Man's Search for Meaning

By: Viktor Frankl

Man's Search for Meaning is the most universally applicable, cross-culturally life altering book I've yet to encounter. I can't imagine anyone reading this book and not being moved by Frankl's incredible story surviving the Holocaust, the understanding gained in such atrocity, and his conclusion that meaning is the primary drive of our human existence. I've ran into a couple "books that most influenced your life" survey-results and this book never fails to be near the top.

My 10 Favorite Index Cards:

Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.
He who has a Why to live can bear almost any How.
— Friedrich Nietzsche
It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.
Thus it can be seen that mental health is based on a certain degree of tension, the tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish, or the gap between what one is and what one should become. Such a tension is inherent in the human being and therefore is indispensable to mental well-being.
If architects want to strengthen a decrepit arch, they increase the load that is laid upon it, for thereby the parts are joined more firmly together.
The meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day, from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment. To put the question in general terms would be to the question posed to a chess champion: ‘Tell me, Master, what is the best move in the world?’
To be sure , a human being is a finite thing, and his freedom is restricted. It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions.
Freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.
Consider a movie: it consists of thousands upon thousands of individual pictures, and each of them makes sense and carries a meaning, yet the meaning of the whole film cannot be seen before its last sequence is shown. However, we cannot understand the whole film without having first understood each of its components, each of the individual pictures. Isn’t it the same with life?

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