21 Viktor Frankl Quotes on the Meaning of Life, Love, and Suffering

Viktor Frankl Quotes

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” – Erich Fromm

When we intuit authority or truth to someone else’s words of wisdom, we could say that we are instinctively judging them on three things.

Firstly, the validity of their experience. We need to know that they have firsthand experience with the peaks and troughs of life, that they haven’t been sheltered from either the extreme good or bad sides of human nature. We also consider the context within which their ideas are being expressed, and try to gauge if they’re still relevant for us.

Secondly, we look at their motives. What do they stand to gain from the wisdom that is being shared? Is there a monetary incentive? Do they have a heavy cultural or experiential bias in favour of the view that they’re sharing?

Finally, we consider their history and relationship with suffering. Suffering is the common thread which ties together any searches for meaning and resulting wisdom. The seeking in and of itself to be said to a universal reaction to the tension of human existence.

When we consider these three criteria, Viktor Frankl is one man who manages to tick all boxes.

An Austrian Psychotherapist, Frankl was the found of logotherapy, a method of existential analysis that placed meaning and suffering as the cornerstone around which much psychological dysfunction could be assessed and treated.

Frankl’s ideas can be summarised in three points:

  1. Our primary motivation is our will to find meaning in life
  2. Meaning can be found in any circumstances when we give ourselves over to something greater than our self, whether that is a cause or another person
  3. We always have the freedom to find meaning, even in the face of unchangeable suffering

However, Frankl’s psychoanalytic views were not merely theory. In fact, they were practical in every sense, as in 1944 he was sent to the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, and forced to explore his beliefs right down to their core.

A combination of luck and will allowed him to survive the experience, and he went on to write his seminal work ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ which has sold over 10 million copies and been translated into 24 languages.

When we look at his life in context, Frankl’s ideas emerge from a compelling experience, his motives are pure – he originally intended to publish the book anonymously – and his relationship with suffering unquestionable. To that end, the wisdom he offers transcends his time, and his books are incredibly valuable.

I STRONGLY recommend you watch this short video before reading the quotes, it will give you a richer understand of the context in which his profound words emerged!

So, without further ado, here are 35 quotes by Viktor Frankl on meaning, living, love, suffering, and compassion. This includes excerpts from his books Man’s Search For Meaning, Man’s Ultimate Search For Meaning, and The Doctor and the Soul.

Viktor Frankl Quotes On Meaning

“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. 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.”

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct.”

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

“The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love – the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself. What is called self-actualisation is not an attainable aim at all, for the simple reason that the more one would strive for it, the more he would miss it. In other words, self-actualisation is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.”

Though he underwent horrific life circumstances, Frankl’s drive to find meaning was insatiable. He was a firm believer in the ability for human beings to act with a degree of dignity regardless of their circumstances.

Viktor Frankl Quotes On Living

“The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living. Yet it is possible to practice the art of living even in a concentration camp, although suffering is omnipresent.”

“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.”

“We cannot, after all, judge a biography by its length, by the number of pages in it; we must judge by the richness of the contents…sometimes the ‘unfinished’ are among the most beautiful symphonies.” 

“Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”

“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.”

“I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.”

 “The consciousness of one’s inner value is anchored in higher, more spiritual things, and cannot be shaken by camp life. But how many free men, let alone prisoners, possess it?”

“I do not forget any good deed done to me and I do not carry a grudge for a bad one.”

Frankl’s commitment to personal responsibility and commitment to a higher cause was profound, and reflects an attitude of a lot of existential thinkers. Though a scientist, he deeply valued the spiritual nature of life, and took to it with a gratitude and a humor that we often find in eastern traditions.

Viktor Frankl Quotes On Love

“For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”

“Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self.”

“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is able to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized.”

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that 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.”

“I do not forget any good deed done to me and I do not carry a grudge for a bad one.”

“I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.”

Frankl’s belief in the importance of love was a result of the unbelievable sustenance that his own love for his wife gave him during his time in Auschwitz. He saw love as a key ingredient that fuelled meaning, and found in his own experience that it made him more resilient than he could have imagined.

Viktor Frankl Quotes On Suffering

“To draw an analogy: a man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of a gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.”

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

“It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions.”

“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behaviour.”

“But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”

“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”

“If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.”

“To suffer unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic.”

“What is to give light must endure burning.”

