Vicktor Frankl wrote Man’s Search for Meaning after surviving a stint in a Nazi concentration camp.
With a background in psychiatry, he studied the people in the camp looking for why some survived and why some gave up and died.
He found that those that had the will to live felt they had a mission in life to complete. In his own case, it was to finish the book he was writing and to see his wife again.
“Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a ‘secondary rationalization’ of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone.”
“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”
If the runaway success of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, is any indication people are desperate to find meaning in life.
But, what Frankl proposes is not just general, but a specific, unique mission only possible to be fulfilled by an individual.
“Frankl was once asked to express in one sentence the meaning of his own life. He wrote the response on paper and asked his students to guess what he had written. After some moments of quiet reflection, a student surprised Frankl by saying, ‘The meaning of your life is to help others find the meaning of theirs.’
‘That was it, exactly,’ Frankl said. ‘Those are the very words I had written.'”