Is There Something that Life Expects of You?

“I’m just not getting anything out of life.” “I don’t know how to keep going.” “I don’t understand why I have to go through this struggle.” Do these statements sound familiar? I think most of us have said something along those lines before. It’s common to get discouraged when we are feeling overwhelmed with life and it’s challenges. Would you like to know how to get through life’s challenges a little easier? Instead of asking what you can get out of life, may I suggest you ask yourself this question: “Is there something life expects of you?”

Viktor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, wrote:

“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct.”

I’ve recently been reading Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. There are so many great concepts in this book that give direction on how to find what life expects from us. His overall message is that we can turn tragedies into triumphs, suffering into growth if we are willing to search for the meaning in our challenges or suffering.  He identified three main ways that we can find meaning in our lives:

  1. By creating a work or doing a deed
  2. By experiencing something or encountering someone
  3. By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering

As we ask ourselves, “Is there something life expects of me?” Frankl would suggest that yes, life does expect you to focus on those three ways of finding meaning in our lives. In doing so, we will find deeper joy in life, more endurance and hope during difficulties and we will be contributing to something greater than ourselves.

This concept resonated with me because of my own experiences with struggles in my own life. I believe that the work I do as a therapist is a direct result of finding meaning in my suffering. That is why I do what I do. I want to build relationships and help others find meaning in their difficulties as well. Personally, I am working harder on doing things each day that bring more meaning to my life and in turn, fulfill the purpose life has for me. This includes working on strengthening my own relationships–calling a friend to tell them how important they are to me or trying to be more patient with my kids, creating a work that contributes to something greater than me–showing up emotionally for my clients, serving my neighbors, and cultivating an attitude of potential personal growth instead of “poor me” suffering when faced with struggles.

I challenge you to ask yourself Frankl’s question and make an effort to do something small every day that will bring more meaning to your life. Pain and suffering are often inevitable but you can do something to give back to life by finding the meaning and fulfilling the role that you are uniquely qualified for.

 

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