Suffering, life love, was to Frankl another aspect of the human condition that was both fundamental and infinitely flexible. He noticed not only how far suffering could go, but also how human beings could respond to it and what could be learned from it.

Viktor Frankl Quotes On Compassion

“Today’s society is characterized by achievement orientation, and consequently it adores people who are successful and happy and, in particular, it adores the young. It virtually ignores the value of all those who are otherwise, and in doing so blurs the decisive difference being valuable in the sense of dignity and being valuable in the sense of usefulness. If one is not cognizant of this difference and holds that an individual’s value stems only from his present usefulness, then, believe me, one owes it only to personal inconsistency not to plead for euthanasia along the lines of Hitler’s program, that is to say, ‘mercy’ killing of all those who have lost their social usefulness, be it because of old age, incurable illness, mental deterioration, or whatever handicap they may suffer.”

“No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honest whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.”

“Human kindness can be found in all groups, even those which as a whole it would be easy to condemn.”

“If we take man as he really is, we make him worse. But if we overestimate him…we promote him to what he really can be.”

Reading Frankl’s words, you understand that he was a deeply compassionate person. He was able to express sympathy for not only his fellow prisoners of war, but also his captors. This echoes ideas that have been explored in religions all around the world, particularly long-term meditators in the East, and is a direct result of his contact with such extreme aspects of human nature.

If you enjoyed this article or have any questions, please leave a comment in the comments section below or send me an email at ben@projectmonkeymind.com, I’d love to hear from you!

35 Fyodor Dostoevsky Quotes on Love, God, Life, Death and Beauty

Fyodor Dostoevsky Quotes

“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth” – Albert Camus

We read the quotes of great men and women for a number of reasons. To learn something new, to feel better about ourselves, to inspire love for life, because we’re bored, and sometimes simply out of a childlike curiosity.

But behind all these there’s a fundamental reason; to change the way we see the world.

The above quote by Albert Camus changed how I saw the world, and particularly how I saw the role of fiction in the world. I was always a lover of non-fiction books, and at one point I even thought fiction to be nothing more than entertainment.

But fiction can echo the most honest truths, truths that may be so profound (and at times disturbing) that we can’t even explain them explicitly.

And there is perhaps no novelist whose novels explored truer themes than Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky.

Born in Moscow in 1821, Dostoevsky, like his contemporaries Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev, and Alexander Pushkin, is considered one of the most important novelists of the Golden Age of Russian literature. The words and quotes of Dostoevsky are incredibly profound.

He is known for the psychological and philosophical quality of his books, with characters that inhabit a vast moral spectrum and take on wildly varying positions as they examine and challenge social conventions. From nihilistic criminals to devout monks, his complex personas wrestle with difficult questions and disturbing truths.

In his twenties, Dostoevsky joined the Petrashevsky Circle, a group of progressive intellectual idealists. A few years later, he and other members of the group were arrested, put on trial, and convicted for anti-government activities. He and the others were sentenced to death and brought in front of a firing squad in 1849, but their sentences were commuted at the last minute.

Instead of being executed, Dostoevsky served four years in a Siberian labor camp before being released in 1854. These experiences had a significant influence on all of his subsequent writings, including his most famous works: Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, and The Brothers Karamazov.

Dostoevsky is often referred to as one of the first existentialists. While the term “existentialism” was not coined until after the end of World War II, the school of thought is typically traced back to the mid-to-late nineteenth century and the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Soren Kierkegaard, and Dostoevsky.

Nietzsche rejected religion, but both Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky were devout Christians. However, what unites the three is their emphasis on a person’s responsibility to reckon with spiritual questions as an individual. Each in his own way examined what would become one of the hallmarks of the philosophy: the idea that freedom is not easy. To an existentialist, an individual is who they freely choose to be, defined by actions and choices instead of a pre-existing “essence.”

Traditional Christian virtues, especially selfless love, were of utmost importance to Dostoevsky. However, he did not assume these to be the default state of humanity, but achievements borne of spiritual discipline. To be moral is not to surrender freedom, but to act from freedom: to choose a moral course, even when it means turning toward suffering and sacrificing pleasure and comfort for the sake of others. Living in this way allows a person to overcome the corrupting forces of the world and to fully experience the beauty and goodness of life.

