“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 from Man’s Search for Meaning.
Viktor Frankl lost his entire family and barely survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps of WWII. He developed the philosophy that we must recognize the fact that we have responsibility to choose how we respond to any given situation. He realized this while in the midst of one of the most horrific experiences any human being could ever go through. Yet despite the suffering he experienced, he chose his attitude in his situation. We’ve all had bad, painful, or overall negative experiences in our lives and maybe we’ve wished they’ve never happened, maybe we are living with regret, or anger, or resentment. But if a man can choose his attitude while living in a concentration camp, we can certainly choose our responses.
Relationship not working? Work stress? Kids being challenging? Health problems? The reality is, yes, these events in life bring us suffering and turmoil and sometimes we feel we have no control over them. But what we always, always, have control over is how we choose to respond to those challenges. My personal favorite attitude to have in any given situation: everything can be an opportunity for self-reflection and personal growth.
If my relationship is not working, maybe it’s a good time to think about my interpersonal skills and how to improve them. If I’m stressed at work, I can reflect on how I’m contributing to my own stress levels, develop coping skills, and foster gratitude that I have a job. Kids are being a pain in the-you-know-what? Maybe it’s time to expand my repertoire of parenting skills and check out some resources. Health problems can always be a good signal to slow down and take an honest look at my lifestyle.
As the holiday season is approaching, particularly Thanksgiving, we talk more of gratitude and being thankful. This is the best time to exercise our power of choice and choosing our attitude in any given set of circumstances. What do you choose?