Documenting The Journey Of A Man On A Quest For Mindfulness, Peace, and Joy

Category: Books

Lessons From “Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer

After finishing Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild, I immediately took to my journal to write down my top lessons and takeaways from the stories of Chris McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp and the other adventurers noted in the book. 

I’m sharing this journal entry as-written to retain the essence of how I was feeling immediately after finishing the book. 

  1. Call your parents. They always want to hear from you.
  2. Life with less can be more fulfilling. 
  3. Convention is the enemy.
  4. We are prisoners of society, of civilization.
  5. Experiences are best when shared. Chris comes to this realization toward the end of his life after spending several months in isolation in Alaska. At first this expedition made him feel more alive than anything else. But after a time, he concludes experiences are better when shared with others. 
  6. Relationships and love matter. 
  7. Document your own life with pictures and journals. 
  8. Surround yourself with writings that move you. 
  9. Don’t wait to start living out your beliefs. Now is the time. 
  10. You can get by with much less than you think. 
  11. Chris McCandless blindly trusted so many strangers: for a ride, for shelter, for employment. To these people unknown to him, he showed courtesy, honesty, and hard work. In response, they all helped him. What would happen if we all gave people we don’t know the benefit of the doubt? Gave them compassion, love, and respect as the default? 
  12. Your limits are much farther than you think they are. Pushing those limits can be thrilling and exhilarating. 
  13. When embarking on a new endeavor, take time to learn from experts who have walked the path before you. 
  14. Be prepared. 

How to Discover Meaning and Purpose in Your Life

Having just finished Viktor Frankl’s A Man’s Search For Meaning, I’m on an existential meaning-of-life high right now! 

Frankl’s notion of Logotherapy states that the primary motivational force in humans is to find meaning in life.

The basic principles are:

  • Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most horrific ones.
  • Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life. 
  • We have the freedom to find meaning in what we do, or in what we experience, when faced with any situation, including unavoidable suffering. 

 

He states we can find meaning in three different ways: 

  1. By creating a work or doing a deed
  2. By experiencing something or encountering someone
  3. By the attitude we choose to take in any circumstance

 

Two other principles in the book particularly struck me – not striving for happiness and the multitude of meaning.

 

Happiness is not something one should strive for; rather, if one seeks and finds meaning, happiness will naturally appear. So, if you are feeling down and try to mentally will yourself to be happy, it will be a challenge. But if you instead find meaning by, say, creating something, your spirits will inevitably take a turn for the better. 

There is no one “meaning of life.” Meaning varies from person to person, from day to day, and from moment to moment. What is important to you may not be to another. What was meaningful to you this morning may not be meaningful to you tomorrow, or even a minute later. Asking someone, “What is the meaning of life?” is equivalent to asking a Chess Grandmaster, “What is the best chess move in the world?” There isn’t an answer to that question; it all depends on the situation. This is an incredibly uplifting view on finding meaning in your life, because there is no “right answer,” which means there is no wrong answer. The answer is right in front of you in this very moment, and the only person that can know it is you. It’s also a useful mental framework when serving and helping others, to know whatever gives you meaning will not be the same for them. 

 

This book helped me realize that if I’m ever feeling stuck, overwhelmed, unfocused, anxious, or depressed, I can ask myself the following questions:

  • Am I creating something right now? 
  • Am I doing a deed right now? 
  • Am I having an interesting experience right now? 
  • Am I encountering another person and having an interaction with them right now? 
  • Is there a better attitude I can choose to take in this moment? 

If I answer ‘no’ to the first four questions, then maybe I should stop doing whatever it is I’m doing and start doing one of those four activities because it will be sure to be a meaningful endeavor. 

If I answer ‘yes’ to the last question, then the next step, while not always easy, is simple – improve your ‘tude, dude!

 


 

Have you read Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning? What other lessons and takeaways did you glean from the book? How have you been applying them in your life? What other similar texts do you recommend? Let me know in the Comments! 

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