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While reading a number of self-help or how to be a better person type of books, I noticed that all most all these modern-day  authors, like Stephen Covey in his powerful book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, kept referring to one other book as a must read. This book is Victor Frankl’s: Man Search for Meaning.

As a young Jewish man in the early 1940’s  Frankl made the decision to stay with his parents in Vienna even though he had the chance to escape the coming Nazi horror which was to become the Holocaust. The book was published in 1946 and details his experiences in a concentration camp.

In an article in The Atlantic in January 2013, Emily Esfahani Smith references Dr. Frankl and his book and reflects on a statement by Frankl that it is  the very pursuit of happiness that may actually get in the way of being truly happy. It is the search for meaning in one’s life that is the most important step of the journey.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

In his bestselling 1946 book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which he wrote in nine days about his experiences in the camps, Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: Meaning, an insight he came to early in life. When he was a high school student, one of his science teachers declared to the class, “Life is nothing more than a combustion process, a process of oxidation.” Frankl jumped out of his chair and responded, “Sir, if this is so, then what can be the meaning of life?”

“To the European,” Frankl wrote, “it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to ‘be happy.’ But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.'”

The wisdom that Frankl derived from his experiences there, in the middle of unimaginable human suffering, is just as relevant now as it was then: “Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself — be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love — the more human he is.”

Link to article on Man’s Search for Meaning

One Response to ““It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.””

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