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.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
Both of these quotes by Viktor Frankl come from his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. This book has had one of the greatest impacts on my life out of any book I have read. And I am not alone. In his interviews of over 100 of the most successful entrepreneurs, athletes, actors, and writers Tim Ferris found this was the book most often gifted to others.
In this book Frankl describes Logotherapy, but his story will grip you and teach you the most. Frankl’s theory of Logotherapy argues that one’s meaning in life is a more profound motivator than either pleasure or power. The strength to his argument derives from his own experience in multiple concentration camps (including Auschwitz) during the Holocaust. During his time there he saw how having meaning in one’s life kept a prisoner alive and sane. On the other hand, when someone seemed to have lost their purpose there were drastic consequences.
There are many more lessons to be learned from this book as well. Below is one of my favorite passages:
We can answer these questions from experience as well as on principle. The experiences of camp life show that man does have a choice of action. There were enough examples, often of a heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability suppressed. Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress.
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
This book can have a profound impact on your outlook on life. It will motivate you to find your own meaning in life instead of waiting on it, help you appreciate what you have, and guide you when facing suffering. Pick up a copy and start reading today. It is short, but will demand your full attention.