In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, author Victor Frankl talks about how some victims of the Holocaust were able to find meaning in their lives. Frankl’s book is now very well known, as is his strategy for surviving one of the worst travesties in the history of man. Frankl, and others like him, who were fortunate enough to not be killed, all shared a common survival strategy. They all had a compelling purpose. In Frankl’s case he became an outside observer of his experience with the purpose that he would one day teach others and write about what he endured.
While Frankl was deprived of any means of recording his experience, no typewriter, no laptop, no iPad and not even a pen or pencil, or paper on which to write he continued to find meaning in every day.
No matter what job you have, I doubt the working conditions can match the living conditions of someone in the Holocaust. So first, be grateful for your circumstances, things can always be worse.
Maybe we cannot financially afford to quit the seemingly meaningless, dead end job we have today, but perhaps we can take just a small amount of time out of each day to pursue something that truly provides us fulfillment.
Tal Ben-Sharar has what I believe, to be an outstanding exercise for slowly adding meaningful actions to your day, that will lead to fulfillment, into your extraordinarily busy life. The exercise is called: Mapping your Life (Ben-Sharar, 46). In the exercise he encourages you to record your activities for a week of your life. Then put a number between 1 and 5, with 1 indicating no meaning or pleasure and 5 signifying high meaning or pleasure, next to each activity. Then consider the activities you want to spend more time doing, and the amount of time throughout the week you would like to devote to them. Add some of those activities to your to-do list or your weekly/daily schedule.
Now, if you’re like me recording your week never really works. After the first day I’ve completely forgotten that I’m supposed to be recording my activities. In fact, it’s difficult for me to remember to record my Weight Watchers points each day, on an app specifically made for that purpose.
However this exercise still works simply by doing the last component. Identify those activities that you believe will bring you small levels of fulfillment and assign a reasonable time you would like to spend doing those activities. Now, if these are activities that will take up to 15 or 20 minutes get them on your to do list for the days of the week you wish to accomplish them. If these activities will take more than 15 or 20 minutes, schedule those into your weekly calendar.
Think about this activity when you have accomplished absolutely nothing on today’s to do list, when you have run out of energy, and the entire day has spiraled well out of your control. If you can do just that one thing that will give you fulfillment and meaning the day can still be a victory for you.
Today, writing this blog was my victory.
Ref: Ben-Shahar, T. Happier, learn the secrets to daily joy and lasting fulfillment. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2007. Print.