Happiness is a Choice – Inspiration from ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’

Happiness is a choice

Is it really possible to feel joyous under duress? I asked myself this question as I finished Dr Victor Frankl’s monumental book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning‘. I will publish the book review sometime next week. For now, I just wanted to share my immediate thoughts.

Dr Frankl was a holocaust survivor who had lost his family to the horrors of concentration camps. He himself lived through the hell at Auschwitz and Turkheim.

When the other inmates were committing suicides to escape the daily mental and physical tortures, Dr Frankl made an odd choice. He chose to be happy. Under the most inhumane circumstances, he learnt to be content. That ultimately proved to be the key to his survival.

We are taught from a young age that life is tough. It is, no doubt. But you gotta ask, is it as tough as Dr Frankl’s? Is it as horrible as those who live under constant threats of war and terrorism? (Think of those who lived in Aleppo in recent times). Or is it as fraught as that of our great ancestors who had to go into the wild every day and hunt every day to live?

Actually, our lives are far better, our worries more fleeting, our troubles more temporary than those of any past generation. Yet we somehow fail to look past our passing troubles and even our potential fails to excite us.

Happiness is a choice

Lessons I learnt

What Dr Frankl’s book taught me – no matter where you are in life, no matter how low you have sunk, no matter how bleak your situation, you can choose to be happy. Happiness is a choice. If you just hang in there, you will find even the most trying moments pass.

Adversities you face today will make you a better person tomorrow. Continue to move, do whatever keeps you busy and smiling….use your pain as an instrument for your greatest growth – Robin Sharma

Dr Frankl wrote about using pain to build your character. Find a greater meaning for pain and you can turn your life around and help others going through the same struggles.

In many cases, intrinsic happiness evades you because you seek it outside. Develop yourself as a priority and then get to other stuff. You must value yourself enough to engage in something that will ensure you are a positive influence on the world. Here’s a simple solution courtesy the best-selling author of ‘The 5 Second Rule‘:

Do exercise every day. When you physically move, your physiology changes and that changes your brain – Mel Robbins.

If your mind is strong, if your mind is at peace, your reaction to the challenging times will be different. Your reaction will be how can I make this work not why is this happening to me? You will stop behaving like a victim anymore and feel content with your life.

At the same time, others will look to you not with pity, but with hope. Your strength will become their hope, their strength.

You become what you think about – Earl Nightingale

It is a fact. What you chose to think about yourself and your life becomes true. Quit talking about how it is not going to happen. If your day goes by dwelling on the negatives, you can’t expect to live in victory. Who you are today right now, you do not have to be tomorrow.

Ultimately, the thing that keeps one living is a sense of future. Challenges do their best to take us down, but it is up to us to hold on to that fundamental quality of faith and focus on what lies ahead. This is what Dr Frankl did. He trained his mind to overcome the daily tyranny of the camp. He let his mind wander beyond the barbed wires, he envisioned himself a free man who had to finish off the leftover tasks.

That bubbling excitement stemming from how much you still have to achieve is enough to stimulate an endless spring of happiness inside. I know it’s an incredible bridge to across, but pretty much doable.


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