Pursue Meaning, Not Happiness

Quite a few years ago, a trainer on a programme i was attending suggested a book I might like to read. When I found it, it was small, blue and didn’t look very exciting. However, it has become the most prized in my ever burgeoning book collection (even over the books that i’ve been fortunate enough to have signed by their authors.

That book was, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor Frankl. To be honest, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read that book and my copy now looks even less attractive to anyone who doesn’t know what they’re looking at. To me, it is quite simply, one of the most inspiring and moving books ever written.

Here’s a great article I came across a little while ago, that sets out what’s important about this book:

Business Insider – Article – A Lesson About Happiness

The article also cross-references another of my favourite books (certainly Top 30!) – Roy Baumeister’s “Willpower”. Reading the article again, I’m also reminded of the work of Adam Grant on giving and his great book “Give and Take” (also Top 30).

So, there you go, three of my top 30 books referenced in one place!

Meaning vs Happiness

In the simplest terms, happiness is not a distinguishing feature of being human, but meaning (a bigger purpose in life) is.

I couldn’t resist sharing the article linked below. For one thing, it takes as its starting point one of my two or three most valuable booms (I reread my dog-eared, noted up copy about once every year – “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl.

This is an extraordinary little book. If you’ve never read it, don’t just read it, but make sure you own a copy because I believe you’ll want to reread it in the future.

There is no question, to Frankl meaning was the critical factor that made for a good and valuably lived life. he determined that having meaning was the single biggest determinant of which prisoners survived the nazi concentration camps. The article takes an interesting perspective, putting this up against the current proliferation of books and sources advocating happiness. This has flowed out of the Positive Psychology movement (the father of this movement, Marty Selgman of Pennsylvania University is cited in the article).

I see Positive Psychology as a very necessary corollary to the psychology movement that had taken its lead from medicine, seeing its business as diagnosing and repairing ‘broken people’. Instead, the focus has shifted to enabling human potential through understanding of the human mind, motivations and drive. However, i feel it’s a bit unfair to suggest that Positive Psychology is simply about some kind of hedonistic pursuit of personal happiness in the moment. There is plenty in it that accords with Frankl’s focus on Meaning.

Business Insider – A Lesson About Happiness From A Holocaust Survivor

The article also cross-references another favourite book of mine, Baumeister’s “Willpower:
Willpower – Amazon

If any readers want to check on more of what is being said and advocated by the Positive Psychology movement I would recommend books by Shaun Achor:
Shaun Achor: The Happiness Advantage – Amazon
or
Any of the books by Tal Ben Shahar, who used to deliver the most popular course at Harvard University:
Tal Ben Shahar’s Website

Educators should, I believe, be thoroughly interested in all aspects and issues of human potential. These are all aspects that are about how people can live more fulfilling lives and i believe there are skills, techniques and mindsets that can be incorporated in to our work with children to give them greater scope and more tools to live both happy and meaningful lives.

%d bloggers like this: