Viktor Frankl is known as the author of Man’s Search for Meaning and other inspiring titles, and to know him through his work is to understand life at a deeper and more meaningful level. It is to know love, meaning and faith.
His teachings have truly made a big difference and in the world and they will continue to do so for decades to come. Without further a due here are just a few of the many lessons to learn from this amazing and beautiful Soul.
23 Life-Changing Lessons to Learn from the Wise Viktor Frankl
1. Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms.
“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.” ~ Viktor Frankl
2. Don’t aim at success.The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it.
“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.
Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it” ~ Viktor Frankl
3. “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
4. “The truth-that love is the highest goal to which man can aspire.”~ Viktor Frankl
5. Tears bare witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.
“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.” ~Viktor Frankl
“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 enabled 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. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl
7. Man should know what the meaning of life is.
“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.”~ Viktor Frankl
8. “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”~ Viktor Frankl
9. Live as if you were given the chance to do things all over again, and do them right.
“So 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!”~ Viktor Frankl
10. No man should judge unless he is sure of himself.
“No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.” ~ Viktor Frankl
“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.”~Viktor Frankl
12. Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved.
“Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.” ~ Viktor Frankl
13. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems.
“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. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.” ~ Viktor Frankl
14. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears towards a human being will never be able to throw away his life.
“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how”.” ~ Viktor Frankl
15. “For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.”~ Viktor Frankl
16. Everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.
“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.” ~ Viktor Frankl
17. “A man’s concern, even his despair, over the worthwhileness of life is an existential distress but by no means a mental disease.”~ Viktor Frankl
18. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete
“If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl
19. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about 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. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl
20. “Human kindness can be found in all groups, even those which as a whole it would be easy to condemn.”
22. There is nothing man needs fear anymore, except his God.
“The crowning experience of all, for the homecoming man, is the wonderful feeling that, after all he has suffered, there is nothing he need fear anymore—except his God.” ~ Viktor Frankl,
23. Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure.
“Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning.”~ Viktor Frankl
And these are the 23 life-changing lessons you too can learn from the one and only Viktor Frankl. I invite you to share them with anyone who might benefit from them and bring some hope and peace in their lives in times of torment, pain and confusion.
“The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back.
He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him?
No, thank you,’ he will think. ‘Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.”~ Viktor Frankl
“By declaring that man is responsible and must actualize the potential meaning of his life, I wish to stress that the true meaning of life is to be discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche, as though it were a closed system. I have termed this constitutive characteristic “the self-transcendence of human existence.” It denotes the fact that being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself–be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter.
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-actualization 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-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.”~Viktor Frankl
“A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes – within the limits of endowment and environment- he has made out of himself. In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.”~Viktor Frankl
“Ironically enough, in the same way that fear brings to pass what one is afraid of, likewise a forced intention makes impossible what one forcibly wishes… Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree to which it is made a goal in itself.”~ Viktor Frankl
“At the beginning of human history, man lost some of the basic animal instincts in which an animal’s behavior is embedded and by which it is secured. Such security, like paradise, is closed to man forever; man has to make choices. In addition to this, however, man has suffered another loss in his more recent development inasmuch as the traditions which buttressed his behavior are now rapidly diminishing.
No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people tell him to do (totalitarianism).”~Viktor Frankl
“Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else.
Now, how can I help him? What should I tell him? Well, I refrained from telling him anything but instead confronted him with the question, “What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?” “Oh,” he said, “for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!”
Whereupon I replied, “You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it was you who have spared her this suffering — to be sure, at the price that now you have to survive and mourn her.” He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left my office. In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”~Viktor Frankl
“We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We need to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—hourly and daily.
Our answer must consist not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answers to its problems and to fulfill the task which it constantly sets for each individual.”~Viktor Frankl
“Just consider a child who, absorbed in play, forgets himself—this is the moment to take a snapshot; when you wait until he notices that you are taking a picture, his face congeals and freezes, showing his unnatural self-consciousness rather than his natural graciousness.
Why do most people have that stereotyped expression on their faces whenever they are photographed? This expression stems from their concern with the impression they are going to leave on the onlooker. It is “cheese” that makes them so ugly. Forgetting themselves, the photographer, and the future onlooker would make them beautiful.”~Viktor Frankl
“The incurable sufferer is given very little opportunity to be proud of his suffering and to consider it ennobling rather than degrading” so that “he is not only unhappy, but also ashamed of being unhappy.”~ Viktor Frankl
“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!” It seems to me that there is nothing which would stimulate a man’s sense of responsibleness more than this maxim, which invites him to imagine first that the present is past and, second, that the past may yet be changed and amended.”~Viktor Frankl