For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does our best.
Viktor E. Frankl - Man’s Search for Meaning
Over the past month I’ve found myself continually unwilling to accept what exists as reality in this world. Without successfully identifying a reason for the way things played out in our political arena, I continue to add to my never-ending mental (and written) inventory of all the ways that I thought things would be different. I further justify my personal state of despair by reading every article across the Internet that takes a poetic stance on why - who is to blame, why it matters, what we could have done differently - the packaging of doomsday lurking just around the corner in 2017.
I’m caught powerless in a mind loop. Sitting and continuing to spin in this political arena is getting me nowhere. The answer must be out there - beyond the circumstances right in front of my eyes. I’m not going to find the answer embedded in the magic words of Internet articles or another angry conversation with a friend who shares nearly my exact views. I’m not looking in the right place.
In widening my search, I turned to a classic book - Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, hoping to find an answer that has otherwise felt out of reach. For those unfamiliar with A Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl’s book was written nearly 15 years after his liberation from a grueling life of imprisonment in concentration camps during the Holocaust. It is his story of that time and what emerged on the other side. Though his book has been repeatedly recommended over the years, it felt relevant now given the parallels drawn by the media between American today and the rise of Hitler.
Right there, tucked towards the very end of the book, stood a quote. “For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does our best.” His entire book can be summed up (though it shouldn’t because it’s phenomenal) with “those who have a why to live, can bear with almost any how.”
If our greatest role in this bad state is to do our best, we must understand what that is, for each of us individually and for a society collectively. What I see us doing today is pointing fingers, raising fear, and keeping our vision focussed on the problem of what exists - all of which completely blind us to any glimmer of light we may hope to uncover.
Are we doing our best?
I did not expect this election to overhaul the political system to the extent that it needs, but I hadn’t prepared for disaster. And yet, I am here, in a place that feels like a disaster.
In the immediate term, I can continue to create space for my clients to be seen as they would like to be seen - as the biggest versions of themselves breaking out of the constructs created for them by our society in this moment. I can hold the greatest gift of any coach - curiosity.
In the mid term, I can reach for a different perspective. One that highlights that anything is possible. Really. Where we are today did not seem possible and yet we are here. How else may we be surprised? Further, if we hold possibility with power, we open space for positive possibility far greater than the negativity we are clinging towards today.
The long term feels harder. I am holding patience that it will take some time to uncover a greater meaning.
For now, finding my own place amongst the chaos - the meaning for me personally, in this moment, feels like progress. It is a step towards doing my best.
Frankl’s words gave me inspiration. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Even when I am feeling controlled by the political forces - like my rights are being taken away - what will always remain in my control is my perspective on those circumstances.
What does your best look like today?