Nicolae Tanase: Mark, what is the meaning of life?
Mark Schaefer: I read this little book — almost a pamphlet really — called “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. There was a line in there that has always haunted me: “To be human is to suffer.”
As I have learned, the hard way, this is true. And unavoidably, the suffering leaves a mark on us, defines us in some way. Time does not heal, it only numbs. The accumulated suffering in a lifetime inexorably becomes part of the fabric of our daily presence from that moment forward.
The meaning of our lives, then becomes defined as how we handle our suffering. If we dwell in the hurt, the fabric of our life is dark and bleak and unproductive. If we learn to battle through it as a life skill and find a way to weave those dark threads into part of a more vibrant tapestry, the meaning of life can be rich and colorful. In fact, our lives can become even more rich and colorful than if we had never suffered at all.
Many years ago, I had the wisest of teachers tell me that the overwhelming emotion in his life was joy. It was a startling revelation to me as a person who probably would have named anxiety, sadness, and concern as dominant emotions far ahead of “joy.” My life’s goal was to discover and nurture joy in my life.
I think over the course of a lifetime, the meaning of life is the difficult process of transforming suffering into joy. If you can achieve that, it will make everything, every place, and every person around you more joyful too.
~Mark W. Schaefer is a globally-recognized author, speaker, educator, and business consultant, founder and Executive Director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions; he has a portfolio of fascinating accomplishments that include seven patents, two graduate degrees, a mentorship with Peter Drucker, and four best-selling books used as texts at more than 50 universities.
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