This essay is part of my 42 Deep Thoughts project.
Dreaming and hoping is what gives you the fuel to achieve anything, or get you anywhere; even through the greatest depths of hell.
One of my favorite books, which I go back to every few years, is Man’s Search for Meaning by, Victor Frankel. It’s a book about his observations on how people survived the Holocaust.
Frankel founded the psychoanalytical school of logotherapy, “logos” Greek for “meaning.” Unlike Freud’s idea that the primary force that drives man is pleasure, Frankel founded logotheraphy on the idea that man’s primary driver is meaning.
He was developing the concepts before World War II. His observations surviving a concentration camp solidified the ideas. The central idea is that life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
He observed that when people gave up hope, even if they were healthy, they quickly deteriorated and died in the camp. Whereas the people who held on to hope, had a far better chance of surviving.
I cannot recommend reading this book enough. It is a book that has transformed my life more than almost any other.
Since reading it, I’ve incorporated the ideas into how I live, and achieve things.
I believe that this meaning is manifest through our hopes and dreams. The ideas we hold on to, the picture of what can be, is what propels us forward.
If you’re in a bad place, if you’re not dreaming for a better world, where will you find the strength to find a path out?
If you don’t have a goal, you will never know where you want to be. Looking back, you will be disappointed because you never got to where you wanted.
If you’re not hoping for anything, what do you have to look forward towards?
Hopes can be small, like looking forward to your daily walk through a park at lunch; I used to walk through Bryant Park almost daily while working in midtown. This helped me through some very long days, and complicated projects.
They can be bigger, like envisioning the feeling of acing an interview, when slogging through difficult training material. I worked for several months, working hours every night through problems, during my last round of interviewing. I went being rejected during the first coding interview, to getting through multiple rounds and receiving competing offers from top companies.
Or the dream of working from around the world. This one Ilana and I have been dreaming for a while. It took moving to the countryside, and my getting a remote job for it to happen. But that dream got us here.
Hopes can be giant, like dreaming of returning to the moon. Or solving our climate crisis. Or the dream of peace. Or praying that next year we’ll be in Jerusalem — something my people did for millennia, and achieved.
Dreams can also be about just getting through another day. Each day is another step, and eventually you’ll get out of the depths of hell.