What Are the 3 Things That Create a Meaningful Life?

Donald Miller

Years ago a psychologist named Viktor Frankl stood up to Sigmund Freud. Freud was teaching what man wanted most in life was pleasure. But Frankl believed man wasn’t seeking pleasure as much as he was seeking a deep sense of meaning.

In fact, he went on to say “When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.”

*Photo Credit: Oleh Slobodeniuk, Creative Commons

*Photo Credit: Oleh Slobodeniuk, Creative Commons

“When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.” -Viktor Frankl (tweet this)

I believe Frankl was right, and I think it’s obvious. Everybody around us is seeking pleasure, but pleasure rarely satisfies. In fact, the most contented people I know have found something more satisfying than pleasure, they’ve found a humble sense of gratitude and are actively participating in work that is difficult, beautiful and good.

Viktor Frankl spent most of his life studying the mystery of meaning, and amazingly, he came up with a prescription for how we can experience it ourselves.

His prescription was remarkably simple:

1 Have a project you’re working on that requires your unique skills and abilities. And preferably a project that helps others.
2 Share your experiences within the context of safe, loving relationships.
3 Find a redemptive perspective on your suffering and challenges.

I discovered Viktor Frankl’s work during a dark season. I’d written my first bestseller and yet the experience didn’t satisfy me. I’d wanted to be a bestselling author all my life and I assumed when it happened I’d experience some kind of actualization. It’s an absurd thought, but I think we all have these mystical hopes that if we only had such and such we’d be satisfied.

After reading Frankl’s thoughts, I began to structure my life differently.

I woke up every day and identified a few projects that needed my attention and made a to-do list for each. I realized that if I gave myself enough time to “think about life” I only got depressed, but if I actually started working I was too distracted to get depressed. In other words, I realized we weren’t meant to sit around and stare at our belly buttons. We were supposed to be distracted with a worthy pursuit.

I also began to pay more attention to my relationships. I stopped looking to “join a community” and created one of my own. I walked away from unhealthy relationships and started spending more time with people who were non-judgmental, kind, supportive and loving. This had a terrific effect on my stability and I found myself feeling more contented and confident.

And lastly, I took a reflective look at some of the challenges I’ve faced in life and while acknowledging there was plenty to grieve, I also acknowledged I’d been blessed by some of those hard experiences. By that I mean some of the painful experiences I’d had had made me more humble, more tender. This may have been the most healing exercise of my life and I highly recommend it.
Life looks very different for me now. I don’t wake up wondering what life is about or where I fit. I don’t have unhealthy relationships and I don’t pick at old wounds so they won’t heal.

Viktor Frankl’s prescription works.

Sadly, Frankl passed before he could create a formal process people could go through to analyze and organize these three areas of their lives. But the process was so healing to me I began working on a way to explain it to others and take them through it.

That process became Storyline, and so far we’ve taken about 25k people through it. The feedback has been stellar. We’ve heard from people who’ve told us their marriages have been saved, their depression has subsided and their lives have gone from mundane to adventurous.


Our goal at Storyline has always been to take one-million people through the process, so we’ve got a long way to go. But we’re about to release a tool that will help.

On March 31st, we’ll be releasing Creating Your Life Plan, our online course that allows you to create a life plan based on Viktor Frankl’s prescription to experience meaning.

The course consists of 11 videos in which I sit with author Shauna Niequist in my kitchen and help her create her life plan. As you take the course, you simply fill out your plan along with Shauna and I, watching and listening as we talk about the most joyful and agonizing seasons of our own lives. I was amazed, even as we filmed the E-Course, at how powerful the process was. Let’s just say there was a lot of laughing and a lot of crying.

You can take the course by yourself, in a small group or, if you own a company, you can get a corporate license so your entire staff can go through it (While Shauna and I talk a little about our own faith, there’s no forceful religious content in the course.)

Nobody is more healthy, productive or clear-headed than a person who has planned and is living a meaningful life.

The course was beautifully shot and very expensive to produce but we’re offering it at a great price. For the entire month of April, it’s actually 33% off.

If you’ve not experienced Storyline but have always wanted to, would you take the course? We believe the more people who are living healthy, meaningful lives there are, the better we will become as a culture. Culture really can heal from the inside out, and we think planning and living a meaningful life is a step toward making that happen.

It’s been more than a year since we’ve released anything new at Storyline so if you don’t mind, would you spread the word? Will you make Creating Your Life Plan your next small group experience? Will you take all your employees through it? Your family? Yourself?

We think your story is worth it.


Learn more about Creating Your Life Plan by visiting our website CreatingYourLifePlan.com. While you’re there, you can sign up to learn about a major discount during the month of April. Click here to learn more.

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller has been telling his story for more than a decade, now he wants to help you tell yours. He’s helped over 1,000 companies clarify their message through the StoryBrand Workshops. For an introduction to what he’s doing now, check out the 5 Minute Marketing Makeover.

  • Martino Liu

    There are no comment so far. I wonder how many people read this. Anyway, I am planning my life for the 10th time, and came across to your online course. But most important, The group idea is awsome. I did something similar with my friends many years ago and today everyone of them still remembers that meeting with great detail and excitment. As soon as I get some extra cash I am going to take the online course. And I wantto do the group thing. Sounds good.