So often, turning an introspective moment into action is a step not taken. Transforming the information that made you think ‘oh, that’s interesting!’ into action requires not only introspection and reflection, it takes something else: commitment.
Over the years I have been searching, searching for ‘my cause’. I have often thought that I don’t have the passion or the drive to truly advocate for something. To fight injustice. To protest. Of course, I see the horrible things that happen in this world. I am appalled, shocked, and disgusted, like so many of us. But possibly even more upsetting- I sort of just move on. Continue with my life as is.
Walking through that exhibit, I was taken by not only Weiwei’s ability to convey his dismay but his unique point of view, his dedication, and his commitment. He has found his meaning in life. I wonder how many people he has inspired into action through his art.
Reading Frankl’s book left me inspired, and hopeful. Yes, he lived through an abhorrent time. Yet, he maintained a positive outlook in life, and in people. If he can do it, then anyone can. But he admits it takes commitment; a conscious act.
His extraordinary feat is that he wrote a book about surviving one of the worst times in history and making it relevant to today’s world. Not only relevant, but his ideas can also be immediately applied, making them actionable and achievable. Even to me, a millennial that in all honesty has had a wonderfully blessed, cushioned life.
My main takeaways:
- Make your own choices, and take responsibility for them
- It’s all about attitude
- You can discover meaning in several ways. None of which is better than the other. We can discover our meaning by creating a work or a deed that benefits society; by experiencing something or encountering someone; by the attitude, we take toward unavoidable suffering.
The first two points I have been trying to fully embody for a while now. I often say “own it”, with which I am trying to convey to back your choice 100%, unapologetically and to go for it, all out. If it fails, it fails, but at least you tried. You did your best. That is how I have been raised, and that is how I live my life, as – in my humble opinion- that is the only way to avoid regret. If you gave it your all, there was nothing left to give, and therefore the outcome was out of your hands. You didn’t leave anything on the table. And what your ‘all’ is, is something only you will truly know.
It’s all about attitude; this really landed for me when I went through the Energy Leadership Index training from iPEC for my coaching certification. Of course, I already knew that attitude makes a huge difference, but what became clear is that I am in control: I can choose my attitude consciously. And if I do so, it makes all the difference. It takes practice, but taking that breath to consider how I want to respond to a situation has allowed me to create new opportunities and deepened friendships.
So, that left me with the last point, the point I have ‘struggled’ with for a long while. Meaning. What is the meaning of my life? Am I creating meaningful work? What do I have to offer this world? What is my place? (And when I say struggled, I mean – I sometimes think about it. But it keeps popping up).
What I found so wonderfully inspiring and comforting about Frankl’s book is that I don’t need to know yet. By dedicating my life to serving a cause or a person to love, I can achieve meaning. Maybe my meaning is not meant to be tied to one particular cause. Maybe I am meant to encounter someone, and through our connection create meaning. I don’t know yet. And that is where the beauty is for me. Meaning can come from a future encounter that I don’t know about yet. So, I want to be prepared for it, I want to be my best self. Which can only happen if I show up as the best version of myself right now, and every moment after. While I haven’t found one particular cause to serve (yet), I know that I can show up, and love.
“The world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best” (Viktor Frankl)
I will do my best at being the best person I can be right now, and love full-heartedly.
What do Viktor Frankl and Ai Weiwei have in common?
Commitment. And while by no means do I want to place myself next to these extraordinary men, I commit as well. Commit to doing my best. Every day.
- Have you found your meaning?
- What is your intention every day?
- What attitude do you approach the day with? Unforeseen circumstances? Good news? Bad news?
- What are you ready to commit to?
*Viktor E. Frankl wrote Man’s Search for Meaning after returning to Vienna having spent years in several Nazi concentration camps. It’s both an autobiographical book about his experiences in the camps during World War II, as well as an introduction to his psychotherapeutic method “Logotherapy”. The book focuses on examples of love, hope, responsibility, attitude, inner freedom, and beauty that is to be found always, everywhere, and under any circumstances, to find a meaningful life.
*Ai Weiwei’s exhibition Rapture: Ai Weiwei is a contemporary artist and activist, and uses a wide range of mediums to express his view of society, values and worldwide issues. He is recognized widely for his political engagement, and connecting art to social and human rights issues. “Expressing oneself is a part of being human. To be deprived of a voice is to be told you are not a participant in society; ultimately it is a denial of humanity”.