How knowing our “why” can help us overcome any “what”

If the title of this article sounded familiar you may have seen the quote from Viktor E. Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

I reread this book not too long ago, and was touched and moved in deep and meaningful ways just as I was the first time I read it. It is by no means a light read, but one which is worth the emotional investment. Frankl’s book, life, and character are humbling and inspiring.

Perspective can sometimes result in viewing concepts from different angles. Due to the time and experiences we are living now, in 2020, I was contemplating that quote once again. It made me pause and think: my “why” is central to me, and not a pandemic, nor a tumultuous presidential election, or even “covid fatigue” can or should result in me losing sight of that. In fact, regaining my perspective and focus allows me to look at the current challenges differently, and to look to the future with optimism and faith. 

While the stress and uncertainty of this year are undeniable, equally undeniable is the strength of the human spirit and our ability to choose our outlook and attitude. Suffering and loss are difficult realities we face in life. However, we all have a purpose and place in this world to leave a positive impact, and a legacy bigger than ourselves.

My friend sent me a video of her son, watching Santa drive by on a trolley (because it is 2020 and that is how Santa made a safe, socially distanced appearance). The look on Camden’s face when he saw Santa was the look of pure amazement and wonder. To him, that moment was breathtaking and awe inspiring – and to me, seeing him in that moment was … breathtaking and awe inspiring. My son is 16, the days of Santa being magical are long gone. Or so I thought. 

I showed my son the video, and he lit up. He thought it was so great to see a little one in that magical place that, for him, was a distant memory. He mentioned it again the next day, how he loved seeing that magic alive and creating such a happy memory for Camden. And once again my heart was filled with joy. I was looking at this thoughtful, caring young man, who it feels like just yesterday was that 3-year-old boy staring in wonder.

2020 cannot detract from these things, unless I choose to become absorbed in the challenges, and lose sight of my “why” that is so much bigger. There is so much beauty, so many possibilities, and so many good and caring people. We just have to be in a place where we will spend our time looking for them, seeing them, and accepting and acknowledging them. John Lubbock said, “What we do see depends mainly on what we look for.”

We need to be active participants in our own life, leading our life the way we choose to. In 2020 there have been so many inspiring, kind, and heroic moments. Are those a passing thought or a quick diversion, or do we choose to center our thoughts there? The suffering, the challenges, and the toxicity of politics are certainly what seem to be all encompassing in the 24/7 news cycle, with an occasional “feel good” story thrown in. Which one of these is more likely to support me in living my “why”, to help and guide me in striving to be the best version of myself? And yet, where do we so often find our thoughts, our focus and our conversations returning to? Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ” Our habits are our choice.

No doubt, we must be informed, we must be ready and able to make important and necessary decisions to deal with the realities of the time. How much more effectively can we do that, how much more positively can we face each day, and how much more of a positive impact can we make, if we choose to differentiate staying informed and aware with becoming entrenched and overwhelmed with the barrage of “news” or conversations focused on the negative? 

The “what” of the present circumstances only detracts from the “why” of my life if I allow it to. I have the choice to frame my thoughts in proactive ways that will guide me to a path of success rather than a path of despair. I have a choice to surround myself with positive, proactive people, remembering that this can mean people with different viewpoints and perspectives. I can live my why, and support those around me in living theirs, only if I can rise above the circumstances and noise of the time and choose my thoughts and approach to my life with intention. 

2021 is quickly approaching. It would behoove all of us to take a deep breath and ensure we are ready to welcome it for what it is – an opportunity to harness all the energy and enthusiasm we choose to approach it with. Covid will not be gone, political serenity is not likely, and all the challenges that come with life will still be present. But we do have a clear choice, as Frankl reminds us, “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” In this moment I choose to see 3 year old Camden in his awe of Santa, and my 16 year old son having an open heart to embrace the beauty and wonder that is all around us … if we look for it. 

I choose to continue to live my “why”: to constantly learn and grow and be the best me I can be; to live with uncompromising integrity; to touch others with empathy, respect, and kindness; and to, hopefully, leave a legacy of positive impact.

What is your “why”? And what will you do to honor it and live it every day?

Linda Lafortune

Linda Lafortune

Linda is the Director of Learning & Client Support at CUInsight.  She has an extensive background in the credit union industry having worked in both large and small credit unions, in ... Web: Details