What is to give light must endure burning. ~Viktor Frankl
The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. ~Pablo Picasso
*Followers may recognize that portions of today’s post were first published January 2, 2018. For the many newcomers, welcome – we look forward to finding purpose and meaning for 2019 together!
What is the meaning of your life?
It’s an easy enough question to ask – so much so that it’s almost cliche.
But it’s hard to answer truthfully. To fully consider it – to take in the gravity of it, the weight of it, the texture surrounding it.
What do you stand for?
But even though it’s hard, knowing the answer gives you the key to unlocking so much of your potential.
And your power.
A story: During WWII, a promising young jewish psychotherapist named Viktor Frankl refused an opportunity to escape the Nazis.
He had obtained a passport – a golden ticket that would save his life and allow him to continue his groundbreaking work on the human search for meaning. But he knew suffering – immense, crushing suffering – was coming.
Could he leave his parents behind to travel that road alone?
He gave up his golden ticket. He remained.
Ultimately Frankl was sent to Auschwitz, where he counseled himself and his fellow prisoners through surviving the un-survivable. His experiences in the camps solidified what he had always theorized: life demands meaning.
When there is meaning, there is survival.
Time and again, he saw that those who had “something to live for” did just that.
One prisoner yearned to see his young son again. Another, a scientist, was driven to finish his life’s work.
Others who lacked such passion – such purpose – perished.
After the war, he continued to see that people who found a meaning in their struggles powered through them. He determined that “[s]triving to find meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man.”
This is all the more interesting at this time of year, when we’re bombarded with messages that we should all be searching for “happiness.”
Books and seminars tell us to find our happiness with this secret formula or by repeating that affirmation ten times every morning. (Especially if you couple those affirmations with a $4,999 ticket to a motivational seminar.)
Well-intentioned articles peddle the “top ten tips for finding happiness.”
Swindlers Infotainers proclaim that the key to unlocking our happiness is to earn more money or save time, which we’ll do if we join this group, or take that course, or buy their e-book/seminar/recording.
Frankl knew better. He knew that “happiness” is fleeting and vapid.
It’s the emotion that we feel after we’ve opened the perfect present, or lost the five pounds, or gotten the pretty dress. It’s fun while it lasts – so fun that some people chase that happiness dragon their whole lives.
But happiness is an emotion derived from receiving. It’s a selfish emotion, really. Primal. Instinctive.
Even animals experience happiness.
But humans are different from animals; we look for more than happiness. We look for a reason. We look for a purpose in our lives, a way to give above and beyond ourselves.
We look for transcendence of purpose; a way to leave an imprint on the world that lasts long after we are gone.
A monument to our lives, well lived.
If happiness is taking, then purpose is giving – and it’s through the giving that we find contentment and satisfaction.
And, for many of us, the Resistance has given us a way to give ourselves for a higher purpose. That purpose has kept many of us going.
These past two years have been full of emotional turmoil. Psychologists claim that they’ve seen a rise in anxiety among their patients; articles and books describe how the American psyche is handling the devolution of our democracy.
But go to a meeting of activists, and you’ll see and hear something quite different.
There’s a community – a certainty of purpose, a renewed self-worth, a feeling that we are part of something bigger than ourselves and that our contribution is meaningful – if not downright essential.
So in a few weeks, those who entered this new year looking for happiness and quick fixes will probably feel unfulfilled. We’ll see more articles about people abandoning their New Year’s resolutions, and about depression, and about anxiety.
But for the Resistance, this year – and every one thereafter – holds so much potential. We know our purpose. We know that this is our time to use our unique gifts to better not only ourselves, but our country. And the world.
Our community didn’t exist two years ago.
We created it with shared values, shared energy, shared hope.
We’re not just surviving this period in time.
This is our time.
Next week we will return to our traditional formal – a “pep talk” followed by a list of action items (“small deeds”) to take. This week, take a few extra days to reflect on what you’ve accomplished. We’ve done a lot, together.
I’m so, so proud.
I hope you are, too.
Happy New Year, much love – and rest up, friends, because there will be much to do in 2019.
P.S.: Yes! Some of you have asked if I write for a living, and the answer is “I sure do!” Visit www.mhornish.com to learn more.
P.P.P.S: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.
If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!
Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.