Dealing with Disappointment
I’ve been reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl – he lived through Auschwitz and asks the question, why did some people survive and others didn't? He concludes that if you can give meaning to your life – even the most mundane tasks – then hope will keep you alive.
I’ve been pondering the question of why I do what I do and what the hell is the point anyway. Last week my coach asked me what is the meaning of life and I may have cried while saying I don’t know with snot running down my face.
I believe I've classically overstretched myself and reverted to my historic response of DOING rather than BEING. If I can just DO enough then I will feel ok on the inside until my body gives up and I crash in order to recover.
The meaning of life was a question I grew up on. We grew up being certain of what was true because religion and communal philosophy dictated it to be so. It’s strange having certainty your whole life and then being thrust into the world of choice where you can believe, do and say anything. Choice and education are the 2 things I value the most in life because they are the 2 things I didn’t have growing up.
What are the 2 things you value most and what does that say about the context you grew up in?
I began feeling sorry for myself and the endless busyness with no real satisfaction to any of the great things I was doing. To top it off I've been dealing with a hip injury due to marathon training and have made the painful and disappointing decision to hand my place at the London Marathon to a reserve runner and concede defeat. While the decision feels right for me, it also feels like I'm a failure and can't do what I set out to do. Who am I to tell other people if I can't do it myself?!
Victor Frankl writes: Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.
We won't even discuss how my first world problems compare to Viktor Frankl's but the profound learning is universal. It's not the what, it's the why and the how. Problems hit us all and they feel worse when we're depleted physically and mentally but I have to ask myself what is the choice here. I decided that the mental energy that was being used for the marathon could better be used focussing on my bigger dream of sharing my story in a book; I've written the first chapter. I've decided that the lesson here is how I keep going rather than what made me stop. I had some early nights and am trying to reduce sugar and eat well. I'm enjoying dance class rather than pushing myself to race. I'm sleeping. I'm going to do more things just for fun. I may visit my local Buddhist temple to help silence my busy mind. I'm going to do stuff just for the sake of it, for fun, to slow the pace down and as Frankl puts it, become aware of what can be done about any given situation, that is where meaning is found.
Where do you find meaning and purpose? If you're too busy to see where it is perhaps it's time to slow down, be mindful and connect with those things that give you joy, connection and yes, a sense of achievement. My meaning is in connection, new experiences and travel. What's yours?
Man's Search for Meaning (1959) Viktor E. Frankl. Beacon Press.