From Plato to Nietzsche: 10 phrases for the personal growth of great philosophers

Who I am
Robert Maurer

Author and references

There is a journey, perhaps the most exciting of all, that you have to undertake at some point in life. A journey inside you, to get rid of all the wrong beliefs, the beliefs that crush you and the ways of doing that limit you.

The philosopher Ayn Rand was convinced that we have an obligation towards ourselves to: “be able to have the most complete perception of reality within our reach, and a constant and active expansion of personal perception, that is, of personal knowledge”. He also believed that "personal beliefs should never be sacrificed to the opinions or wishes of others."

Of course, this path of personal growth is unique. Nobody can walk it for you and there are no pre-established steps that guarantee "success". In any case, all the great philosophers of history have undertaken it, leaving behind a trail of phrases for personal growth that can serve as a guide to dig deeper and deeper, in search of your true self.

  1. “The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new” - Socrates

Socrates, considered one of the greatest philosophers in history, promoted self-knowledge. His immense legacy is built precisely on doubt, he stated that learning does not mean accumulating knowledge but questioning it, reflecting on it and modifying it, if necessary. His teaching method was very particular because he did not transmit absolute truths but, through maieutics, he encouraged his students to discover their truths. This is why his personal growth phrase is so powerful and becomes an exhortation to embrace change, letting go of the past to focus on the future.

  1. "There is no road to happiness: happiness is the way" - Gautama Buddha

If there is a phrase for personal growth that can become a mantra, it is this one. These simple words have a powerful meaning, as is often the case in Buddhist philosophy. Buddha considered that happiness is not a destiny, it is not a point of arrival at a precise moment in life or something that you reach through goods or social status, rather it is an attitude towards life and, therefore, it is always a personal choice. . This means that there is no need to postpone happiness to certain goals, because you can be happy while trying to achieve those goals.

  1. “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in suffering” - Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche's nihilism can be glimpsed in this quote, which in turn becomes a phrase for personal growth. This philosopher argued that we are immersed in a deep frustration that arises from the loss of meaning, from the inability to make sense of life and the things that happen to us. He thought that we cannot avoid pain and suffering because they are the other side of joy and happiness, but to survive psychologically we need to make sense of what happened to us, learn the lesson and integrate those experiences into our story of life. If we don't, we will be stuck in the past, constantly reliving the trauma, which will prevent us from moving forward.

  1. “Our fears are much more numerous than the concrete dangers we run. We suffer much more for our imagination than for reality ”- Seneca

Seneca, the great Stoic philosopher, analyzed centuries ago the human tendency to focus on the negative aspects of situations and worry excessively about the future. His antidote to anxiety was very simple: “True happiness is enjoying the present without the anxious addiction to the future, not distracting ourselves with hopes or fears, but resting peacefully, like someone who desires nothing. The greatest blessings of humanity are within us and are within our reach. A wise man is happy with his lot, whatever it is, without desiring what he does not have ”.

  1. “Anguish is the vertigo of freedom” - Soren Kierkegaard

This Danish philosopher, father of existentialism, stressed the importance of the "I" and introspection as a way to find the truth. In fact, he went so far as to affirm that "subjectivity is truth and truth is subjectivity", by which he meant that we must look more within ourselves and stop letting ourselves be guided by what others say, think or do. This phrase for personal growth refers precisely to the moment when we free ourselves from the social bonds and anguish that we may experience. Be aware of this and don't allow the fear of flying to clip your wings.

  1. "Poverty does not come from the decline in wealth, but from the multiplication of desires" - Plato

Plato's cave myth is perhaps the best way to understand his philosophical position. Plato praised ideas about material possessions, so it is not strange that he warns us that true wealth does not come from the increase of our purchasing power but from the decrease of our desires. In a society that pushes us to unbridled consumerism, we must keep in mind this phrase for personal growth because it is the most direct way to freedom, it allows us to free ourselves from confrontation, envy and useless anxieties to have more and more.

  1. "If we are not at peace with ourselves, we cannot guide others in the search for peace" - Confucius

This Chinese thinker who preached tolerance and love warns us that we cannot seek outside what we have not cultivated within ourselves before. We cannot love fully, in a mature and authentic way, if we do not love ourselves first. We cannot accept others unconditionally if we do not accept ourselves first. And we cannot transmit serenity if we have not first cultivated inner peace. All our actions, and non-actions, are a reflection of what is happening inside us, so we cannot be the light of the world and the darkness of the home.

  1. "Not being loved is a simple misfortune, the real misfortune is not loving" - Albert Camus

This French philosopher, Nobel Prize in literature, has always faced the human condition of isolation and loneliness in a society that, according to him, was too individualistic and repressive. As a result, he thought we embarked on a frantic search for security through relationships. However, one of the antidotes, besides "becoming so absolutely free that our mere existence is an act of rebellion," was learning to love. It is not a question of possessive or dependent love, which is the most common, but a love that sets the other free, because it is capable of self-satisfaction. In fact, this precious advice is also hers: “Don't walk in front of me, I might not follow you. Don't walk behind me, I don't know where to lead you. Walk by my side and we will always be friends ”. Once understood, it is a radical change of perspective that distorts many of the conceptions that we have always taken for granted.

  1. “There is no favorable wind for the sailor who does not know where to go” - Arthur Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer argued that we can get to know each other if we embark on a path of introspection, an idea on which much of his work revolved, which many consider a link between Eastern and Western philosophy. Therefore, it is not strange that one of his phrases for personal growth was precisely about the need to dig inside ourselves and then hoist the sails. He warned us that if we do not have our own and well-defined goals, we will not be able to take advantage of the opportunities when they knock on our door.

  1. "The important thing is not what we do with us, but what we ourselves do with what they have done with us" - Jean-Paul Sartre

This French philosopher who flirted so much with existentialism and humanist Marxism and ended up shaping his existential psychoanalysis, was firmly convinced that every person creates himself. He also thought that we are fully responsible for our lives, without excuses or pretexts. Therefore, one of his most powerful phrases for personal growth refers precisely to the importance of not falling into chronic victimhood and useless complaints. We must be aware that we cannot always control what happens to us, but we can control how to react. In the long run, this is what really matters. It is our attitudes, decisions and actions that shape our personality.

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