Can we really live our lives with purpose and meaning?

It’s all very well talking about “purpose” and “values” but we all have bills to pay and deadlines to meet. Is it really possible to live our lives with purpose and meaning?

Here’s one example of why purpose matters and another of how we can always take action, no matter how busy we are.

Viktor Frankl was one of the lucky few who survived the Nazi concentration camps. Reflecting afterwards on what had enabled people to live through these camps, he realised that people who lost their sense of purpose tended to get sick and then die. But people who found purpose, who felt that “life was still expecting something from them,” were able to make meaning of their lives. That gave them “the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” This, for Frankl, was the key that made the difference to their lives.

But what if we are busy?

Consider this recent story of the renowned director of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, Karim Wasfi. When a car bomb exploded in the busy Mansour district, killing at least ten people and injuring 27, Wasfi stopped what he was doing, took his cello, and went to play at the site. When asked why, he responded:

“It’s partially the belief that civility and refinement should be the lifestyle that people should be consuming… It was an action to try to equalise things.”

So the act of playing the cello was the opposite to the act of detonating a bomb?

“Yes, Creating life, basically… Life [in Baghdad] is experienced on a daily basis, even though we don’t experience normalcy. When things are normal, I will have more responsibilities and obligations. But when things are insane and abnormal like that I have the obligation of inspiring people, sharing hope, perseverance, dedication, and preserving the momentum of life.”

Even in the most extreme circumstances there is always something we can do. And when we make the meaning of our lives it gives us the freedom to choose how we respond.

This means the real question, surely, is how can we think of living our lives without purpose and meaning?


Adapted from Inner Leadership. Buy the Book


Photo credit: Amal al-Jabouri, for Al Jazeera

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