“Man can endure almost any suffering if he can see a purpose or meaning in it. Conversely, he will be miserable even amidst great luxury if he cannot relate his life to some larger context which makes it meaningful” (Viktor E. Frankl).
THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH OUR SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON OUR PURPOSE. Viktor E. Frankl, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps and the author of Man’s Search for Meaning, wrote powerfully about this matter. He learned firsthand what is obvious to any of us if we think about it seriously: we can deal with any set of external circumstances if we have inside of us a strong sense of purpose. Seeing a meaning to our existence in this world and living in the direction of an all-important goal is not just nice — it is crucial.
But it’s not just crucial to our survival; it’s crucial to our enjoyment. As Frankl put it, a person will be “miserable even amidst great luxury if he cannot relate his life to some larger context which makes it meaningful.” Henry J. Golding said it this way: “What our deepest self craves is not mere enjoyment, but some supreme purpose that will enlist all our powers and will give unity and direction to our life. We can never know the profoundest joy without a conviction that our life is significant.” If we’re not living for some purpose that is meaningful to us, even the highest joys will become tiresome.
People who know about achievement and success will tell you quickly that excellence requires tenacity in the pursuit of a purpose. Billy Sunday, who was a professional baseball player before he become an evangelist, was right when he said, “More people fail through lack of purpose than through lack of talent.” To get to any place worth going to, we have to visualize our purpose and then pursue it tenaciously.
But pursuing our purpose tenaciously requires that our purpose be extremely important, and so I want to recommend something to you. You need to have a purpose that is of such all-encompassing importance that you would give up anything and everything for it, even your life. This world is full of tradeoffs and exchanges, and “purpose” presents us with the biggest of them. So my wish for you is simply this: I hope you will have a purpose for living that is so valuable that you will spend everything else in order to attain it.
“The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose” (John Mason Brown).