He describes how the manner in which prisoners imagined their future affected their survival.
It was his experiences in Auschwitz that led to the development of his psychotherapeutic method, which is based on the conceiving of one’s idealized future and a constant visualization of that positive outcome. It was his belief that in proceeding in this manner, evoking a sense of meaning by and through our actions, creating and envisioning an existential purpose, we put ourselves in a position to endure our respective suffering and meet our highest potential.
Basically, we need to have a plan.
We don’t necessarily need a specific set of goals, but a life plan—a vision of how we want our lives to unfold, how we’d like to be, how it is we want to relate to other people.
It doesn’t need to be exact or specific. It is more about feeling—a generalized, yet calcified, sense of self—than a particular thought or set of notions. It is an intuitive sense of direction, a deeply entrenched sense of one’s own path and trajectory, rather than a law of attraction type methodology.
It’s good to have a sense of direction in our lives. It feels good to know that we are moving in accordance with a certain momentum of being—one that will likely produce favorable results.
This momentum is an unavoidable aspect of our lives, whether we make a plan or not. There is an energy current produced by our thoughts, feelings, and choices—one that comes to determine the course of our existence.
If we feel that we don’t need to have a plan, that our intuition and basic instincts will naturally guide us toward health, wealth, love, and happiness, then we should think again. This momentum is much stronger than our whims, impulses, and momentary desires, and if we don’t harness this energy then we are doing ourselves a profound disservice.
“Live in the moment, bro!” Yeah, but the thing about that is, most people don’t know what that means. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything, at least not in the way it’s generally tossed about in public discourse.
Live in the moment? Does that mean not taking responsibility for our actions? Not thinking about the consequences of our choices? Deriving as much mundane pleasure from life as possible? Hmm…doesn’t quite cut it for me.
Does having a plan inherently detach us from the present moment? It doesn’t seem to. In fact, it may even make us more susceptible to enjoying the present because our lives are given a vital context, a sense that what we are doing is aligned with our deepest and most foundational desires. This is a deeper joy than fleshly pleasure. Although, there’s that too. Rather, it is the joy of being on the right path for ourselves, the joy of living out our most heartfelt longings, and taking the correct steps to do so.
So, how are we to make a plan? How are we to outline our lives so as to have our movements and actions connect with that which we most deeply seek?
We cannot get what we want if we don’t know who we are, which is why it is so crucial to be constantly inquiring into our own nature and observing the quality of our inner state if we are to have a sustainable plan for our lives.
As within, so without.
We start by honestly assessing who and what we are, and we may not always like what we see. We may realize that we are a little crazy, and maybe we need to sort some things out before we can make any big moves.
For me, this process has been one of meditative observation, wherein I sit still and align myself with my breathing until I get to the point where I am looking at my thoughts as a passive observer rather than an active participant. In doing this, I come to understand my deeper drives and impulses, and it is only from this understanding that I come to act upon those drives and impulses.
The next step would be to write out our plan. Again, it needn’t be specific or concise. Rather, look at it as an exercise. What do we see ourselves doing in one year, five years, or 20 years? Play with the possibilities and see what makes you feel the best—for this is the only way to gauge it.
We must ask ourselves, what kind of life do we wish to live?
I’ve been contending with a series of deeply-rooted chronic infections for the past number of years, which has been debilitating and dejecting in ways I don’t think most people could understand, and through this process, it has been important to maintain a sense of direction and purpose.
I have a plan, and my plan keeps me motivated, balanced, and in touch, even in the most trying moments.
When we are suffering, which will certainly occur at one point or another, it makes sense to have a plan, and perhaps that plan might be the only thing that keeps us alive.
Suffering isn’t a shameful thing, in fact, it is quite noble and dignified. Things can get bad for us, and if we think they couldn’t possibly get any worse—we are dead wrong. No situation is incapable of descending into further chaos and turmoil. It is important to recognize this so that we can be rightly equipped for whatever may happen.
What I am proposing is a methodology that helps us cope with and transcend our suffering, as well as something entirely practical to anybody looking to augment their lives and become more powerful and industrious.
So, let’s meditate on our most fundamental passions and desires, give credence to our deeper nature through introspection and self-inquiry and, from there, start writing out a broad and expansive plan for our lives with regards to what we want to do, how we want to be, the kind of relationships we wish to have, and anything else we might aspire to do or be.
This, of course, can constantly be changed and improved upon.
If we don’t have a plan, we’ll get caught up in someone else’s plan. To have a good plan is to live a deeply meaningful and effective life.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Elade Manu/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson