Our Search for Meaning
Paradoxically, while negative events may decrease happiness, they may increase the meaning in life. Traumatic or emotional experiences can build character and teach us hard lessons that make us more compassionate and give us a deeper understanding of ourselves and others. When people who had a purpose, in other words meaningful goals which have to do with helping others, their life satisfaction is higher – even when they feel personally down and out – than those who did not have any life purpose. “People who thought more about the present were happier, but people who spent more time thinking about the future or about past struggles and sufferings felt more meaning in their life, though they were less happy.” Having meaning in our lives, in effect, is being a “giver.” Working through past grief, abuse, and failures should not just lead to regret and resignation, but rather resilience, resolve and even post traumatic growth. Especially when helping desperate others handle their suffering, we become hardier, and in doing so build up our grit potential. A survivor of the horrors of being interned in Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Viktor Frankl, focused each day on finding meaning in his existence and in the future he would find when the nightmare was over. It is worth reading his classis, Man’s Search for Meaning.