“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”
~Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Man’s Search for Meaning is one of the great books that every person should read at least once in a lifetime. Make that 2 or 3 times. I love this particular quote from Frankl because it gets at the very heart of finding The Intersection of Purpose and Now: the tension of “striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task” is what brings us alive. We are most alive and On Purpose when in pursuit of a goal we value deeply.
Begging their forgiveness, I’m going to tell you a little about my two oldest sons, Tyler and Dylan. They are both great kids. I remember when Tyler was in sixth grade and Dylan was in fourth grade. Our family was eating dinner. Dylan made the observation that he had been “going out” with a girl for five months. Then he casually looks over at his brother and says, “Tyler, you went out with a girl for five days one time”. Of course, “going out” with a girl in fourth grade doesn’t mean much (Mom and Dad were making sure it didn’t mean much!).
We remember this story for two reasons. First, it is funny to discuss with kids what “going out” means at that age. Second, because it demonstrated a contrast, at an early age, between our two boys. By middle school, Dylan had the next five-plus years of his life planned out. Tyler couldn’t tell you what he wanted five minutes from now.
Times have changed, and I think of the Frankl quote now when I think of Tyler and the critical importance of having goals in our lives. Tyler is a hockey player. He wants to be on the ice all the time. He wants to get better. He has had to get better, since he chose to swim competitively instead of play hockey for three years at a formative stage, but he has caught up with his peers again. Tyler wants to play competitive hockey for as long as he can. He has dreams of playing for a major university team and playing professionally.
The pursuit of hockey goals has changed Tyler. The most striking example of the change comes from a conversation I had with him this spring. He is planning to live with a host family in another community during his senior year of high school to play on a Junior hockey team and increase his chances of being scouted for a chance to move up. He wants to attract interest from college teams.
This goal – to attract college and professional scouting interest – has changed Tyler’s outlook on everything else. He knows grades will be critical to his hockey career, and he has worked to raise his GPA. He knows his statistics will attract attention, so he has posted them online. He knows his coach’s evaluations will be considered, so he is making sure those coaches are ready to provide their insights into his potential. He knows he will have 6:30 a.m. practices next year, before he goes to school – so he immediately switched his daily workouts at the fitness center to 6:30 a.m.
He knows he needed to make money for expenses next year so he got a job. I was amazed when he zeroed in on McDonalds for his job. (He had always said he would “never” work at McDonalds.) Tyler’s explanation: he needed a job that would transfer easily when he moved this fall and again when he returns home in March – McDonald’s was the perfect solution. And he’s working his tail off (we don’t get that at home too often).
Finally, I made a comment to Tyler about how he might think about joining the National Guard to pay for his education if hockey doesn’t take him as far as he wants. His response?
“Dad, that’s my plan. Why do you think I’ve been talking to the recruiters at school so much?”
Of course, I didn’t know he had ever talked to National Guard recruiters, but my point is this: Here is a boy that just a year or more ago couldn’t tell you what he wanted to achieve in the next 5 minutes, let alone 5 months or 5 years. Yet striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, freely chosen, has changed everything about him. He is quickly becoming a young man with a purpose.
- What is it that you want that brings you alive just thinking about it?
- Have you turned it into a goal?
- Are you willing to risk striving and struggling to pursue your dream? How do you know?
A worthwhile goal changes everything. Meaningful goals bring you the unique, healthy tension one can experience only at The Intersection of Purpose and Now.
What is the worthwhile goal, that by merely pursuing it you might begin the next stage of life with a deeper feeling of significance than you have ever experienced before?