Among all the life purpose quotes out there, one reigns supreme.
This life purpose quote is the epitome of purpose in that it holds the key to discover your life purpose in every moment. Beyond that, it’s counterintuitive, which is often a good sign.
This life purpose quote, by Viktor Frankl, turns the process for discovering your purpose inside out. Most of us seek to discover our purpose by trying to figure out what we want from life as if life were a separate entity upon which we might impose our will. When what we want doesn’t fit into the context of our lives, it’s frustrating.
And there’s an eternal conundrum associated with attempting to impose our (however noble) subjective will upon life. If we are the sole source of our purpose, then we’re in the position of making it up. To many, this is a good thing! Life doesn’t have a purpose for you, so make one up! It’s the only option. Besides, creating your own purpose makes you a master of your own destiny.
Or so the sentiment goes.
For some of us, the fatal flaw in this strategy has to do with credibility. If I just make something up, how can I trust it?
We need to discover a purpose with the understanding that we aren’t separate from life itself. And while the world exists objectively whether we’re dead or alive, we are pervasively bound to our context (life on Earth). There is little we can control, so little in life that we consciously choose!
From the weather, to other people, to the very thoughts that pop into our head; the only choice we are capable of making is how to respond. Moreover, many of our responses are autonomous reactions based on biology, environment, and upbringing.
We know this but tend to avoid the reality of it when considering life purpose.
In the center of life on the inside and out, our limited consciousness exists, capable of tracking 7-9 chunks of information at a time. Basically, we can hold a phone number in consciousness. As soon as we think of something else, we lose the phone number. Is it from this place that we are to determine our grand purpose?
Victor Frankl was a concentration camp survivor during World War II. The death camp experience gave him the horrific opportunity to be stripped of every possession, family member, and every last shred of human dignity. Still, he managed to rediscover dignity in the only experience available to him –suffering. Bearing his burden with the dignity that no Nazi could take from him became his purpose.
We can rightly assume that Frankl did not want to suffer on the edge of death amidst the horrors of a concentration camp. We can know that he did not choose nor want to lose everything he held near and dear. Yet, this was the awful situation in which he found himself.
Imagine if Frankl clung to his personal desires to enjoy a life of relative ease. The stark reality of the death camp offered no such opportunity. Prisoners who inwardly insisted that the brutality all around them shouldn’t be happening were worse off, according to Frankl. They were right. Those unspeakable atrocities should never happen. Yet, they were, in fact, happening, making it impossible to fulfill any purpose that a prisoner would desperately prefer.
Frankl soon learned that he must accept his circumstances for what they were and make the only available choice, the last of human freedoms, he called it. This is the choice to choose one’s attitude or response to outward circumstances.
What you want matters less than you think
We do not choose what happens all around us. We do not choose the vast majority of what happens within us. How can we choose something so complex as a life purpose and expect life to cooperate?
Here’s the quote:
Stop asking what you want from life. Instead, listen to what life asks of you.Inspired by Viktor Frankl