The meaning of life, vulnerability and risks

What is the meaning of life? For a long time I thought ‘What you make of it’. I then started spreading the ideas of risk management, BCM and Crisis Management. That’s not far from my new truth. The meaning of life is linked to risk management through vulnerability, I now think. It works through goals in life.In this post, I give my own opinion, not that of any organization
Author: Manu Steens

“I don’t like to be vulnerable,” she said. I threw my answer from my unconscious self. ‘Vulnerability gives birth to the most beautiful of ourselves. Without vulnerability, we are not authentic in this’, I said. By making ourselves vulnerable, by making ourselves known, we take risks. Others as well as ourselves can hurt us. That gives bad feelings. We run that risk. But it can allow us to realize things together with the other(s) and that is a huge opportunity.

A long story short

In my teenage past, I asked many people: ‘What is the meaning of life?’

The first answer was ‘earn money – work – sweat, blood and tears’. I decided that working would never be sweat, blood and tears for me.

Another answer was ‘my children, they are my investment’.

Other answers were ‘to make myself useful to society’ and ‘to be an example to others’.

All these answers were substantively different. They didn’t answer me, even though they gave me meaning. It was their interpretation, not mine. I decided to give myself goals, instead of spending an eternity looking for what I wanted to do with my life. I decided to ‘spread the word about BCM, risk management and crisis management’. A few weeks ago, a friend challenged me to talk to him about ‘the meaning of life’. At that time, I still didn’t have a conclusion of what the meaning of life was. I returned to the past in my mind and searched without immediately finding the answer. Until I went to dinner with a friend on a Sunday night. She told me about herself. About the difficult choices. What she wanted and didn’t want. Then it became clear.

It became clear that Victor Frankl was a refinement of Freud, because a human being is body and soul. It became clear that Frankl’s sense of purpose makes man more spiritually robust, in addition to Freud’s biological frustration solution that makes man dependent. It became clear that the underlying layer of meaning is the vulnerability of feelings. That vulnerability is challenging (Frankl applied), but a challenge is not always a vulnerability (Freud applied).

When a founder of a company embarks on his self-chosen mission, he creates an image. He hopes to be able to make that happen. He is insecure in this, if he is authentic. That uncertainty makes him cautious when making decisions and carrying out actions. Someone who is not authentic may have ideas, but have fewer chances of success, because the caution may be lacking, causing too many risks to be taken. In this way, vulnerability protects against threats through uncertainty.

If a man chooses for a family, he may choose children as a man because of a certain wish. However, he does not choose his children. That makes him vulnerable. I can only suppose that a woman can have the same kinds of feelings. This vulnerability should ensure that people choose a good upbringing of the child. In Flanders, they say ‘strict but fair’. Later, there will be days when the child goes his own way. The child tears itself away from the parents and cuts the umbilical cord. That can hurt a parent, that can make a parent proud.

The solution

The solution of meaning, therefore, is never to efface that vulnerability. Because that’s when risk can strike. The solution to meaning is daring to show vulnerability to the right people.

Such as going to the bank with your idea for your own business. Like going to a publisher with a few chapters of a book in progress. Such as continuing to explain situations to your child so that they embed patterns of sense of justice in their awareness. Such as daring to go home with both a good report and a bad report. Because when you’re vulnerable, you’re authentic. And even though vulnerability feels bad, it is the core of what you choose in life, who you choose in life, for the future you build yourself. If you do that, you become more beautiful, you fill in what the other(s) in your life want from you. After all, others in your life are never without expectations, if they too are authentic. This points to their vulnerabilities, to which you provide an answer. Through your life, your work, your existence, as a human being. With flaws. Just like a puzzle piece is not the entire puzzle, but fits somewhere in it.


Together with others, you can transcend the vulnerabilities without ignoring them. By helping each other in becoming complete, in your work, in your family, in your friendships. That’s why love is a verb. Therefore, love is never complete. That is why love in itself constantly involves working on love. The love for your work, friends, colleagues, family and partner. Having defects is not incompleteness. We are all building blocks in the world. Together, we are building on this world. To a better and therefore safer world. To an always incomplete world of everyone.

Manu Steens

Manu works at the Flemish Government in risk management and Business Continuity Management. On this website, he shares his own opinions regarding these and related fields.

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