13 lessons from Viktor Frankl that can help you thrive in later life

In the crucible of unimaginable suffering, Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl (26 March 1905 – 2 September 1997) emerged not only as a Holocaust survivor but also as a beacon of resilience and wisdom. His harrowing experiences in concentration camps forged a profound understanding of the human spirit’s capacity to endure and transcend even the darkest of circumstances.

As we traverse the landscape of later life, facing our own unique trials and tribulations, Frankl’s lessons resonate with newfound significance. From the depths of despair, he extracted timeless truths about finding meaning, embracing resilience, and reclaiming agency in the face of adversity.

Join me on a journey through the 13 invaluable lessons from Viktor Frankl that have the power to illuminate our path, enriching our later years with purpose, fortitude, and profound fulfillment.

1) Finding meaning in life

Frankl lived through one of the darkest periods in human history, yet he found a way to find meaning in life. His belief? Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.

For with age comes a poignant reflection on the essence of existence and the pursuit of meaning. It is in this juncture of life, where the clamor of ambition subsides, that we are called to introspection—to delve deep within ourselves and unearth the guiding light that illuminates our path.

As we age, this becomes even more important. To that I say: Take a step back and think about what gives your life meaning. Once you’ve figured it out, hold on to it and let it guide you through your golden years.

2) Embracing change

Viktor Frankl’s emphasis on adaptability resonates profoundly, particularly as we navigate the complexities of later life.

As we age, we inevitably encounter a myriad of shifts—be it in health, relationships, or daily routines. Rather than succumbing to resistance or lamenting the passage of time, Frankl encourages us to greet these changes as opportunities for personal evolution. In the face of adversity, we are presented with a profound challenge: to transform ourselves.

Embracing this mindset requires courage and a willingness to step outside our comfort zones. It means relinquishing the familiar in favor of the unknown, and embracing the journey of self-discovery with an open heart and mind. Yet, within this process of adaptation lies the potential for immense growth and fulfillment.

3) Choosing your attitude

Frankl was a firm believer that we can’t control everything that happens to us, but we can control how we respond. He said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

I’ve personally found this to be true. I recall a time when I lost my job unexpectedly. I could have chosen to wallow in self-pity, but instead, I decided to see it as an opportunity to explore new career paths. This shift in attitude opened doors to opportunities I never thought possible. As we get older, life will inevitably throw more curveballs our way. But we always have the freedom to choose our attitude. Make it a positive one!

4) The power of love

Viktor Frankl’s poignant reflection, “Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality,” resonates deeply with my own experiences and beliefs

Throughout my life, I’ve come to understand that love transcends mere words or actions—it’s a profound connection that delves into the very essence of who we are.

In my relationships with others, whether family, friends, or romantic partners, I’ve discovered that love serves as a bridge, allowing us to see beyond surface-level interactions and truly understand each other’s souls. It’s through love that we can empathize, support, and cherish one another in ways that touch the deepest parts of our being.

5) Facing suffering head-on

Frankl taught us something incredibly powerful: “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.”

Amidst the inevitable challenges of aging, Frankl’s wisdom rings true: suffering can morph into strength when it finds meaning. Aging brings its share of heartaches—lost loved ones, failing health, shattered dreams. But within the turmoil lies a chance for profound revelation.

Recognizing our suffering is crucial; it’s a testament to our humanity. Yet, we must go further and seek meaning within it. When we embark on this quest for meaning, we infuse our suffering with purpose, turning anguish into resilience

6) Living in the present

Frankl advised us to live in the present and fully engage with life as it happens. He said, “Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered.”

A personal example comes to mind. I used to worry a lot about the future – retirement funds, health issues, you name it. But then I realized that fretting about future uncertainties was robbing me of the joy of the present moment. Now, I try to focus more on the now – enjoying a good book, spending time with my grandchildren, even savoring a cup of tea.

As we age, it’s easy to get caught up in what lies ahead. But let’s not forget to enjoy the present and cherish the little moments that make life worth living.

7) Accepting life’s limitations

Frankl was brutally honest about life. He said, “Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning.”

There’s a raw truth to this. Life isn’t always about chasing happiness or power. Sometimes, it’s about accepting its limitations and still finding meaning in it. As we age, our bodies slow down, our energy levels dip, and we’re not able to do all the things we once could.

And you know what? That’s okay. It’s part of being human. It doesn’t mean that life loses its value or beauty. So let’s embrace those limitations and continue our quest for meaning. Don’t let age define what you can or can’t do. Your value isn’t determined by your physical abilities, but by the depth of your experiences and the wisdom you’ve gained over the years.

pic2305 13 lessons from Viktor Frankl that can help you thrive in later life

8) Freedom of choice

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” These words from Frankl remind us of the power we have in our choices.

