“When we are no longer able to change a situation- we are challenged to change ourselves.” -Viktor Frankl
Ever played pac-man? If you haven’t, or more likely, haven’t played the game in ages, you can get yourself a copy of the game here. So what does an old school game like pac-man have to do with today’s post? I remember that there was a time when I was really good at pac-man, and I had become good at the game once I came to a realization, the movements of the ghosts where all predictable. The only potentially unpredictable variable in the game was the player. The movements of the ghosts where predictable because they were moving in specific patterns. Further, the only thing that changed with these patterns was that they moved faster within these set patterns with advancement to each new level. Once you memorized the patterns, the only thing that led to your eventual failure in the game was cognitive fatigue.
The reason the pac-man ghosts move in a specific pattern is simple, they have been programmed to move in those patterns.
In my last post I promised I would explain how to find meaning and purpose in one’s life in today’s post. So how do you find meaning and purpose in your life? The answer is two fold, first you document your daily habits and then you make sense of them. See your habits as the sequence of patterns you execute in response to specific triggers and that these patterns are being executed from a set of programming rules, in this case the programming rules are your beliefs.
Put simply, once you observe, document and memorize your behavioral patterns in response to specific circumstances, you can begin the process of asking yourself some hard questions. Such as, why do I engage in X behavior in response to Y circumstance? The answer to these hard questions will reveal what you believe. Note this is where meaning and purpose comes in, sometimes no matter how irrational your identified beliefs are, you will experience a powerful reluctance to not change.
For example, a father who has been smoking for years might display extreme stubbornness in quitting, even if doctors have informed him that his life span is shortened by each cigarette smoke he inhales. He will most likely have a change of heart if he realizes the emotional impact his untimely death would have on his children. If he gets on a path of abstinence from tobacco, you would be accurate to identify him as having a sense of meaning and purpose which motivates him to quit smoking. More specifically, his sense of meaning and purpose will also provide him with the resilience he needs to cope with cravings.
As mentioned in the previous post, meaning and purpose can be multifaceted and overlapping. Ultimately, meaning and purpose comes from using identified altruistic beliefs you already hold unto to serve as motivation for positive change. I will leave you with one of my favorite books, Man’s Search for Meaning, written by Viktor Frankl, a well known Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, who has since been deceased. The book is based on his experiences as a prisoner and survivor of the WWⅡ holocaust. The book details Dr. Frankl’s personal discovery during his time as a prisoner in a concentration camp, of making meaning in ones life regardless of the circumstances.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC, a professional counseling and life coaching practice.