Søren Kierkegaard was a nineteenth-century Danish philosopher whose ideas are still very current and invite us to reflect on life or the relationship we establish with ourselves. Considered the father of existentialism, it is said that he was a very emotional and melancholic person, so it is not strange that these characteristics are glimpsed in his philosophical ideas.
Søren Kierkegaard’s philosophy is deeply person-centered. In fact, we could summarize it in two basic concepts: the individual and its possibilities. Subjects such as personal freedom, happiness and existential angst were central to his work.
This philosopher thought that life consists of a series of decisions that we must make day after day. Through these decisions we develop our existence and become the person we are or that we want to be. Those decisions are inevitable since even doing nothing implies deciding.
The interesting thing about his philosophy is that it empowers us and, in a certain way, it becomes a compass that marks the path to follow in order to know ourselves better and live more fully.
The best quotes of Søren Kierkegaard to grow mature and live fully
- Life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced
One of the most beautiful sentences of Søren Kierkegaard has its origins in Taoism, which tells us that the best source of knowledge is experience. The philosopher himself explains that “the most sublime and beautiful things in life should not be listened to, nor read, nor seen, should be lived”. He encourages us to experiment, be proactive, make mistakes, retrace our steps and move forward. We should not fall into the error of becoming “life theorists”, it is better to live it.
- Many of us pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that we hurry past it
This phrase by Søren Kierkegaard is more current than ever. Imbued with the frenzy of consumerism and the rapid satisfaction of needs, it is easy to fall into a hedonic spiral, an immediate pleasure but precisely for that reason also fleeting, far removed from the emotional balance that is the source of well-being and lasting happiness. The remedy is very simple: savor life slowly.
- The door of happiness opens inward, one should keep aside a little to open it: if one pushes, they close it more and more
Kierkegaard tells us that authentic happiness is a personal decision. Lasting happiness is that which comes from within, not that which is obtained through things, which is ephemeral. He also alerts us that we need a bit of introspection, silence and solitude to find it. Happiness is the natural fruit of a balanced lifestyle, it is not necessary to pursue it because the more we strive to achieve it, the more elusive it will be.
- There are two ways to be deceived: one consists in believing in what is not true and the other in refusing to believe what is true
This sentence of Søren Kierkegaard warns us about deception, warning us of the wrong beliefs that we sometimes cultivate ourselves. Beliefs that are often based on erroneous generalizations but which we take as certain and truths that we refuse to accept because they do not correspond to our vision of the world or of ourselves and generate too much cognitive dissonance.
- Once you label me you negate me
All labels are a reduction, a generalization that barely contains a piece of a much richer and more complex reality. Therefore, we must take special care with the personal labels we use, since they become limits that we self-impose and prevent us from developing our potential to the fullest. Each label implies a denial of what we could be.
- Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom
As we move from one election to another, we experience a certain degree of anguish, which increases as we have more choices due to uncertainty. Kierkegaard thinks that we would prefer to live without having to constantly choose, so even though we cry for freedom, in reality it generates an existential anguish. The antidote is to accept the degree of uncertainty, assuming that mistakes are part of the learning process.
- Life can only be understood by looking back, but it must be lived by looking forward
Søren Kierkegaard encourages us to understand how we are looking to the past, but also warns us that we must make peace with what happened to be able to look forward. We are the result of our past, but what drives us are the goals and dreams that lie in our future. Staying stuck in the past, in situations that we can no longer change, involves dying slowly.
- The most painful state of being consists in remembering the future, particularly the one you’ll never have
One of the things that most anguish us is the question: What would have happened if we had dared to…? Kierkegaard alerts us to the danger of standing idly by, resigned to imagining a future that we will never have because we do not have the courage to fight for it. It is the direct path to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Lamenting what we will not have is not the best choice. The solution is to fight for what we want or change goal.
- To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself
Kierkegaard encourages action. Any risky decision implies a loss of balance and sometimes also means losing the referents, which generates that vertigo to which the philosopher referred, but in the long run it is better to unbalance momentarily than not to dare to take the step. When you leave your dreams behind, you become the shadow of the person you could have been, you lose yourself on the road.
- People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use
Freedom of expression is important. No doubts. We should feel free to express our opinions and feelings. However, this freedom also implies a responsibility: the responsibility to reflect on the scope and consequences of our words and to develop our own ideas freely.
- “Only if you assume what you are you can change who you are”
Change is only possible when we assume our shortcomings and weaknesses. If we start from a distorted self-image, in which we do not fully recognize ourselves, that change will be a simple make-up that has forgotten the essence. Therefore, acceptance is the first step of inner change.
- “The most common source of despair is not being who you are”
“Even the richest personalities have been nothing before choosing themselves. On the other hand, even what we might call a poor personality, can become everything if he chooses himself because the goal is not to be this or that but to be ourselves,” he added. Kierkegaard was referring to the fact that we need to be authentic, find our own inner voice and listen to it.
- 13. “If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin”
Søren Kierkegaard refers to the need to be patient, especially when we set ourselves very ambitious goals in life. Only with perseverance, without feeding false expectations, we can go far. If we fall into the error of desiring immediate results, what we will achieve is an immediate demotivation.
- 14. “The only intelligent tactical response to life’s horror is to laugh defiantly at it”
In life, sooner or later adversity will knock at our door. We can collapse or, on the contrary, we can put a good face on bad weather, as this sentence by Søren Kierkegaard advises. In fact, it has been discovered that one of the pillars of resilience is precisely the sense of humor, the ability to laugh at ourselves and what happens to us.
- “It is a frightful satire and an epigram on the modern age that the only use it knows for solitude is to make it a punishment, a jail”
Kierkegaard, like many other great philosophers and writers, makes an ode to solitude because he believes that it is fundamental for creative work, as well as for knowing oneself. For this reason, it encourages us to reconcile ourselves with solitude and to give it back the just place it deserves in our lives as a fertile ground for reflection.
- “Only someone who knows how to remain essentially silent can really talk and act essentially”
This sentence by Søren Kierkegaard brings us to another idea: do not talk, unless your words are more beautiful than silence. It refers to the importance of reflecting and listening before speaking, so that our words do not become an empty discourse but are full of meaning and provide real value to our interlocutor.
- “Shouting to the world our unhappiness is easier than beating our chest and moaning on ourselves”
With this metaphor, Kierkegaard referred to our tendency to look for scapegoats, to put the blame on the others, liberating ourselves from all responsibility. Undoubtedly, it is easier to look for culprits outside, but that will not lead us to any point other than a loop of lamentations. Instead, we should ask ourselves what share of responsibility we have and, above all, what we can do to change what we do not like.
- “It is not what happens to me that makes me great, but it is what I do”
It is not the events that shape our lives, but how we react to what happens to us. We can gain experience from the events and come out stronger from adversity, but only if we face each chapter of our life as a learning.
- “Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts”
Our thoughts, whether we like it or not, shape our lives as they determine the way we react and understand the world. Therefore, if we want to have a better life, we must pay more attention to our thoughts.
- “It’s better to get lost in the passion than to lose the passion”
Passion was one of the recurring themes of Kierkegaard, who thought that without it we are condemned to immobility, to languish in a comfort zone where nothing happens or problems are replicated. That is why he preferred to make mistakes guided by passion than to lose enthusiasm for life.