Viktor Frankl, a 20th century Austrian psychiatrist, neurologist, and Holocaust survivor, devoted his life to studying, understanding, and promoting “Meaning in Life”. According to Viktor Frankl, it is the MEANING we give to our lives that motivates and directs our actions.
Below you will find Meaning-centred strategies children, adolescents and adults can use in their every-day life, especially when they are faced with challenges.
In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl recounts a great observation he made in the concentration camps: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Thus, whatever the hardships and difficulties you go through, you can always choose to make it an opportunity to grow or, to the contrary, an opportunity to suffer more. Suffering has the meaning that you give to it.
In his book “Prisoners of our Thoughts”, Alex Pattakos explains how to exercise your agency and adopt a constructive attitude by bringing out the positives in every situation. This attitude allows you to conceive new possibilities (creative visualization) and turn them into realities.
The author adds, “It’s not just about positive thinking; rather, it is about focusing our attention on a meaning that is more acceptable to us.”
Viktor Frankl also suggests seeing the present as if you were granted a new life, and approach it with a mindset that you can make better decisions than in your “first life”. It is about acting with awareness and making responsible decisions.
You can compare your life to a calendar.
If you throw away the pages of each new day that passes, you will not have faced and resolved your hardships and difficulties. However, if your approach difficulties with enthusiasm, it is like putting away each page of the calendar to reread later the notes you have taken. You look back with pride at all that you have accomplished and become aware of the richness of your past life while you continue building your life.
This technique aims at diverting your attention away from yourself and redirect it to an event, another person, or an important cause. It is worth noting that Dereflection does not mean ignoring the problem but taking your attention away from your self-distraction and putting the focus where it belongs.
Finding purpose can give your life meaning and help improve your overall wellbeing. Ask yourself: What do I value most? How can I make a difference in the world? What would I like to achieve? If you don't know what to answer, it's time to try new experiences, new activities, read about new subjects, meet new people.
Become aware of the beauty of art or nature, reflect on high values such as greatness, benevolence, kindness, justice, and nurture meaningful relationships with others.
Encourage your children to be AUTHENTIC, that is, to follow their interests, their curiosities, so they can get closer to understanding who they are and why they are who they are. Likewise, encourage them to adopt a positive outlook and attitude on the events of their lives and make constructive, responsible choices.