I was about twenty years old when I first read Victor Frankl's book, Man's Search for Meaning. It was a time in my life when I discovered, like so many in my generation, self-help books. Over thirty years later, I still recall two books that stood out from all the others - Psycho-Cybernetics and Man's Search for Meaning. Both of them, in different ways, provided me with an understanding of the power of the mind in achieving goals and in overcoming challenges in our lives. Frankl's book also left me with an understanding that we can endure great things in our lives when we believe there is meaning in our suffering.
I think that there are times in our lives when we experience a need to define or redefine what gives our lives meaning. Life transitions are times when we find ourselves asking some of those deeper questions.
Typical transitions include:
- young adults as they transition to independence
- marriage or divorce
- becoming a parent
- death of a loved one
- health challenges
- loss of faith or alienation from religious systems
- financial challenges
- empty nest
There are many more. I've read a list of over 30 life changes that lead us into a transition. Transitions are that time between what was (the old reality) and what will be (when the changes have been integrated into our lives). Changes are generally an event that lead us into transition. It is during the transitions that we begin to make sense and find meaning in our new reality.
This week, a friend gave me a book to read called: The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters. I read it in three days. In the introduction the author, Emily Esfahani Smith writes:
The rise of philosophy, religion, natural science, literature, and even art can be at least partly explained as a response to two questions, "What is the meaning of existence?" And, "How can I lead a meaningful life?" (p.4)
Esfahani Smith is part of the growing movement of Positive Psychology, a discipline that originated to investigate what makes life fulfilling and worth living but became increasingly focused on measuring happiness in people's lives. The irony, researchers discovered, was that the more we focus on happiness in our lives the more unhappy we become.
I won't turn this post into a book review, I will say that I enjoyed this book and I am going back to review all my Post-It flags and highlights and to do some journaling and reflecting on what stood out for me. I'm going to re-read Viktor Frankl as well. At the end of the day, I think we all want to live meaningful lives. What gives you meaning in your life? Sometimes, we need to have a conversation with someone to help us clarify what gives us meaning. If you want to explore that with a coach, email me.