The great psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was convinced that addiction is a response to living a life that lacks personal meaning.
One reason for this empty life is that the person is not true to themself. They don’t understand strengths or limitations. They’re unaware of their values and what is truly important to them. They don’t appreciate that they’re capable of digging deep within and finding courage, faith, and perseverance.
If you don’t really understand who you are, then you can’t really be true to yourself. In fact, those who lack self-awareness often are more motivated not by what they want but by their own guilt or shame or fear.
In this article, we’ll look at four exercises to help you live a meaningful life. Research has shown that this understanding inevitably leads to a richer and more fulfilling life.
Growing Through Adversity
Viktor Frankl believed that any situation could offer an opportunity to grow as a person. That idea is not unique to Frankl, by the way; Shakespeare, for one, was sure of it, too. And it’s not just the nice things. Psychological research tells us that it is precisely by facing challenges and adversity we gain a better understanding of ourselves, the world around us, and how to deal with that world.
Those who feel life is dull and boring—that is, who struggle with living a meaningful life—don’t pay attention to how they can grow from adversity. They seem to learn very little, other than to reinforce old and stale thinking. “I always knew I’d mess things up.” Their lives would become fuller if they appreciated that adversity is an opportunity for personal growth.
We know that living a life that is personally meaningful demands you be true to yourself. We might want to do something but are too afraid to take the risk. So rather than being true to ourselves, we choose the easy path, often by simply trying to avoid something we’re afraid of.
Choose some activity that you are afraid of doing. Keep it simple, such as dancing without being intoxicated or speaking in public. Make a plan to tackle your fear. You might just jump into it, such as grabbing your partner and going dancing. Or you might plan a less abrupt approach, such as taking a few private dancing lessons before doing the official task.
After doing it, think about your experience. How bad was it? Did you learn anything about yourself, such as your ability to face a fear and overcome it? Was all the energy you used to worry about and avoid the activity worth it? Did you meet new friends by doing it?
There is a curious phenomenon happing in today’s world. When I buy something at the store, the cashier tells me, “Have a good day.” When I meet a friend in the park, they tell me, “Have a good day.”
The problem is that nobody tells me why I should have a good day. I don’t hear people say, “Have a good day . . . because you still have your health” or “Have a good day . . . because your family loves you.” The “Have a good day” bit, according to Peanuts creator Charles M. Schultz, actually comes from the old Christian world, “Have a good day . . . because Christ has risen.” There was a reason for having a good day.
The reason is about being grateful for something, someone, or some experience. Psychologist Robert Emmons, the guru of studying gratitude, has shown that practicing gratitude in our daily lives leads to greater well-being and a life that is personally meaningful.
Seeing Different POVs
Coaches of business leaders have their clients look at a situation from another POV. The idea is to appreciate that the way each of us interprets a situation is only one view of it. Unfortunately, too many of these leaders assume their view is the truth. Those who practice this exercise change their beliefs.
Changing our perspective can help us tap into our empathy and compassion for others. We can begin to understand that we all feel difficult emotions that can drive our responses and actions.
Discover a Meaningful Life at Georgia Strait
At Georgia Strait Women’s Clinic, we believe it is critical to approach our clients with real curiosity and a willingness to listen carefully to their concerns. We aim to help clients with any issues they bring forward, including medical issues, relationships with families and friends, work-life balance, and spiritual health.
Our counselling therapies help clients explore how they see the world and their place in it, with the goal of personal healing and growth. Our clinical staff is trained in numerous therapeutic techniques such as Narrative Therapy, Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, and Dialectic Behavioural Therapy.