Dostoevsky Quotes

Dostoevsky Quotes On Love

“Fathers and teachers, I ponder, ‘What is hell?’ I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“Learning to love is hard and we pay dearly for it. It takes hard work and a long apprenticeship, for it is not just for a moment that we must learn to love, but forever.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies, becomes unable to recognize truth, either in himself or in anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself and for others. When he has no respect for anyone, he can no longer love, and in him, he yields to his impulses, indulges in the lowest form of pleasure, and behaves in the end like an animal in satisfying his vices. And it all comes from lying — to others and to yourself.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God’s creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day, and you will come at last to love the world with an all-embracing love.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“I am sorry I can say nothing more consoling to you, for love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in the sight of all. Men will even give their lives if only the ordeal does not last long but is soon over, with all looking on and applauding as though on the stage. But active love is labour and fortitude, and for some people too, perhaps, a complete science. But I predict that just when you see with horror that in spite of all your efforts you are getting farther from your goal instead of nearer to it — at that very moment I predict that you will reach it and behold clearly the miraculous power of the Lord who has been all the time loving and mysteriously guiding you.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“Love is such a priceless treasure that you can redeem the whole world by it, and cleanse not only your own sins but the sins of others.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

To Dostoevsky, love is the utmost virtue—the defining element of the Christian path and the moral life. In his view, love is not simply a feeling, but a course of action. To become able to love, a person must resist the urge to serve the self at the expense of others and choose to do the opposite: to serve others, even at the expense of the self. To love is to choose forgiveness over vengeance, generosity over self-indulgence, and hard truths over comforting lies.

The loving soul is forged in suffering and hardship, yet transcends them, opening up to a happiness that is independent of external circumstances. At times, love is hard work, but the one who loves needs little else to be happy. To love is to respond purely to life, to celebrate and affirm it even when it is difficult or painful. Love is its own light, a healing force that not only purifies the soul it arises from, but the souls of others who come into its presence. In Dostoevsky’s world, it is often the saving grace that allows a person to face a world of chaos and corruption.

Dostoevsky Quotes On Family

“And indeed, what aim in life is more important and sacred than a father’s? To what should one adhere, if not to one’s family?”

-The Idiot

“Even toil will be a joy, you may deny yourself bread for your children and even that will be a joy, They will love you for it afterwards; so you are laying by for your future.”

-Notes from Underground

“As the children grow up you feel that you are an example, a support for them; that even after you die your children will always keep your thoughts and feelings, because they have received them from you, they will take on your semblance and likeness. So you see this is a great duty.”

-Notes from Underground

“From the house of my childhood I have brought nothing but precious memories, for there are no memories more precious than those of early childhood in one’s first home. And that is almost always so if there is any love and harmony in the family at all. Indeed, precious memories may remain even of a bad home, if only the heart knows how to find what is precious.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“Love is a holy mystery and ought to be hidden from all other eyes, whatever happens. That makes it holier and better. They respect one another more, and much is built on respect. And if once there has been love, if they have been married for love, why should love pass away? Surely one can keep it! It is rare that one cannot keep it.

And if the husband is kind and straightforward, why should not love last? The first phase of married love will pass, it is true, but then there will come a love that is better still. Then there will be the union of souls, they will have everything in common, there will be no secrets between them. And once they have children, the most difficult times will seem to them happy, so long as there is love and courage.”

-Notes from Underground

Through his novels, Dostoevsky examined the ways families generate and sustain love, as well as the ways they can be corrupted and torn apart by hatred, jealousy, and vice. One of his most well-known books, The Brothers Karamazov, depicts the downfall of a family through the self-centred actions of its patriarch, Fyodor Pavlovich. Despite the profound goodness of one of the brothers, Alyosha, the life of the family is defined by the sins of the father and the son who is most like him.

Dostoevsky saw children as supremely vulnerable in their innocence and showed how profoundly they can suffer at the hands of cruel parents and the whims of a cold society. Yet just as an individual can embrace a spiritual path of love that defies worldly corruption, a family can provide a haven of love that protects and nurtures its members as they are tested by the world. To Dostoevsky, home should be a place of healing, a place where loving actions forge memories that live on in the hearts of the children long after they have grown up and left. The gifts of home are not given, however; they depend on the parents’ ability to embody and act from love, as well as on the children’s ability to recognize and accept the gifts of home.

Dostoevsky Quotes

Dostoevsky Quotes On Beauty

“Beauty will save the world.”

-The Idiot

“Silence is always beautiful, and a silent person is always more beautiful than one who talks.”

