These 10 Quotes By A Holocaust Survivor Show The Importance Of Finding Meaning In Life

The meaning of life is what you decide it is.

While most of us strive to fill our lives with joy and optimism, a cold truth exists: there are some situations in which happiness simply cannot be found.

There's no way to look on the bright side when getting diagnosed with cancer, losing the ability to walk due to a horrific car accident or, where psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was concerned, losing your wife and unborn child during the Holocaust. During these times when there is no joy to be had, it is easy to throw up one's hands and ask, "What is the point of life?" and give up.

When times are darkest, it is not only possible to find meaning in life, but it is also the most important time to do so, as Frankl spent his lifetime teaching.

Even before he earned his psychiatry degree, Frankl's work saved lives. For two years as a medical student, he volunteered his services to high school students who needed guidance, particularly during times when grades were handed out. His efforts were obvious in 1931, when none of the students committed suicide after receiving a report card. Rather than seeing disappointing marks as a cause to end a life, the students were able to learn how to use the experience to keep moving forward.

Frankl's talents as a counselor would become critically important in the years to come. Following the Nazi invasion, Frankl helped his fellow prisoners find something — anything — to hold on to in order to retain hope and a reason for living. As he would later explain in his books and public lectures, it could be as simple a matter as having an unfinished reading list. 

The lesson is simple yet staggering: even in the face of extreme despair and peril, mentally reframing a situation in a small way can make life worth living. While finding happiness in life is always a good idea, the ability to find meaning goes a lot further because it can be done in the complete absence of joy.

Viktor Frankl passed away in 1997 at the age of 92, after a long career of saving lives by helping others find their own meaning. Here are some of the greatest words of wisdom Frankl passed onto the world during his life:

[H/T: Business Insider, @dowerw]

[Header image credit: meddygarnet]