Live as if you were living a second time, and as though you had acted wrongly the first time.—Viktor Frankl
Think back to New Year’s Eve last year. Do you remember what you did to celebrate? Do you recall the resolutions you made? Although many people may be able to respond “yes” to the first question, most cannot to the second. In fact, the failure to behave consistently with these promises is so prevalent that fewer people each year even bother to make New Year’s resolutions.
What makes this tradition so compelling is the need for meaning in our lives. Writing about his experiences during the Holocaust, Viktor Frankl argued that the ability to make sense of and see significance in our lives and to have a strong sense of purpose is essential. Indeed, psychological science has demonstrated that people who view their lives as meaningful report higher levels of life satisfaction, happiness, general health, and social connection.
We are “wired” to try to understand the meaning of what happens to us. This is how we sustain ourselves through periods of pain, duress, and ambiguity. In addition, our sense of what is meaningful and important to us is the compass that enables us to set goals and persist in their pursuit despite obstacles and setbacks.