Now, here’s an interesting fact: According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, individuals who felt they had autonomy—the freedom to make choices—were shown to have better mental and physical health.

As we age, some choices might be taken out of our hands due to health or circumstances. But remember, we always have the freedom to choose our attitude. So choose positivity, choose resilience, choose grace. Your choices can shape your life more than you think!

9) The value of responsibility

Frankl stated, “Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness.”

This lesson hit home for me a while back. I was given an opportunity to lead a community project, but I hesitated, thinking it would be too much for me to handle at my age. However, I decided to take it on. It was challenging, yes, but it also gave me a sense of purpose and responsibility that I hadn’t felt in years.

As we grow older, it’s easy to shy away from responsibilities, thinking they’re for the younger ones. But taking on responsibilities can give us a sense of purpose and keep us engaged. So don’t shy away. Embrace them and see how they enrich your life!

10) The power of hope

Frankl said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” In other words, as long as we have hope and something to live for, we can bear almost anything.

As the years unfold, life’s tumultuous waves may crash upon us with increasing force. We endure heartaches, confront our mortality, and witness the unraveling of our carefully laid plans. In these moments of despair, it’s easy to succumb to the darkness, to feel overwhelmed by the weight of our burdens.

Yet, amidst the shadows, lies the flicker of hope—a steadfast ‘why’ that propels us forward. Whether it be a deep-seated passion, a cherished relationship, or a noble cause, our ‘why’ infuses our existence with meaning and purpose, offering solace and strength in times of turmoil.

So, I implore you: unearth your ‘why’ and hold it close to your heart. For in the embrace of hope, we discover the resilience to withstand life’s trials and emerge stronger, more steadfast, and more compassionate than before.

11) Embracing our uniqueness

Frankl wrote, “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment.”

As we traverse the landscape of aging, it’s natural to ponder whether our opportunities to make a meaningful impact have waned. However, Frankl’s words resound with an unwavering truth: our purpose knows no bounds of age. Each day presents us with fresh possibilities to manifest our inherent gifts and leave an indelible mark on the world around us.

In embracing our distinctiveness and nurturing our inner calling, we unleash a reservoir of untapped potential that transcends the limitations of time. Whether through acts of kindness, creative expression, mentorship, or advocacy, we have the power to enrich the lives of others and contribute to the greater tapestry of humanity.

12) Don’t run away from suffering

A hard truth from Frankl is: “Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death.”

In our journey through life, we encounter moments of grief, pain, and loss, alongside the joys and love that enrich our existence. As we age, these hardships may become more prevalent, demanding a deeper understanding and acceptance.

Reflecting on Frankl’s words, I find resonance in the acknowledgment that suffering is not a flaw in the human condition but an intrinsic aspect of it. It’s through our struggles that we cultivate resilience, empathy, and profound growth. Rather than shying away from suffering, we must confront it with courage and compassion, recognizing it as an integral part of our shared humanity.

13) Appreciating the beauty of aging

In Viktor Frankl’s timeless wisdom, he illuminated the notion that aging isn’t merely a passage of time but a profound opportunity for self-realization. As we journey through life’s stages, we accumulate experiences and wisdom, becoming more resilient and indestructible in spirit. Frankl’s words resonate deeply, reminding us that with age comes an increased appreciation for the enduring aspects of our being.

For me, this perspective hits close to home. When I found myself struggling to navigate the complexities of hitting the big 3-0, I found solace in Frankl’s words. I realized that each passing year brings new layers of self-awareness and strength – without which we cannot reach emotional and mental maturity. Instead of viewing aging as a decline, I embrace it as a privilege—an opportunity to deepen my understanding of myself and the world around me.

Final words: We’re free to shape our own narratives

In conclusion, Viktor Frankl’s profound insights offer invaluable guidance for thriving in later life. By embracing the power of attitude and finding meaning in every circumstance, one can navigate the challenges of aging with resilience and purpose. Frankl’s emphasis on taking responsibility for one’s choices reminds us that even in the face of adversity, we possess the freedom to shape our own narratives.

Cultivating a sense of purpose, nurturing relationships, and finding joy in small moments are essential ingredients for a fulfilling life journey. As we incorporate these lessons into our own lives, we honor Frankl’s legacy and tap into the resilience of the human spirit.

Let us embrace each day with gratitude and determination, drawing inspiration from Frankl’s wisdom to live a life rich in meaning and significance, no matter our age or circumstances.

Picture of Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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