Sunday Snippet: Viktor Frankl

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Each Sunday, I select a special quote that provides an important life lesson of some kind. In previous weeks, we talked about the importance of imagination and how to get meaning in your life. This week, we once again consider the meaning in your life, but from a wholly different perspective.

Viktor Frankl is a world renowned psychologist and he also spent quite a bit of time in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. It was during this time that he was stripped of his humanity and he witnessed countless unimaginable atrocities. Even in dire circumstances such as these, he was able to derive some good and examine man’s search for ultimate meaning. It was because of these circumstances that he learned of the one thing that can never be taken away from you: the ability to choose how you react to the world.

We are all born with the inherent ability to choose our perspectives, our attitudes, and our responses. We may not have control over our circumstances and things may not always go our way, but we always have the ability to define our own reality. Perspective is everything.

If Viktor Frankl can find the humanity among the inhumanity of Nazi Germany, what does that say about our daily lives in the modern world? What does that say about people who complain that their local Starbucks ran out of a certain flavor syrup or that the bus is late again? You can always reinterpret these situations as new opportunities.

It is also during these kinds of trying times that we can truly define ourselves by what we give rather than what we get. Studies have shown that people are much happier when they give than when they splurge on themselves. There is an enduring value here and it comes from the simple perspective of putting your fellow man ahead of yourself.

Choose your own responses to the world. Choose your own attitude. Remember that it is not the world that is making you upset; it is because you allow the world to make you upset. You are choosing to be miserable, but you can also choose to be positive and not to let a mountain grow from a molehill. You may have a “bad” boss, but if you alter your attitude, you can turn that relationship into an opportunity for growth.

Tuum est. It’s up to you.