Saturday, January 15, 2011

Finding Meaning in the Now

"Everything can be taken from a man or a woman 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." -Viktor E. Frankl

Some have suggested that man's highest drive is pleasure or power, and all that he does is attributed to one of these motivations. We are tempted to adopt this psychology when we see excesses of pleasure-seeking or power-grabbing in our society.

Viktor Frankl , a famous Psychotherapist and author of "Man's Search for Meaning," suggested man's highest drive is to find meaning in life. He also explained that meaning-frustrated people default to pleasure-seeking or power-seeking to find happiness.

Contrary to the pleasure or power ideas, Frankl suggested meaning and happiness cannot be found for the seeking, but rather are a by-product of three activities:

Deeply experiencing a person or a thing.
Doing a work/creating something of lasting value (occupation, avocation, etc).
Choosing one's attitude amidst inescapable suffering.

He referred to these as the three meaning values: experiential, creational, and attitudinal.

What is remarkable is that these three activities are based in the present, and therefore these are values of the Now. To deeply experience someone, we must be fully present with them. To create something of lasting value, we must be present with our work. To choose our attitude while in pain, we must be present with our pain.

If we are present with a person, a work, or our pain, we will not identify with our egoic mind. We will not dwell on the past or fantasize about a better future. And in so doing, we stumble upon happiness.

"For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it." -Viktor Frankl

Saturday, January 1, 2011


As is the custom in our society, I've been asked several times if I have made any resolutions for the New Year. Actually, I have not. No, I'm not perfect--far from it--and yes there are things I would like to improve on in my life. So why no resolutions?

I have found that intentions are so much more powerful than resolutions. Sure, it sounds like semantics; I assure you it is not. Let's take a look.

Resolutions come from a place of recognizing that there is something about me that I do not like, and I should change. Resolutions do not come from a place of acceptance of what is, but rather from a place of making a judgement of what should be. It is me making a judgement, creating conflict inside of myself.

On the other hand, intentions are born out of a desire to do something because I want to do it. Intentions are congruous with who I am on the inside and what I value and therefore do not create conflict. Value shifts almost always precede manifestation.

For example, I valued a healthy lifestyle long before it manifested in my life. It was something kept trying to change with shoulds. I should exercise. I should lose weight. Finally, I released the shoulds and just said, "You know, I intend to run. I want to run. Being a runner is on my 'bucket list.' Why not start now?" And I did.

I didn't set any should barriers for myself. I just went for a run. I liked how it made me feel and I did it again. And again. And I said, "I wonder how far I can run today? I wonder if I can go a little further?" And I did. "I intend to run today," became my self-talk. Not, "I should run today." I'd never get anywhere with that sort of self-talk.

And you know, when you intend to do something today, and you don't make it happen, there's no judgement. But, if you should do something, and don't, man the judgement is harsh. And it's like getting behind on studying. Eventually, you try to cram (which doesn't work) or just give up.

Do you see the difference?

What do you intend to do this year?

I intend to run a half-marathon. And if I don't, no problem.

I probably will.

Be kind to yourself!