One of the most personally influential books I’ve read is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl was a psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor who lost almost all of his immediate family in the Holocaust. Wikipedia describes his landmark work this way:
Viktor Frankl’s 1956 book Man’s Search for Meaning chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate and describes his psychotherapeutic method of finding a reason to live. According to Frankl, the book intends to answer the question “How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?” Part One constitutes Frankl’s analysis of his experiences in the concentration camps, while Part Two introduces his ideas of meaning and his theory of logotherapy.
According to a survey conducted by the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Library of Congress, Man’s Search For Meaning belongs to a list of “the ten most influential books in [the United States].” (New York Times, November 20, 1991). At the time of the author’s death in 1997, the book had sold 10 million copies in twenty-four languages.
Frankl believed that life’s essence is about a search for meaning: “We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing a something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.” He founded a school of psychology, logotherapy, based upon these premises.
Work is only one way in which we can find meaning in our lives. In fact, some of us take it too seriously! Raising a family, helping friends, caring for animals, contributing to our communities, and pursuing hobbies and pastimes are other vital avenues to fulfillment and service. Nevertheless, the current economic crisis, along with the numerous other challenges facing us, provide an opportunity — or perhaps impose a mandate — to examine how our work contributes to our own lives and to the greater good.
Wikipedia on Man’s Search for Meaning: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man’s_Search_for_Meaning
Wikipedia on Viktor Frankl: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Frankl
Viktor Frankl Institute for Logotherapy: http://www.logotherapyinstitute.org/