Why We Distract Ourselves With Things of Pleasure

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: Mikaela Hamilton

I believe Frankl was right.

And I think it’s obvious. Everybody around us, especially during the holidays, is seeking to receive and give 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.

Frankl’s thoughts inspired me to begin to structuring 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 quickly began to realize we weren’t meant to sit around and wait for life to happen. We were meant to chase 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.

I found myself feeling more content 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.

We’ve now been able to help tens of thousands of people start living better stories through our life planning materials. This past year we released our most advanced product yet, Creating Your Life Plan, an interactive e-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 them, 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.

Here’s what I’ve found:

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

If you’re thinking of someone who could benefit from our life planning course, would you consider gifting them the Creating Your Life Plan Gold Certificate this Christmas?

We truly believe the more people who are living healthy, meaningful lives, the better we will become as individuals, families, friends and communities as a whole.

Let’s celebrate the Christmas story by living our best stories yet.

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.

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  • David Helton

    I liked this. Reminds me to find the time to finish reading Man’s Search For Meaning. I picked it up a few years ago, can’t remember why I put it down before finishing it. It was a good read, but sad. You’d have to expect that being that it was written about Dr. Frankl’s experiences in a nazi concentration camp. Anyways, the corse sounds good too. I wonder if it’d help me? Happy 2015 to you and yours, Donald Miller. Looks like you’re off to a good start.