-The Adolescent

“Beauty is a terrible and awful thing! It is terrible because it has not been fathomed, for God sets us nothing but riddles.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“We don’t understand that life is heaven, for we have only to understand that and it will at once be fulfilled in all its beauty, we shall embrace each other and weep.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“She was very fond of thinking and getting at the truth of things… This naive combination in her of the child and the thinking woman, this childlike and absolutely genuine thirst for truth and justice, and absolute faith in her impulses—all this lighted up her face with a fine glow of sincerity, giving it a lofty, spiritual beauty, and one began to understand that it was not so easy to gauge the full significance of that beauty which was not all at once apparent to every ordinary unsympathetic eye.”

-Humiliated and Insulted

“The children of the sun, the children of their sun — oh, how beautiful they were! Never had I seen on our own earth such beauty in mankind. Only perhaps in our children, in their earliest years, one might find, some remote faint reflection of this beauty. The eyes of these happy people shone with a clear brightness. Their faces were radiant with the light of reason and fullness of a serenity that comes of perfect understanding, but those faces were gay; in their words and voices there was a note of childlike joy. Oh, from the first moment, from the first glance at them, I understood it all! It was the earth untarnished by the Fall; on it lived people who had not sinned. They lived just in such a paradise as that in which, according to all the legends of mankind, our first parents lived before they sinned; the only difference was that all this earth was the same paradise. These people, laughing joyfully, thronged round me and caressed me; they took me home with them, and each of them tried to reassure me. Oh, they asked me no questions, but they seemed, I fancied, to know everything without asking, and they wanted to make haste to smooth away the signs of suffering from my face.”

-The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

Dostoevsky appreciated true beauty as the outward appearance of a loving soul, a radiance that emanates from underlying virtue. He was deeply suspicious of seductive surfaces and lamented those for whom beauty was all surface, an invitation to lust and to seek sensual pleasure even at the expense of others.

In The Brothers Karamazov, he compares the “beauty of the Madonna” to “the beauty of Sodom,” noting that while the former is more profound, the latter is what most people choose, often to disastrous results. Unlike that which activates the appetites, the deeper spiritual beauty Dostoevsky admired is a gateway to contemplation for the one who beholds it: an invitation to love and to look deeper.

The kind of beauty that nourishes rather than corrupts the soul arises from the perception of an underlying perfection. This is not the perfection of form, but of the spirit, and often lies beneath an apparently imperfect surface. To Dostoevsky, beauty arises from the recognition of paradise, or Heaven, in this very world. A beautiful soul is faithful, loving, and honest, uncontrived in the same way Eden was uncontrived. To such a soul, untwisted by vice and grasping greed, joy arises naturally and becomes a source of light for others.

Dostoevsky Quotes On God

“Without God all things are permitted.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“My friends, God is necessary for me if only because he is the one being who can be loved eternally.”

-The Possessed

“God is necessary, and therefore must exist… But I know that he does not and cannot exist… Don’t you understand that a man with these two thoughts cannot go on living?”

-The Possessed

There is no sin, and there can be no sin on all the earth, which the Lord will not forgive to the truly repentant! Man cannot commit a sin so great as to exhaust the infinite love of God. Can there be a sin which could exceed the love of God?”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“Obedience, fasting, and prayer are laughed at, yet only through them lies the way to real true freedom. I cut off my superfluous and unnecessary desires, I subdue my proud and wanton will and chastise it with obedience, and with God’s help I attain freedom of spirit and with it spiritual joy.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“If I seem happy to you . . . You could never say anything that would please me more. For men are made for happiness, and anyone who is completely happy has a right to say to himself, ‘I am doing God’s will on earth.’ All the righteous, all the saints, all the holy martyrs were happy.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

Dostoevsky characters represent his own process of dealing with faith. While he was ultimately a believer, and while he felt a special affection for his most devout characters, Dostoevsky admitted that he struggled in his spiritual life: “My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt,” he said. The suffering he witnessed in the world was hard for him to reconcile with God’s omnipotence and love. Yet in his own life and through his characters’ journeys, Dostoevsky saw how love and suffering were deeply connected—the latter of which often gave rise to the former. He observed that true joy was only possible through the practice and realization of active love, which is tested and strengthened through suffering.

