Purpose and Values

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

A couple of weeks ago, I heard this quote while reading Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl describes this lesson resonating with him and in others during his experience in concentration camps. Those who had a reason could endure just about anything and maintained their humanity. Those who lost the why lost their humanity and would either do just about anything and lose their humanity OR just give up.

There is another great story of a massive workshop where the facilitator, football coach Pete Carroll, asked the participants to write down their purpose in life. In the massive audience, they all sat there stumped. We all think we know what guides us but when we have to write it down specifically we realize how muddy that idea is. Only one person in that audience immediately and quickly wrote down her answer. “Prioritize. Rank everything A, B, or C. Eliminate all Cs.” Brilliant.

I often worry about the immediate day to day priorities getting in the way of the important long term goals that I have – or getting lost in the immediate and losing sight of the important.

This winter I took some time to really think about my why. Here is what I came up with:


To be a great father who made the world better through those he touched and influenced.


Connection: relationships and community

Contentment: happiness, meaning, pleasure, enjoyment, and appreciation

Contribution: making a difference and doing meaningful work

I even created this image to help inspire and remind me.

What is your why? Does it guide your how?

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