My Search For Meaning

I was recently recommended the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl, who survived the Nazi concentration camps and used his experiences to develop a philosophical framework called logotherapy. It’s a very popular book, but I had only recently learned about it, but having read it, I can see why it’s so popular. It’s short, to the point, and thought provoking.

While I recommend you read it, the very short summary is that people can endure all sorts of horrible things as long as they have some purpose. The three main purposes are serving some goal, serving other people, or simply enduring suffering with dignity. The third one is probably the most interesting and the most spiritual, and despite the book being written by a Jewish author, evokes concepts that seem connected to Christianity and Buddhism. The third purpose is also the most generally applicable since even someone who finds themselves in a situation where all goals are impossible and they’re all alone - which was the circumstances of some in the Nazi concentration camps - can have the purpose of “enduring suffering with dignity” that can never be stripped from them.

So I found the book and the third purpose very interesting, though the first purpose of achieving an external goal was interesting to me as someone who set out to build a goal tracker. The book made me think that the goal of “shipping a good goal tracker” is not quite clear and motivating enough description to be right. What I need is a clearer mission statement.

As someone who habitually spreads myself too thin, I’m going to write not one but two missions, though they are intertwined. My two missions are:

  1. Improve my physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing and that of my family’s, and help others do the same, particularly by leveraging skills that I’m good at such as developing software and writing
  2. Build an indie software business and help others do the same by sharing information and inspiration about my successes, failures, challenges, and lessons

Despite being two different missions, they are intertwined in several ways. The first and most obvious way is that one of my biggest passion project is a goal tracker that I’m building to help improve my own physical and mental health which will hopefully eventually be helpful to some others.

The second and less obvious way is that I believe that, for me, entrepreneurial endeavours are fundamentally better for my mental health. I feel more intrinsict motivation working on them, which both gives my work more meaning and purpose, and gives me more incentive to improve other aspects of my health, as good health enables me to work more effectively.

Still, tying back to Frankl's novel, I'm not tying all my self-worth and meaning to these goals. There might be circumstances that make these goals unrealistic or at odds with other important priorities such as my family. In these cases, I'd have to revisit my mission, and possibly subscribe to Frankl's other two suggestions such as building purpose around serving others or simply enduring suffering with dignity. For now though, I'm fortunate to be in a position to have a meaning centered around goals I care about.

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