Victor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning wrote that there are 3 forms of meaning in life: meaning through work, meaning through love and meaning through how we face unavoidable suffering.
Frankl was a successful Austrian psychiatrist who was born in Austria and was sent to a concentration camp during the 2nd World War. He writes powerfully about those experiences.
All of us will face suffering in our lives – that is the nature of existence. Yet how we think about and face the suffering is up to us. My philosophy is to take every slight and hardship in my life and use it as an opportunity to stand firm in my values. I figure that if I deal well with the little difficulties, I am preparing myself to face the big ones.
One can understand why Frankl focuses on the “unavoidable suffering”, but for me, I think of it as how we face both the agony and the ecstasy of life. The extraordinary beauty of life is, for me, more than enough compensation for the pain and the difficulty. We can learn to appreciate the infinite richness and beauty of every moment in life.
Meaning in life through work is about finding your gift to the world and giving your gift. Some people are lucky enough to find a job where they are paid to express it, others find a way of making it a key aspect of the way they perform a job whose focus is something else. Your Life-Calling is the way you stand in the world, your “brand”, if you like.
Life-Calling is expressed in all aspects of your life. My own Life-Calling of “helping people blossom” is the attitude I seek to bring when I spend time with my Godson Teddy or my girlfriend’s children or any of my friends. The essence, for me, is to be very present with a person and hold them in the space of love while they explore who they really are and their relationship with life. It’s a beautiful way to interact with people when I myself am blossoming (although I am not so much fun when I am wilting).
Meaning in life through love is explored through intimate relationships, through mentoring children, friendship, colleagues and also through how you deal with your enemies. Intimate relationships can be difficult because we learn about relationships from our parents and, often, theirs wasn’t perfect. My experience of love as a child wasn’t perfect. We carry what we learnt into adulthood, yet we can grow in love and learn to express it more fully.
The poet Keats said, “I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination”. Once we begin to explore this, we discover that understanding people who have deeply wounded us or seemed our enemy, can lead to forgiveness and forgiveness benefits the forgiver more than the forgiven. When I held a rock in my heart about my mother for things that happened as a child, I suffered by carrying that rock in my heart.
Life-Calling is a sense of your self and purpose that influences all three dimensions. I am lucky enough that my work is about “helping people blossom”. In my personal life I am surrounded by people who love my Calling and relate to it. You might say I have relationships of mutual blossoming! My life is full of soulful conversations and connections. And in terms of facing “the agony and ecstasy of living”, I have come through many hardships in life stronger, humbler and wiser. To use Carl Jung’s phrase, I have had to climb “down a thousand ladders until I could reach out my hand to the little clod of earth that I am”. Discovering my minuteness and insignificance in the infinite vastness of space and time is giving me increasing freedom. Perhaps my true identity is, indeed, the vastness of space and time!
I am running an online Discover Your Life-Calling course starting on Friday 20th March 7pm – 9.30pm.
The Zoom technology is amazing, and we will create a soulful vibe despite being online. You will get to share with others in small intimate online groups, coaching calls and an email group. The technology allows me to interact with everyone personally on the call. Come and spend time with me discovering your Life-Calling.
Life Long and Prosper!