While it is impossible to know exactly what was in his mind at the end of his life, his life’s journey mirrors those of his most faithful characters. Biographies show that Dostoevsky’s final years were a period of increasing peace for him, a time when he turned away from former vices and toward the redemptive, loving faith he wrote about in his final work and magnum opus, The Brothers Karamazov. His life and works stand as a testament to a man who took spiritual questions seriously and was ultimately able to reconcile himself with his life and with God.

Dostoevsky Quotes on Love

Dostoevsky Quotes On Death

“Take a soldier and put him right in front of a cannon in a battle and fire it at him, and he’ll go on hoping, but read out a certain death sentence to that same soldier, and he’ll go mad, or start to weep.”

-The Idiot

“Where is it I’ve read that someone condemned to death says or thinks, an hour before his death, that if he had to live on some high rock, on such a narrow ledge that he’d only room to stand, and the ocean, everlasting darkness, everlasting solitude, everlasting tempest around him, if he had to remain standing on a square yard of space all his life, a thousand years, eternity, it were better to live so than to die at once. Only to live, to live and live! Life, whatever it may be!”

-Crime and Punishment

“He went up to his room like a man who has been condemned to death. His mind was completely empty, and he was quite incapable of filling it with anything; but with his whole being he suddenly felt that he no longer possessed any freedom of thought or of will, and that everything had suddenly been decided once and for all.”

-Crime and Punishment

“But man is a frivolous and incongruous creature, and perhaps, like the chess player, loves only the process of the game, not the end of it. And who knows (one cannot swear to it), perhaps the only goal on earth to which mankind is striving lies in this incessant process of attaining, or in other words, in life itself, and not particularly in the goal which of course must always be two times two makes four, that is a formula, and after all, two times two makes four is no longer life, gentlemen, but is the beginning of death.”

-Notes from Underground

“He spoke of many things, he seemed anxious before the moment of death to say everything he had not said in his life, and not simply for the sake of instructing them, but as though thirsting to share with all men and all creation his joy and ecstasy, and once more in his life to open up his whole heart.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

Dostoevsky was haunted throughout his life by how it felt to face death. After standing in front of a firing squad, believing he was about to die, only to have his execution stayed at the last minute, he wrote to his brother:

“When I look back at the past and think how much time has been wasted in vain, how much time was lost in delusions, in errors, in idleness, in ignorance of how to live, how I did not value time, how often I sinned against my heart and spirit—my heart bleeds. Life is a gift, life is happiness, each minute might have been an age of happiness… not to be downhearted nor to fall in whatever misfortunes may befall me—this is life; this is the task of life.”

His letter overflowed with love and an unwavering conviction in the goodness of life. He was grateful not only to have his life, but to have been startled into a deeper appreciation for it.

To live is not just to enjoy the sensations of being alive, but to be able to love, grow, and change. As his characters affirmed, confronting mortality allows a person to spent less time resisting life and more time accepting it. For those who live a full and spiritually wise life, the final moments before death can be profound and expansive, a final outpouring of life’s goodness, a celebration rather than a moment to lament.

Dostoevsky Quotes On Life

“Love life more than the meaning of it.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“But how could you live and have no story to tell?”

-White Nights

Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.”

-Crime and Punishment

“We have all lost touch with life, we all limp, each to a greater or lesser degree.”

-Notes from Underground

“It’s life that matters, nothing but life—the process of discovering, the everlasting and perpetual process, not the discovery itself, at all.”

-The Idiot

“I do not wish you much happiness—it would bore you; I do not wish you trouble either; but, following the people’s philosophy, I will simply repeat: ‘Live more,’ and try somehow not to be too bored; this useless wish I am adding on my own.”

-The Possessed

“For the secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for. Without a stable conception of the object of life, man would not consent to go on living and would rather destroy himself than remain on earth, though he had bread in abundance. “

-The Brothers Karamazov

Dostoevsky’s conception of life is consistent with existentialism, the philosophical school with which he was later associated. Other likeminded thinkers who have explored similar themes include Viktor Frankl and more recently Jordan Peterson. To an existentialist, it is important to question life’s meaning, but inauthentic to accept a formulaic answer. The question must be lived; the meaning of life can only be found in a living, breathing experience. For someone like Dostoevsky, who was brought to the brink of death and spared, no simple belief could answer to the vast consciousness that experience opened up in him. From the point of his return from exile onward, he never stopped depicting characters who recognized the same thing he did: that life is like a river that bursts the banks of anything that can be thought or said about it. The way to live a meaningful life is to live it as fully as possible, which for Dostoevsky meant embracing the world in an all-encompassing love.

