Man's Search for Meaning
Towards the beginning of the book, Frankl quotes Nietzsche, "He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How." This concept is the premise of Frankl's philosophy of logotherapy – the assertion that the primary motivation for human existence is to find meaning in life. Frankl describes three broad categories in which we find meaning, "in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), and in courage during difficult times."
Viktor Frankl was a neurologist, psychiatrist, and philosopher, but because of this book, he is also remembered as a Holocaust survivor. He began developing logotherapy before World War II, but gained significant perspective into the concept of finding meaning during difficult times in the years that he spent in various concentration camps. This unique perspective is part of what launched Frankl's book into being an international bestseller, and the power of his message has reverberated with many readers going through their own hard times.
Please note that the continual reference to "man" in this text along with male gendered pronouns, as opposed to "human," "person," "being," or any other ungendered term, is the product of the male-centric language common in the 1940's. If you, like me, don't identify as a "man," and can make a mental substitution when reading, the heart of the text is very worthwhile, despite the dated language.
TRIGGER WARNING: While this book is not about the horrors of the concentration camps, it does include many scenes from Frankl's experiences during this time of his life.
"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 control what you will feel and do when it happens to you."
"Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it."
"What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him."
"One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone's task is as unique as his specific opportunity to implement it."