This is a quote from a psychiatrist called Viktor Frankl who wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning. He makes the case that those who deal best with the most challenging and difficult life circumstances are those who can find meaning and a sense of control over their environment. What makes his argument incredibly powerful is that he’s describing his own experience as a concentration camp inmate during the Second World War.
“Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.” —Viktor Frankl
From his experiences, Frankl came to believe that our main motivation or drive in life is not pleasure (as Freud had thought) or power (as Adler had thought), but meaning. After the war he established a school of logotherapy – derived from the Ancient Greek term logos, meaning ‘reason’ or ‘principle’. His message is one of hope, that even in the most absurd, painful and dehumanising situations, we can choose to find meaning in our experiences.
Frankl identified three ways in which we can find meaning:
- Creativity – or giving something to the world through self- expression,
- Experiencing the world by interacting authentically with our environment and with others, and
- Changing our attitude when we are faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change.
The changes we’re experiencing in our lives because of coronavirus have created an opportunity for us to reflect on what matters most to us personally, and as a society.