Man’s Search for Meaning

I am responsible for my search for meaning in the world.


According to Victor Frankl, the most powerful human motivation is to find meaning in life. Frankl was a psychotherapist who survived terrible experiences during World War II. The Nazis put him and millions of other Jews in concentration camps, where most of them died. Frankl survived and wrote many books, including Man’s Search for Meaning [1].

Frankl believed that each person is responsible for his own search for meaning. He wrote:

Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as his specific opportunity to implement it. (131)

Frankl wrote that meaning can be found only in something, or someone, other than oneself. He believed that we can find meaning in the world in three ways: in activity and creative work; in experience and appreciation, including love and religious devotion; or, if necessary, even in suffering.

Even in the most hopeless situation, a person can, in Frankl’s words:

…bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. (135)

Frankl’s words remind me that I am responsible for my search for meaning.


[1] Frankl, Victor. Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy. Preface by Gordon W. Allport. Beacon Press, 1959; paperback edition, Pocket Books, 1980.