In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, Victor E. Frankl is fond of using the Nietzsche quote, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
This is a great quote made even more powerful when you understand everything Frankl had to endure during his life. Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist but, more importantly, he was also a Holocaust survivor.
Man’s Search For Meaning is the story of Frankl’s time as a concentration camp inmate. It was during this horrific time in his life when Frankl discovered the importance of finding meaning, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
By finding meaning in existence, Frankl found a reason to continue living. He lost nearly everything during the Holocaust. He lost his wife, his mother, his brother and many friends. But he did not lose his why.
If someone who survived the Holocaust and experienced the worst nightmares possible can keep his why, you better believe we are able to.
I’ll admit that I get frustrated by some road block hows. How will I get my first book published? How will I get up early to write when I could use another hour or two of sleep?
In these situations I need to focus less on the how and more on the why.
Why do I want to publish a book? To encourage a love of reading for people young and old. Why should I get up at 5am to write? Because I enjoy writing and getting up early will help me become a better writer.
Remember that the Nietzsche quote doesn’t say that he who has a why has an automatic answer to any how. It simply says that by finding our why, we can deal with every how. We will still need to work hard to answer the how, but we can use the why as fuel and motivation to deal with the difficulties.
Whether his why was his wife, his approach to psychotherapy, or his work to help others find meaning, Frankl always had a firmly established why to deal with every how.
So next time you run into a how roadblock, write it down. Writing it down makes it feel less intimidating. Once it is on paper, immediately write down the first why that comes to your mind. Cross out the how and focus all of your energy on that why.
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