Overcoming Despair Through Purpose

This is a blog I wrote after my Aconcagua expedition and during the early days of the Growing Worldwide Opportunity Foundation.  People all around the world right now are experiencing despair and we must fight to overcome this to become better individuals and not fall prey to despair.  The one area of my life that has continued to inspire me in this time of despair is my work with the Growing Worldwide Opportunity Foundation.  The GWOF Aconcagua expedition marked a turning point for me and a new found purpose.  The words below speak to my experience and the wisdom I received along my journey.

 Despair = Suffering – Meaning

The above equation comes from an interview that Dr. Viktor Frankl gave towards the end of his life. The host proposed a question regarding if and how people can overcome despair, depression or difficult life circumstances. Dr. Frankl is probably more qualified to quantify this answer than most – he spent three years at four different concentration camps and lost his entire family to the Holocaust. However, he was able to persevere in one of the most horrific events of genocide in modern history because he knew they could not steal his love or meaning. In the end, Dr. Frankl went on to rehabilitate many horrifically damaged people from the Holocaust through his philosophies which ironically leads me to my recent expedition to Aconcagua.

I wrote a blog soon after I got back from my Aconcagua expedition but could not get myself to post the blog. It just didn’t encompass anything worth sharing with the world. In short, it was a boring narrative of what happened. Who cares! It wasn’t until recently when I came upon Dr. Frankl’s work that I became motivated to write about my experience. His wisdom is so rich in life and it brought the passion and meaning to the expedition that I was looking for.

Many of you read my blog, Ego versus Purpose, which truly captured my thought process going into the expedition. I wanted to be on the Aconcagua expedition for the correct reasons! Ultimately, I wanted to accomplish a life challenge without the sole objective of feeding my ego. Thus, the GWOF Aconcagua Expedition was born and we were able to bring money and awareness to a major humanitarian issue. The support we received from our grass roots effort was truly a humbling experience. To have people follow and care about what you set out to accomplish and in the end that accomplishment is for a greater meaning is a remarkable endeavor I wish everyone could experience.

This expedition for me was much different than my previous mountaineering experiences in every possible aspect. Although it would make for good reading I would be exaggerating to unfold a series of laboring stories and near death experiences about the expedition. The GWOF Aconcagua Expedition was a remarkably comfortable and pleasant experience with an amazing group of people. The camaraderie and team work of the group clicked perfectly and we were lead by a great leader and in the end the weather cooperated with our ambitions. It was the perfect expedition. That is why my first blog was so boring. I did not even comprehend what the true value of the experience was until recently. This now turns me back to Dr. Frankl and his extensive study of suffering and perseverance in the worst conditions. One of Dr. Frankl’s major assumptions in his philosophy has to do with our main motivation for living and acting.

“When we see meaning we are ready for any type of suffering. This is considered to be different than our will to achieve power and pleasure.”

Meaning is the key factor to our existence but yet we spend so much time trying to find everything but meaning. I spent a few years wandering in the mountains striving for the summits of major peaks for my own pleasure which ultimately left me unfulfilled. It was not until a shift in thinking and a change in life circumstances occurred that I was able to alter my mind away from accomplishment and towards meaning. Dr. Frankl was adamant that those individuals that survived the concentration camps did not give into despair which according to his above principle and equation means they did not lose meaning. Thus, the human can undergo tremendous suffering and hardships if they do not lose sight of a greater meaning.  Although Dr. Frankl’s examples and life are extreme in nature they serve as unbelievable examples of the strength of the human spirit. These examples also serve as a remarkable reminder of our own attitudes in good living circumstances.

I always feel that life gives one answers in the strangest forms but we must be watching and listening for those answers so they do not pass us by. I stumbled accidentally upon Dr. Frankl’s work through an unlikely source. Once I dove into his philosophy I started to receive clarity about my expedition. It wasn’t that it was the perfect expedition, there is always suffering in high altitude mountaineering, it was the fact that I had finally started to climb for meaning greater than myself.

“Life Does Not Owe You Happiness, It Offers Meaning.”

Since the GWOF Aconcagua Expedition I have been inspired to give the gift I received from this experience to others. As a result, the GWOF Ambassador Program has been created for those individuals who want to take on new life challenges and support a cause or meaning during the process. We are encouraging our family, friends and supporters to run, bike, swim, climb or take on any new adventure for a greater meaning. The GWOF Aconcagua Expedition has truly given me so much energy to pursue new initiatives which ties perfectly into Dr. Frankl’s philosophy of great meaning and absolutely gives Norman Peale’s words validity.

“The more you lose yourself in something bigger than you, the more energy you will have.”

I encourage all of you who read this to contact GWOF about a life challenge you want to take on for a cause, I promise you it will bring greater meaning to your life. In the end, meaning is why we as a human race create, innovate, climb, write poetry, help others and love. Meaning is what gives us the passion to live even in the darkest moments of life. I will leave you with one final quote from Dr. Frankl which perfectly sums up our pursuit for happiness and meaning, his wisdom is timeless.

“Again and again I therefore admonish my students in Europe and America: Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run – in the long-run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”  Of course, the important part is the “…in the long-run…”


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