I’m likely the last personal development junkie in the world to read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It’s like the Alchemist as far as pre-requisites go. I’m very early into the book, so I can’t offer much of the meat just yet, however the book opened with this Nietzsche quote which gave me plenty to chew on.
Frankl makes a good point about how the Nazi Camps stripped them of everything they once thought they couldn’t live without. And yet they did.
“All we possessed, literally, was our naked existence.”
#firstworldproblems is how we jokingly describe someone or something getting in the way of just that thing “we can’t seem to live without”–aware, or at least partially so, how lucky we are to even have those problems.
I really don’t like how it feels to think I can’t live without something. People maybe, but not things. There was a time when I wasn’t sure if I could go a day without a cigarette, or go to sleep on my own without a drink. Now, in order to make sure I don’t fall into that trap again, I have an oddly frequent practice of breaking habits. Well, I call them “phases.”
I had a Guinness and chocolate muffin phase, an oatmeal phase, a green juice phase, a latte phase, an herbalist induced reishi mushroom phase, a coconut water phase; I even had a deer antler extract phase. Some last for months; some longer, some less. Currently, I’m a month into the goat’s milk kefir phase;)
I will go to great lengths to have this thing like clockwork when I’m into it. It’s borderline absurd, in all transparency. But then on any given day, for no particular reason, just like that, I’m over it. Which likely means I’m onto something else.
I’m sure there is plenty of psychology around why it is that we cling to these things. I know marketing research is based upon this very study. But to think about who we’d be without, I personally find more fascinating. I certainly wouldn’t want it forced upon me, but there is something really attractive to me about stripping it all away, willingly.
“What else remained of us were a material link to our formal lives.” Frankl recounts standing naked and fully shaven with just his glasses and his boots.
So if we aren’t our things, because they can be stripped of us … and we aren’t even our family, because they can go too. We aren’t our careers, our pasts, even our knowledge won’t get us very far if we’re not able to use it.
All we have left then is purpose.
Which, not having experienced Nazi Germany, thankfully, I totally get.
In the days when I felt like I had nothing resembling what I had known life to be. [My girlfriend, my house, my career, my truck, my dog.] It was hard to decipher exactly what was the momentum behind me, fueling my every step. Fighting and resisting the loss of each thing I swore I could never live without, yet something kept me from giving in, or giving up, for that matter.
I didn’t know my “Why” then, but perhaps it knew me. I was desperate to know my purpose though, which may have been enough. I certainly had no clear formulated vision. But I had a burning desire to watch it all unfold.
I leave you with this: What things do you cling to that you could probably do without? How might they be holding you back from gaining something more powerful? What’s your WHY? Do you have a clear vision yet?