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Man’s Search For Meaning, by Viktor Frankl

Written by an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, Man’s Search For Meaning is one of those books that everyone should find time to read. Unless of course you already ‘get it’, it is very likely to change the way you think. It is very likely to help you understand that happiness is a choice — or as Dr Frankl puts it, that:

“Man is not free from his conditions, but he is free to take a stand towards his conditions.”

In this book, Dr Frankl describes his harrowing journey through the Nazi concentration camps. People’s survival depended on many factors. He found one common thread though. He found that many survivors had something to live for beyond the immediate terror. They had a book to write, a relationship to rebuild or a dream to pursue. People who saw a purpose to their lives had an increased will to live. These were the people who survived.

Dr Frankl describes how, as a long time prisoner in a concentration camp, he found himself stripped to naked existence. His father, his mother, his brother, his wife and many friends died in the camps or the gas chambers. Still, with every possession lost, every value destroyed, cold, hungry and living in permanent expectation of further brutality, he found meaning enough to make his life worth preserving.

Everybody needs to see meaning in their life. This book shows that it is possible to find meaning, no matter how desperate the circumstances.

Frankl’s ideas had a profound effect. People on workshops in many walks of life, for example, are often invited to define their purpose. They can then use this as an inner compass when facing key decisions in life. There are, of course, many ways to define this compass. My friend Mike Pegg describes some of these in this article.


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