For Friedrich Nietzsche, the basic human motivation was a will to power.  For others, from Freud and Skinner to Tony Robbins, it is a will to pleasure that drives us.

Another man, Victor Frankl, had a different theory, one that was tested in the cold fires of the Nazi concentration camps.  Frankl was a psychotherapist before his incarceration there, and was in the unique position of beign able to live his theories out and observe it in the lives of others in this horrific context.  His classic book, Man’s Search For Meaning, remains one of the greatest works of true ‘self-help’ literature ever penned.  For a good selection of quotes from this book go here.  For an introductory overview try here.

Frankl is only one of the thinkers that I’ll cover in my workshop on Saturday 04/04/2009 at QUB, Belfast called The Main Thing: How to Find Meaning in Your Life.

I’ve given away my own viewpoint in the title – for me our quest for meaning is indeed the main thing.  The main thing that moves us and that gives us rest, that we search for in every tangle with  pleasure or power, that offers us our greatest source of hope, strength, and very identity.

Here’s what the course involves.

“Do you sometimes feel your life lacks sense or significance? Join the club! Our search for meaning is the most basic human drive…and the most misunderstood. A lack of personal meaning leaves you without purpose – powerless, passive, and pessimistic. Learn how to give meaning to your own life by employing a range of practical techniques, from powerful questions to personals stories.”

There are many aspects to the meaning of life – philosophical, religious, scientific, even comic (as astute readers of the title of this blog will appreciate).  We’ll have a look at what these worldviews have to offer us, not so much in terms of their truthfulness but in terms of potential usefulness. But I want to bring the ‘big issues’ down – or is that ‘up’? – to the level of everyday experience, so if you’re not a philosopher, don’t panic!  The answer to the mystery of life, the universe and everything might be more obvious than you think!

To book a place, phone the School of Education (Open Learning) on 028 9097 3539/3323 or email

Photo by Pierre Van Crombrugghe on Unsplash