Dr. Viktor E. Frankl spent nearly three years in Nazi concentration camps where his wife and parents were executed. He and his sister were the only survivors in his family. He faced horrors I couldn’t begin to describe or even imagine.
An educated man with hopes and dreams to pursue a life of success, he found himself treated like an animal facing the possibility of torture, execution or starvation at any moment. Literally stripped of every material possession he owned, he watched friends, family and strangers die: some to execution and others perished after losing their will to live.
Yet, while control of his physical life was completely taken from him, he maintained the will to live with purpose and intention. He had no choice; he knew that given the circumstances under which he was forced to live, if he lost his will, he would die, and without a second thought, his body would be tossed onto a pile of other corpses in a ditch.
Finding Peace – Personal Perspective
Traffic, a sleepless toddler, money management problems and a messy house pail in comparison to the challenges faced by Frankl. Yet, I find myself focusing with frustration on these issues from time to time. How could Frankl find peace while suffering with starvation, grief and unimaginable abuse while I, with my warm, comfortable and safe home, beautiful family, secure and rewarding career and freedom, struggle to find peace?
It is a matter of choice. When I focus on and express gratitude, I find peace and incredible joy.
It really is that simple; however, it is not necessarily easy. It takes practice and persistence: a constant consciousness of my attitude. With practice, I am able to catch myself when life’s demands frustrate me and remember the gifts I have today. I look for opportunities to express and share my gratitude for what I have. This website is one such opportunity for me.
When I find myself questioning my ability to pursue my purpose in life because the demands in my life make it difficult for me to focus on my goals, I remind myself that, Frankl, after having survived inconceivable horror, survived and lived on to be an inspiration to millions.
The Key to Frankl’s Success
Frankl chose not to focus on the horror in which he lived. He instead focused on what small joys he could find and on giving what he could offer to others. He was convinced that he had something to offer and that his life had true purpose. It was through looking for opportunities to share joy with others that he found it for himself. This is a perfect demonstration of the idea that, as Saint Francis said, “it is through giving that we receive.”
Daily Action – Focus on Gratitude
Take some time to focus on the gifts in your life: family and friends, health, your home, your car. Although there may be imperfections, focus on the things that are pleasing to you and allow yourself to feel a sense of gratitude: even if just for a moment.
Take a mental snapshot of that feeling and of the things that you focus on, consider writing them down. Bring yourself back there whenever you begin to find yourself frustrated or unsatisfied.
Remember what Frankl experienced and be grateful that you can learn from his experiences without having to live through them. And, as he did, look for opportunities to express gratitude through kindness and actively look for more reasons to be grateful.