There was an interesting article recently in the Atlantic entitled There’s More to Life That Being Happy. The article is on Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, which was one of the most influential books I’ve read in my life. I suppose I owe a thank you to whichever college professor assigned it to me at this point, but I cannot remember which one did!
According to the article, most Americans say they’re happy. But they don’t have much meaning in their life.
We are blessed to live in an amazing place, where most of us have abundant resources at our immediate disposal. We have everything that we could ever want or need. We have a general state of happiness. But we seek to fill the hole of a seemingly meaningless existence by receiving even more. It doesn’t work. And we numb the hole with addictions.
A movie (available on Netflix streaming) called Jeff, Who Lives at Home, deals with a similar issue. I highly recommend it; great characters, great writing, and a great story.
Jeff finds that, even though he has all the comforts of home, he hasn’t found meaning in his life. So he follows synchronicity that leads him to do something extraordinary, something that gives him that feeling of meaning. He finds it. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that it underscores Frankl’s message.
According to Frankl, happiness comes from receiving. Meaning comes from giving.
I would argue that to live a good life, you need a little of both. And I’d also argue that if we think we aren’t receiving or giving, we’re not attuned to our nature as human beings. We’re always giving and receiving. It’s part of our existence here on earth.
In Mark’s book, Inspired Manifestation, he talks about our natural place in this cycle of life. We’re constantly in a state of giving and receiving. Even if you feel you’re at the end of your rope, you are receiving something.
Even if all you are doing is breathing, you are receiving. And as you exhale, you are giving.
At your most basic level, you have all of the elements of both happiness and giving available to you now. You are giving. And you are receiving.
The key is to notice the most basic level of your place in that cycle, then extrapolate that back up to something much larger than that. Expand your notion of who you are. As you claim your place in the cycle of giving and receiving, you expand your experience and attention given towards your place in the cycle of All That Is.
Expansion Beyond The Self
Your ego, or your sense of self, divorces you from that cycle and divorces you from your ability to receive and give, and give and receive. You think you are the end-all, be-all. OK, ego, you have a place. Thanks for protecting us from being hurt. From bears. From saber-tooth-tigers and angry jerks. But you don’t run the show, ego.
We are a part of something much larger than ourselves. We are no more divorced from the ocean as a drop of water, to be cliche. We are a part of a large community of billions of souls on this planet, and we came here with purpose. With meaning. With something to do. Everyone you touch gives you an opportunity to give, and an opportunity to receive. Every interaction gives you an opportunity to expand a sense of meaning.
Says Frankl, “Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself — be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love — the more human he is.”
In becoming more human, you become more than human. In embracing your place as a giver and receiver, you become all that you were destined to become. You find your meaning. You find out who you really are. And you make the world a better place with everything you do.
If you seek more — whether it be happiness, meaning, or experience — then expand your sense of who you are. Live up to the responsibility of who you chose to be here.
You are an amazing human being that has immense meaning on this earth. And like your breath, all you must do is notice that you are. The evidence is already there.
See, isn’t that great? Meaning and happiness are already there for you. Just notice it. No heavy lifting here.