If you’d like to learn more, here are 50 more deep thoughts and saying by Dostoevsky.

Why Following Your Passion is Terrible Advice and What You Should do Instead

Do you ever feel like your work life could be more rewarding?

I mean, it’s paying the bills, and you’re grateful to have it. And it’s certainly not the worst job in the world.

Like many of us, you probably have good days and bad days, but when all is said and done, there is still something missing.

The truth is the problem isn’t with the job. And it’s not even with the type of work.

The problem is where you’ve been looking for rewards.

American novelist Charles Bukowski famously said: “My dear, find what you love and let it kill you.”

Which, by the way, is terrible advice.

Don’t follow your passion blindly until it kills you. That will never get you out of a mental rut.

The saying should be: “Find what you love and let it fuel you.”

Why you’ve been chasing fool’s gold

Let’s get something clear.

You don’t work just for money, you work for gold.

More specifically, you work for psychological gold.

What I mean is that what you want to get out of your work is a fulfilling experience. We’re all pursuing a deeper meaning. The only reason anyone ever wants to profit is so they can have mental wealth in their life.

Part of it is the stability that comes with consistent income; being able to put food on the table, pay medical bills, go on holiday every year. But a lot of it is also the other feelings that come with the job.

“There’s a well-known gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps who explains to his young Marines when they complain about pay, that they get two kinds of salary – a financial salary and a psychological salary. The financial salary is indeed meager. But the psychological salary? Pride, honor, integrity, the chance to part of a corps with a history of service, valor, glory; to have friends who would sacrifice their lives for you, as you would for them – and to know that you remain a part of this brotherhood as long as you live. How much is that worth?” – Steven Pressfield, The Warrior Ethos

You have a psychological salary that is far more important than your financial one. The psychological salary is your experience. But even figuring out what that is can be difficult. And I expect that most of the advice you’ve had is flawed.

We’re all mining our own minds for this gold. But while some signs point to where we might find it, they don’t always lead us in the right direction.

And the one bit of advice that we’ve heard over and over in the last 20 years…

Follow your Passion!

We hear it all the time.

I like to call it The Passion Fallacy.

It goes a little something like this:

Figure out what you are passionate about. Find a career that allows you to pursue whatever the thing is. Follow that career path. Make money, kick ass, live happily ever after, etc., etc.

Unfortunately, it’s not that straightforward.

Passion is just one ingredient that will lead you to a fulfilling work life. And it’s also somewhat misleading.

As we’ll see, there are a number of reasons that following your passion can be a problem:

Passion means different things to different people

To some people, passion may mean “pursuing an area in which you are most interested in the content of the work.” To others, it may mean “the feeling that gets you up in the morning”, or “the idea that occupies most of your mental time.”

These can all be very different things. What gets you up in the morning may be playing basketball, but most of us can’t play in the NBA.

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The idea that occupies most of your mental time may be writing horror novels, but most of us aren’t Steven King.

Follow your passion is inherently confusing because of this incongruence. And now, because the phrase has been so overused in recent years, it’s loaded with preconceptions.

All of this makes ‘following your passion’ very limiting when it comes to work opportunities and living out your dream.

Many of us don’t have a tangible passion

If we look at the definition of passion as a strong emotion, what we realize is that a lot of us just don’t have a solid and well-defined passion.

You might be most passionate about socializing with your friends or board games or listening to classical music – but how are you going to turn that into a profession?

Passions change

What you’re passionate about one day, you may not be passionate about the next.

Typically people are not chasing things; they’re chasing feelings.

Because the nature of feelings is so transient, it’s inevitable that they’ll change over time. Creating a work-life around a passion is therefore financially unstable as that passion will change and you may decide you no longer want to do it as work.

Seeking your passion can make you depressed

Passion is like happiness. The more time you spend seeking it, the more time you will spend ruminating, and the more depressed you’ll be when you don’t spend every minute of your day experiencing it.

…which leads us to a hugely important point:

Passion is unsustainable

Passion is a strong emotion, and the nature of emotions means that they’ll ebb and flow and rise and fall. To expect to be fueled by passion alone is not only unrealistic, it’s pretty damn irresponsible.

You need to find a way to get rewards from your work irrespective of your emotional state.

