This is a guest post by Jimmy Tong of My Life Architects.
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”- Confucius
The Day Viktor Frankl asked “What is Life Asking of Me?”
During the darkest days of his life in a concentration camp, “What is life asking of me?” was one of the most important questions Viktor Frankl ever asked of himself.
In the days when the Nazis took his manuscripts of Man’s Search for Meaning– his life’s work – and burnt it, he was at the lowest place any human being could endure.
Witnessing his wife’s murder in the gas chambers, his dignity stripped away, and enduring all the cruelties of concentration camp life, Frankl could have asked “Why me?” and “Why is this happening?. He did not. Instead he chose to ask, “What is life asking of me?”
In this one question, “What is life asking of me?” he completely changed his focus, hence his emotions and destiny in life. For Frankl, it was a case of life asking him to live another day. It was life asking him to rewrite a better manuscript which we all have come to be inspired years down the road.
It was life asking him to use his skills as a psychologist to help those with emotional trauma. Life offered him a choice to ask another question to empower him. Life has that offer for us too.
“Why Me?” or “What is Life Asking of Me?”
The power of human beings to choose our responses under any circumstances is a God-given ability to all. But so often many do not realize we have this power to ask “What is life asking of me?”
For some it is a case of knowing this gift of life but not having the abilities to use this to their advantage. Yet for others it is a case of always focusing on the negative outcomes of life.
It has always been a mystery to those who are engaged in the field of human psychology to wonder about how fellow human beings react under adverse circumstances.
The whole science of psychology is about understanding how we can better help people make good decisions and choices in life.
Yet in our daily life, we see many situations whereby humans are at the mercy of their surroundings and emotions. The teenager provoked into a gang fight at the simplest act of staring at another person.
The ill-mannered behavior of road bullies. The mother giving up on life when faced with the sudden death of her child. Under these difficult situations, it seems a natural thing for people to ask “Why me?” rather than “What is life asking of me?”
On the other hand we also know of stories of triumph over adversities. What would you do when you are born with no hands and legs? Ask Nick Vujicic! What would you do when you are born into a world of poverty and homelessness? Ask Farrah Gray!
What would you do when you are raped? Ask Anne Ream! What would you do if you discovered you had cancer? Ask Lance Armstrong! When all these victims and countless others experienced deepest emotional and physical hurt, their question is not “Why me?” but “What is life asking of me?”
Four Ways to a Better State for Asking “What is Life Asking of Me?”
The question about triumph over adversity has always been about how can we turn it around despite all that has happened? How can we help another person ask the better question of “What is life asking of me?” I believe that we can transform our states to ask “what is life asking of me?” when we practice the following four things diligently.
- Equip yourself with the options even in ‘peace time’.
Soldiers train in peace for times of war. Similarly, we should learn to deal with adversity when times are happy and good. Make use of minor negative conditions to ask “what is life asking of me?”
When you fail at managing your anger at home, keep this question handy and ask it often. Get someone else to remind you of your state and encourage you to ask this question.
Once you start thinking along “what is life asking of me?” you will find that your focus is shifting for the better. With practice, this question becomes automatic when the need arises.
- Use your resourcefulness and initiative.
This is something that Stephen Covey of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People practiced on a regular basis with his family and colleagues. Whenever people chose a negative reaction to any situation, he would confront them with their actions and ask them what else could they have done?
There is an inevitable silence because of lack of ideas. This is the time he will come together with the person to use their combined resourcefulness and initiative to come up with empowering ideas to those situations. These ideas become viable options when negative emotion strikes again.
- Be in company of heroes.
Are you surrounded by heroes of your life? Do you interact with empowering or negative people in your life? List down the 10 most common people you met in an average week. Who are these people? If these people are the negative sort, you better change your routine and choose better people to hang out with.
Similarly, which authors and books are you reading? Are you immersing yourself with wisdom of great and inspiring figures or are you watching mindless television or reading comics all the time?
True stories of triumph over adversity not only equip you with skills to handle challenges but they also inspire and nourish the soul to fight when your sole desire is to lie down.
When the shit hits the fans, your real life heroes and heroes of your mind will offer more support and inspiration out of your rug. Hang around with villains and your outcome will be just like them. Heroes will help you ask “what is life asking of me?” rather than just help me.
- Check out the exact opposite of your negative condition.
We live in a world of polarity. When there is a mountain, there is a valley. There is light and darkness. There is good and evil. There are rich and poor people. Winters are cold and dull but summers are warm and sunny.
Similarly, the emotional lows you experience have their exact opposite. Learn to see the opposite. By the way, there is no law that says you cannot travel from darkness to light. But first you must see the positive side before you can even plan a route there. When you learn to ask “what is life asking of me?” it is always about the polar positive of your negative adversary.
Your turn now! How have you faced the lowest points in your life? What questions did you ask yourself in such circumstances? Who was there to support your trials? Is the question “what is life asking of me?” sufficient to turn things around.
By Jimmy Tong – Life Architects