Monday, November 16, 2015

"The last of the human freedoms — to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's way"

Some years ago, I read an eyeopener of a book titled Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl. I found it to be so inspirational I bought two copies for the Commits library. Today, while rearranging the books on the shelf in my cabin, I happened to pick it up again.

I remember being struck by one particular passage and I went hunting for it again:

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's way.

And here, in an excerpt from the preface, is Frankl's take on success and happiness:

And so it is both strange and remarkable to me that — among some dozens of books I have authored — precisely this one, which I had intended to be published anonymously so that it could never build up any reputation on the part of the author, did become a success. Again and again I therefore admonish my students:

"Don't aim at success — the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run — in the long run, I say! — success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it."

Here you can read the New York Times obituary of Viktor Frankl to learn more about the remarkable man and his little book that, at the time of his death in 1997, had been reprinted 73 times, translated into 24 languages, sold more than 10 million copies and was still being used as a text in high schools and universities: Psychiatrist of the Search for Meaning, Dies at 92.

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