Likewise, if you don’t know the job first hand you may be confusing the idea with the real-world experience.

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It may be obvious to hear aloud, but many people overlook the fact that to be passionate about a job you need to have experienced it!

A lot of people can be passionate about the idea of being an actor; far fewer are passionate about the actual day-to-day grind.

We don’t always want our hobby to become our job

Sometimes the best thing about our hobby is the inherent lack of structure, responsibility, and need to achieve specific goals.

We can pick it up and put it down when we want; we don’t have the stress of having it be related to money; it’s not being judged by other people, and we don’t feel like we have to do it every day.

Turning a passionate hobby into a job may just take the passion out of the hobby!

And most important of all:

What if your passion doesn’t pay (or is really expensive)

Want to know one hobby I’m really passionate about?

Scuba diving.

And no, I don’t want to become a scuba diving instructor.

What I like about scuba diving is the tranquility. Being relaxed underwater without other people around, not having to think about anything apart from what is right in front of you. I also enjoy the diversity of the dives, the different countries, reefs, fish, and coral.

I can’t think of anything that would put out the fire I have for scuba diving more than if I had to take groups of (often nervous) people to the same dive sites over and over again.

I like that I can only do it a couple of times a year and how it gives me something to look forward to.

Reverse engineering the Passion Fallacy

There is a way to be passionate about your work, and it’s not by following your passions.

It’s by creating them.

Have you ever met someone you’d call a passionate person? They just seem to be enthusiastic about everything they do? They probably looked to be pretty talented as well.

This isn’t a coincidence, what these people do is pretty simple:

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They grow new passions.

“Follow your passion is a nice slogan, but we need more than slogans; we need systems, supported by evidence, that actually work.” – Cal Newport

So here’s what I propose:

If you want to be passionate, don’t make your passion into a job. Instead, create a lifestyle that you can passionately engage with.

Here’s an alternative four-step roadmap towards fulfillment in your life.

Decide on a lifestyle that will make you happy

This is important; most people never ask the question to themselves, although really it should be the first one you ask.

Unfortunately answering this question requires a level a self-awareness that most people don’t have. It’s not uncommon for many of us to never know what makes us happy.

For example, consider these questions.

What time of day do you want to do the majority of your work?

Do you want to be sitting, standing or moving?

How much money do you need to support your lifestyle and your hobbies?

Example:

You love to surf more than anything in the world. And you want a lifestyle that allows you to go to the beach at least once a day, preferably in the morning.

In this case, surfing is your Psychological Gold!

Choose a job that supports the lifestyle

Depending on what part of the world you’re in, a yoga instructor may make less than an IT specialist. But if your personal goal is to spend less than four hours a day sitting, you’ll be better off teaching in a yoga studio than being hunched over a desk.

Example:

Though banking may not be your passion, you see that a small surf town near your city is growing quickly, banks are increasing their number of branches, and they’re hiring. This job would allow you to go to the beach once or even twice a day.

Cultivate a skill that will bring you success in the job

Again, this is pretty straightforward. Once you determine the job you want, you need to figure out what skill is going to bring you success and help you to support that lifestyle.

Example:

You’ve always been pretty good with people, so you decide to learn the ins and outs of professional networking and apply for an Account Manager position.

Leverage this skill to create the lifestyle you want

When you find the lifestyle you want and are fortunate enough to be in a position to live it, you’ll find you’ll have far more focus and motivation than you’ve had before. You’ll naturally have more energy than you usually do, and you’ll develop a more positive attitude towards your work and begin to see it as an active challenge, rather than a drain on your wellbeing.

Example:

You land the job and are able to work from 9 to 5 while surfing once or twice a day.

Conclusion

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The first step in creating a lifestyle that gives you energy and vitality is to truly understand what kind of life you want.

It requires a level of self-awareness and introspection that you may not be accustomed to yet, or that you’ve felt you’ve had little time to engage in recently.

Take a little time to cultivate this skill, and you’ll soon figure out what sort of lifestyle is going to make you feel good.

What’s your Psychological Gold? Let us know in the comments!

 

P.S. Don’t forget to download your free eBooks over at NoiseTrade.com

Morning Mastery: The Simple 20 Minute Routine for Long-Lasting Energy, Laser-Sharp Focus and Stress Free Living

The Mindful Workplace: 27 Ways to Declutter Your Mind, Defeat Distraction, and Find Your Focus at Work