Purpose vs Routine

“You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you” – Viktor E. Frankl

As we navigate Stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne, I’m reminded of the holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. Comparing lockdown to the horrors that Frankl documented in “Mans Search For Meaning” is insulting, but the lessons can be used to develop how we think.

Harold S. Kushner states in the foreward “I have known successful businessmen who, upon retirement, lost all zest for life. Their work had given their lives meaning. Often it was the only thing that had given their lives meaning and, without it, they spent day after day sitting at home, depressed, “with nothing to do.””.

This may be the first time in our generation where a recession has affected our jobs. Whether it’s losing a job or working from home, it introduces the idea of not having a ‘purpose’ through a temporary retirement. Why do we associate a job with purpose, even if it’s not our ‘passion’? Is it merely a distraction? An illusion of purpose? It could be that we get routine and purpose mixed up.

“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.”

This is not a call to be more ‘productive’ or ‘grateful’ but to examine your consciousness in its base state, free from distraction. Take this time to be still through meditation. I recommend Sam Harris’ “Waking Up” app for guided meditation. Avoid distraction, especially now. This base state (undistracted thought), is the foundation upon which everything else is built; diet, relationships, career, opinions. If you don’t have a solid foundation how can you expect to trust the structure that is built upon it?

If this is the first time you’ve faced difficulty be conscious that there will be more, but strengthening your mind will allow you to face future struggle with improved clarity.

*Maria Popova does a wonderful job of exploring ideas from the book on her website Brain Pickings.