Book Summary: Man’s Search for Meaning – By Viktor E Frankel
Thomas Jefferson wrote – Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of happiness seems to be the end game for life, but is it? Viktor Frankel is a concentration camp survivor and goes one level deeper in Man’s Search for Meaning.
Why is this important to me?
I am not doing this summary to waste your time. It is my vision to provide concise action steps that you can adopt right now to enhance your life. This book is probably the most important book you will ever read. Finding the true meaning in life is the key to self-actualization. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs really shows that with the correct meaning the WHY definitely outperforms the HOW.
Dr. Frankel quotes the words of Fredrick Nietzsche – “He who has a WHY to live for can bear almost any HOW.”
Dr. Frankel reveals what life was like in the concentration camps and also discusses Logotherapy which he created. For the sake of time, I will highlight key thoughts to really crystalize Nietzsche’s words that a compelling WHY trumps any HOW.
Dr. Frankel goes into detail on the concentration camps. Life was simply hell on earth. What appeared to him was the mind’s power to protect. The longer the stay, the more numbing all human emotion became. There are three behaviors I would like to highlight that are very strong and appeared based on Dr. Frankel’s experiences.
1. Hope – People died daily in the camps. The guards played a finger game and if you were picked you were dead. The simply act of being pointed at delivered your fate in an instant. The prisoners that focused on the WHY to live had a better chance at survival. Dr. Frankel figured out that you needed to look young and always be eager to work. This increased your chance for survival. One thought controlled each man which was to stay alive for the family waiting for him at home.
2. Freedom – This part seems very counter-intuitive but there is one thing that nobody can take away from you and that is the freedom to choose HOW YOU REACT TO A SITUATION. This simply power gave the survivors the tools to live and survive. This one lesson can be life changing for anybody that decides to use it properly.
3. Mental Protection – The atrocities in the camps were hell on earth. The mind will protect and build shields for survival. Dr. Frankel discusses the second phase of camp life and that is lack of emotions. After a while the mind became calloused to the atrocities and pure survival ruled. If a dead prisoner was found then they were stripped of clothes by other prisoners. This seems inhuman but pure natural survival dictates these actions and the mind numbs the body to protect it.
Man’s Search for Meaning is a life changing book. Most books today talk about being happy but let me paraphrase Dr. Frankel – “For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. Dr. Frankel developed Logotherapy and his meaning in life was to help others find meaning in theirs.
I hope you have found this short summary useful. The key to any new idea is to work it into your daily routine until it becomes habit. Habits form in as little as 21 days. One thing you can take away from this book is your freedom to choose how you will respond to a situation. Things happen in life and forces outside your control can dictate what you do in an instant. Life can change on a dime and your decision on your response is a freedom that you possess and can never be taken away.