How to find Meaning in Tough Times - Goodlife Zen

How to find Meaning in Tough Times


A guest post by Kent Thune of The Financial Philosopher

Why is this happening to me?  When will this end?

Have you ever asked yourself questions like these?  Are you asking them now?  If so, do you give yourself an answer?

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. ~ Viktor Frankl

Being a financial advisor by trade, I am hearing many questions now about the cause of the global economic crisis.  Why did this happen?  When will it end?  How can I ever recover from this?

Rather than searching for a cause of a particular challenge you are facing, and rather than dwelling on how it has impacted you negatively, try resisting the desire to find answers outside of yourself and ask yourself the questions.

In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice. ~ Viktor Frankl

Not only should you ask yourself the questions, but you may help yourself more by framing questions in such a way that may inspire an answer from within yourself.  I will use personal finance and investing as examples, but the framework fits any particular problem or challenge that may be causing some degree of suffering for you at this time.

Attach Meaning to Your Suffering
Ask yourself, “How can I make this negative event meaningful?”  Attaching meaning to suffering is a wonderful and therapeutic tool for moving beyond negative events in your life.  In context of personal finance, perhaps you have lost a job or the value of your investments has been cut in half.  Perhaps the job loss or decline in investment value is providing a life-changing lesson that money has become too high of a priority for you?

Suffering as a Sacrifice
Ask yourself, “What would I sacrifice for this loss?”  In context of personal finance, you might ask yourself, “If I could find true meaning and long-term contentment in my life, would I sacrifice material wealth to obtain that meaning and contentment?”  Perhaps your financial “loss” has given you the opportunity to answer this question for yourself?  Perhaps financial pursuits limited your meaningful pursuits?  Could money and your pursuit of it become the sacrifice for find true meaning and purpose in your life?

When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. ~ Viktor Frankl

Change From Within
Ask yourself, “Do I have a choice?”  Suffering or mourning a loss can have its own therapeutic value; however, the event that caused the suffering becomes meaningless and your suffering will continue without the awareness of your choice to move beyond the suffering – to change yourself.  Similar events occurring in the future will also cause more suffering without learning this lesson.  For example, it is a common misconception that the outside event beyond one’s control, such as the global financial crisis, must end before one’s suffering can end.  This is not true.  One’s suffering ends when one decides it will end – it is not the event that must change, it is your perception of it and your attitude toward it.

Start Over
Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?”  Life is full of second chances and often a shock or dramatic event is necessary to change your path for the better.  Suffering is your opportunity to grow and move beyond the negativity – to survive – to become a better person.

Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for. ~ Viktor Frankl

You may have noticed that all of the supporting quotes in this post are from Viktor Frankl, author of the tremendously inspiring book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which has sold over 10 million copies in 24 languages and has been called one of the 10 most influential books of all time.  Frankl was a Holocaust survivor who would later become known for his brand of psychotherapy, called logotherapy, which is based upon the attachment of meaning to suffering.

Frankl observed in the concentration camps, that those who could find some meaning and purpose to live – even in the most horrific and hopeless of circumstances – had a vastly higher survival rate than those who had understandably lost all hope or any reason to live.

Go back and read Frankl’s quotes in this post again.  Do they have more impact for you knowing that the author of the quotes is a survivor of the Holocaust – a person who would become a successful psychotherapist and a profoundly influential author?  Do you believe, if he can survive tremendous tragedy, that you can survive yours?

What’s more, the world needs you and what you have to offer.  What if Viktor Frankl had given up hope and died in the concentration camps?

I would love to know how you are finding meaning amidst the current financial crisis or any other crisis that has caused (or is still causing) some degree of suffering for you.  What did you do to move beyond the suffering?  How can others learn from your lesson and how might they learn from their own?

If you enjoyed this article, please visit Kent Thune’s blog The Financial Philosopher

Read this related post:
What is the Meaning of Life?

Photo by Natashalatrasha

About the author

Mary Jaksch

Mary is passionate about helping people create a happy, purposeful, and fulfilling life. She is the founder of GoodlifeZEN and also the brains behind, one of the biggest blogs for writers on the Net. Mary is also a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

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