“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” Victor E Frankl.
Victor Frankl survived Nazi death camps and lived to write about his experience (Man’s Search For Meaning ). I’ve been fascinated by his ideas for decades. But when I came across this quote recently, I realized that it sums it all up for me.
FYI – this post doesn’t focus on finding a job, thinking about career or even working with illness. I’m feeling philosophical and I hope you’ll bear with me. Maybe it’s the seasonal change (it’s spring in Massachusetts). Maybe it’s looking ahead to turning 60. Or maybe it’s just that kind of day.
I talk with people daily who are in deep pain about their lives. Many firmly believe that their pain stems from the chronic illness they live with. Who could argue about what creates difficulty for a person? Not me. I know it’s tough living with illness.
I’m on a daily search to uncover the places in myself to see opportunity as I struggle with pain and fatigue. I can only share what I’ve learned and hope it helps you.
When I was young, I was passionate about changing the injustice I saw in the world. That changed when I turned 40 and developed a 2nd autoimmune disease. I had a loving husband and family, didn’t have to worry that we’d lose our home without my income, and was highly educated. But I grew miserable and struggled to find some way to understand how to live with this.
That’s when I had my personal transforming experience.
Frankl’s books and soul searching helped me turn my unhappiness on it’s head. I found strength I didn’t know I had from appreciating what was good in my life. For the first time, I understood that misery was a personal experience that I could take responsibility for rather than blame others. I understood that I couldn’t change what was happening to me but I could change my response.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation we are challenged to change ourselves”. My take on what he’s saying is that you have to dig deep — use a shovel or even a back hoe — to find what you can change inside yourself. Look for the spaciousness you need to face challenges, whether they’re health, relational, professional, or even living through war. YOU are the only thing you can change.
It’s a lot of work. But is there something you’ve got to do that’s more important?
What helps you get through the day? Do you find places of optimism?