Giving up is the easiest thing to do in the world.
It requires nothing more than saying, “I’m done.”
Giving up also takes on many forms.
Saying you’re done with a side hustle is one thing. Accepting yourself as a failure is quite another.
Giving up is also one of the most destructive actions a human can take, with far ranging implications that will negatively affect you for years to come.
Some people feel they want to give up on life – that they have no path forward. These people sense no meaning in their current situation, or in their future.
This is the most extreme mindset, and one that can lead to anxiety, depression or worse.
Life can overwhelm even the strongest people. Every man needs support at one point or another. You might get caught up in trivial matters, or worse – feel like everything bad the can happen does happen. Without the proper mindset, these burdens can push you to the brink of a breakdown.
Thankfully, you can draw upon an extreme example of a hopeless situation. Below, I’ll describe how one man overcame a harrowing experience and dedicated his life to helping others find out what to do with theirs.
Think Positive. Think Forward.
Viktor Frankl wrote “Man’s Search For Meaning” in 1959. The book thoroughly examines the brutal lessons he learned in multiple Nazi death camps during World War II.
Frankl grew up in Vienna, Austria and was a physician, neurologist, and psychiatrist before the war. As life began to get worse for the Jews of Austria, Frankl was steadfast in his refusal to leave the country because he of his elderly parents (he declined a visa to go to the U.S.). Frankly stayed in Austria and in September of 1942 got swept up in the carnage of the Holocaust, sent to a concentration camp with his entire family. He survived, but his entire family perished, including his young, pregnant wife.
While in the camps, Frankl was surrounded by death and despair, but refused to give up on his life. Those who lost hope quickly died. As Frankl said, “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.”1
In the book, Frankl examines the mental characteristics of those who survived and those who did not. These observations led him to develop a theory called logotherapy, the belief that man’s primary motivator in life is the pursuit of meaning and fulfillment of one’s life.
Logotherapy is an outward belief that “we have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stand we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.”2
In Frankl’s own words, “Logotherapy focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such a meaning. According to logotherapy, this striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy his own will to meaning”3
Frankl argues that even when life seems hopeless (as his did for several years), you should NEVER GIVE UP. Life has meaning under all circumstances.
For most people in the Nazi death camps, they could not overcome this sense of hopelessness. “Instead of taking the camp’s difficulties as a test of their inner strength,” said Frankl, “they did not take their life seriously and despised it as something of no consequence. They preferred to close their eyes and to live in the past. Life for such people became meaningless.”4
It’s hard to imagine how someone could retain the slightest sense of optimism in such a horrible situation.
Did Frankl’s education and work experience help him persevere? Most likely. However, he also used visualization techniques, constantly thinking about seeing his wife and family again – even extravagant spreads of food – to get him through the hardest of days.
Frankl never embraced full despair, and this helped him survive such a horrible ordeal (combined with immense luck). As Frankl stated, “The prisoner who had lost faith in the future- his future- was doomed.”5
What does it mean to find a meaning in one’s life?
Frankl argues that it differs from person to person, and changes depending on a person’s point in their life. One’s meaning is not static, but always adapting as a person ages and grows.
As Frankl notes, “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…In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” 6
Your life has meaning, no matter how down you may feel.
Sometimes it may feel like you are destined to fail, that you always seem to be fighting against unfair odds. But never give up. Always look forward and remind yourself that it is yours to create. Use adversity to learn and grow, but never let it sap your spirits to the point of giving up. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
When you break down human nature to its basic core – logotherapy makes sense. Humans crave meaning in life, the belief that what they do matters. Money, fame, greed – all these desires are secondary, and a product of the modern world.
Finding your meaning is a central theme on Shameless Pride. It’s not okay to go through life living someone else’s dream. It’s not okay to have no sense of purpose, or no excitement for the future.
Life is too short, and the opportunities are too vast.
Realize that your destiny is your own, and that the responsibility to march on no matter the obstacle is yours alone. This freedom of the mind is imperative in your journey through life.
If you like this article, and want more of them, be sure to sign up to my weekly e-mail list.
Comment below with any feedback or questions!
- Victor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning, 66.
- Maria Marshall; Edward Marshall (4 August 2012). Logotherapy Revisited: Review of the Tenets of Viktor E. Frankl’s Logotherapy. Ottawa Institute of Logotherapy
- Victor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning, 98-99.
- Victor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning, 72.
- Victor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning, 74.
- Victor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning, 108-109.