With Valentine's Day just around the corner, this is probably as good a time as ever to discuss the relationship between "love" and the "search for meaning." In this regard, Viktor Frankl's holistic view on the importance of our intuitive capacity for love offers great insight into how meaning in everyday life--and even at work--reveals itself.
"Love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire....The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved."
Dr. Frankl, wrote these words in his classic bestseller, Man's Search for Meaning, a book that was first published in German in 1946 under the title, "Ein Psycholog erlebt das Konzentrationslager" (From Death-Camp to Existentialism). For good reason, Man's Search for Meaning remains one of the most important books of modern times (the Library of Congress named it one of the ten most influential books in America). Indeed, Dr. Frankl's personal story of finding a reason to live in the most horrendous of circumstances--Nazi concentration camps--has inspired millions of people around the world. To be sure, I am both honored and humbled to have had him as a mentor.
Alex Pattakos with Viktor Frankl at his home, Vienna, Austria, August 1996
It is against this personal backdrop that Frankl's quote about love must be considered. And considered very seriously. You see, although Viktor Frankl was blessed with surviving his horrific ordeal in four different Nazi death camps, including Auschwitz, his mother, father, wife, and brother were not so fortunate. And even though he had been stripped of everything, down--literally--to the bare bones of his humanity, Frankl experienced moments of bliss, especially when he thought of his beloved--his wife, his parents, his brother, and others who were dear to him. In no uncertain terms, he learned unequivocally that love was his salvation and that, among all of the values that offered him a source of personal meaning, it was love that proved to be the "ultimate and highest goal to which he could aspire."
I would like all of us to reflect seriously upon the above passage from Man's Search for Meaning, along with Dr. Frankl's personal, love-affirming experience--today, tomorrow, and forever. What do you think about it? How does it make you feel? How and in what ways are you bringing and weaving love into your life? Into your work?
Into your "work?!" Yes, that is what I said. Even though we don't normally associate this particular "L" word with work or the workplace, it does have an important and meaningful role to play. I'm not talking about romantic love, even though we all know that it sometimes finds its way into the work setting. I'm talking about love in the sense of caring about another person's "highest good." And this includes those with whom we may work, such as co-workers, colleagues, associates, customers, vendors, partners, students, patients, and so on. This notion of work and the workplace is not as far-fetched as one might initially think. For instance, in my book, Prisoners of Our Thoughts, I write about a company, Skaltek, a major equipment manufacturer based in Stockholm, Sweden, where the task of building a meaningful workplace is taken very seriously. Listen to the words of Őystein Skalleberg, the founder of Skaltek, as he describes his philosophy about people and work:
"Every human being is a Leonardo da Vinci. The only problem is that he doesn't know it. His parents didn't know it, and they didn't treat him like a Leonardo. Therefore he didn't become like a Leonardo. That's my basic theory."
Because Skalleberg seeks to practice what he preaches, there are many attributes of the working environment at Skaltek that would be considered "radical" by even some of the most innovative companies/organizations in the world today. One is an annual employment appraisal process that involves the use of randomly selected performance review teams. According to Skalleberg, since no one knows who will be conducting their performance review each year, "Everybody smiles in all directions!" Skalleberg also has a revolutionary formula for building a company culture in the postmodern era:
Confidence is the start of it,
Joy is a part of it,
Love is the heart of it.
Now, doesn't Skaltek sound like a company with a meaning-focused philosophy about bringing love to work?
And, once again, with Valentine's Day just around the corner, why not make now the time to (re)affirm too that "love is the ultimate and highest goal" to which we all can aspire?!
You can find out more about Dr. Alex Pattakos, author of the international bestselling book, Prisoners of Our Thoughts, in his HuffPost Bio and at http://www.prisonersofourthoughts.com. See also his "Dr. Meaning" Channel on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/DrMeaning. You can contact Alex at: email@example.com.