all man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz, however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.”

                                                                                                     Harold S.Kushner


What is the meaning of life ?

“It did not really matters what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and insteed to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life, daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk in meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual. These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. It is impossible to define meaning of life in general way. Life is something real and concrete, as its tasks. They form man’s destiny, which is different and unique for each individual. No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any other destiny.”

“No situation repeats itself, and each situation calls for a different response. Sometimes the situation in which a man finds himself may require him to shape his own fate by action. Sometimes the answer of the situation is by action, sometimes it is better to make use of an opportunity for contemplation and to realize assets in its way.  Any situation is unique with only one right answer. If it’s faith is to suffer, it single and unique opportunities lies in the way he bears his burden. “What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you”


The will to meaning

“Man however, is able to die and live for the sake of his ideals and values. In the Nazi concentration camps, one could have witnessed that those who knew that there was a task waiting for them to fulfill were most apt to survive.

Thus it can be seen that mental health is based on a certain degree of tension, the tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish, or the gap between what one is and what one should become.

What man actually needs in the first place is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worth while goal is freely chosen task. “

“He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how”  –   Nitzche



“Life is not a primarily a quest for pleasure as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler tought, but a quest for meaning. Frankl saw 3 possible sources for meaning; “

  • In work (doing something significant)
  • In love(caring for another person)
  • In courage during hard times




“Suffering itself is meaningless, we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it. A person may remain brave, dignified and unselfish or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal.”

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you posses except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to a situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you. A man whose self-esteem had always depended on the respect of others, is emotionally destroyed.”

“Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress. An active life serves the purpose of giving man the opportunity to realize values in creative work, while a passive life of enjoyment afforts him the opportunity to obtain fulfillment in experiencing beauty, art and nature. But there is also purpose in that life which is almost barren of both creation and enjoyment and which admits of but one possibility of high moral behavior, namely in man’s attitude to his existence, and existence restricted by external forces. If there is meaning in life at all, there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.”


Always be human, with heart.


“Don’t aim at success- the more you aim at it and make it a target the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued;  it must ensure and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Success will fallow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.”

“The salvation of man is through love and in love.”



“According to logotherapy: “Life as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now”. Logotherapy tries to make the patient fully aware of his own responsibility;  therefore, it must leave to him the opportunity for what, to what, or to whom he understands by himself to be responsible.”

“By  declaring that man is responsible and must actualize the potential meaning of his life. I wish to stress that the true meaning of life is to be discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche, as though it were a closed system. “The self transcendence of human existence”, denotes the fact that being human always points and is directed, to something, or someone, other than oneself- be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself- by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to live- the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself !What is called a self actualization is not an attainable aim at all, for the simple reason that the more one would strive for it, the more he would miss it. In other words, self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence. “

“According to logotherapy, we can discover this meaning in life in three different ways:  (1) by creating a work or doing a dreed . (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.”

“The second way of finding a meaning in life is by experiencing something such as goodness, truth and beauty, by experiencing nature and culture or, last but not least, by experiencing another human being in his very uniqueness – by loving him.”


The meaning of Love

“Love is the only way to gasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person, and even more, he sees that which is potential  in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentials. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities came true. Normally, sex is a mode of expression for love. Sex is justified, even sanctified, as soon as it is a vehicle of love. Love is not a side effect of sex, rather, sex is a way of expressing the experience of that ultimate togetherness which is called love. “

“The fear is mother of the event”.

“The more a man tries to demonstrate his sexual potency or a woman her ability to experience orgasm, the less they are able to succeed. Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree to which it is made a goal in itself.”



Human optimism

“Tragic optimism means that one is, and remains, optimistic in spite of the “tragic triad” as it is called in logotherapy by: pain, quilt and death. And this is turn presupposes the human capacity to creatively turn life’s negative aspects into something positive or constructive. In other words, what matters is to make the best of any given situation. ”The best” however is that which in Latin is called optimum- hence the reason I speak of a tragic optimism, that is an optimism in the face of tragedy and in view of the human potential which at its best always allows for (1) turning suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment (2) deriving from quilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better, and (3) deriving from life’s transitoriness. “




A simple diagram from internet, that I find usefull for defining your work.

Ikigai – A Japanese concept meaning “A reason for being”


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