Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Essential Life Lessons from Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson. A literary pioneer. Not only did he find the basis of Transcendentalism, or Bright Romanticism writing; he made great contributions to the field of personal development, and gave us some great practical ideas about living, that we will ponder upon for centuries to come. He valued the individual over society, and had many works of literature to enforce his views. In his works, there were many inspirational quotes that reflected what an individual is. Emerson’s highest values were: courage, peace, and the power of the individual.

I have selected 6 quotes, which represent Ralph Waldo Emerson’s views on life. Each quote has its own meaning, and its own method of practical application.

“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.”
Isn’t it true? Every opportunity, every chance that you take in life, is the sacrifice of another opportunity. By choosing to become a writer, you are sacrificing the opportunity to be something else, like an accountant. So what is the point of it all? The point is to stop worrying about missed opportunities, because you have no idea what could have been. Maybe if that milk hadn’t been spilled in the past, you would be in a better present situation? On the other hand, you might also be in a much worse present situation. Opportunities come and go; it is up to you, the individual, to make the best decision for yourself. Weigh the pros and cons of each decision, and know that you are giving up another opportunity. It could be better, it could be worse. It’s all part of the human being experience.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Let’s face it: There are always going to be certain people, that don’t want you to succeed. People who look at you weird when you do something right. Too many people act like robots in today’s society. They do what is expected of them, get their rewards, repeat. Expectations, Rewards, Repeat. Emerson could not stand this repetitive cycle. He believed that society turned people into something that they weren’t born to be. And as a person got older, it was harder and harder to break free from the strong grasp of society. What does it take to be yourself? For one, it takes a lot of courage, one of Emerson’s most favorite traits. Whenever someone goes against society standards, they will take a lot of heat for it. This resistance from others is just a sign that you are doing something right. No one said that being yourself was easy. Difficult? Yes. Rewarding? Extremely. In the end, the people that are able to go against the grain of society are the truly great people in our world.

“We are always getting ready to live, but never living”
When I get my promotion, I’ll really start living! When things have settled down, then I’ll do it! These are common phrases that you hear from people. Will the dust ever settle? No. Will you ever get the promotion? You might, but then you’ll come up with another excuse not to take action. The truth is that there are hundreds, if not thousands of excuses you can make not to take action. There is always a little voice inside your head, afraid of failure, and afraid of success. Your ability to truly live is dependent upon your ability to ignore that counterproductive voice inside your head. What you’re hearing is the voice of complacence. The moment you stop listening to it, is the moment you begin your real life. Until then, you will always be getting ready for a change in your life. But getting ready for something, and actually doing it, are two different things entirely.

“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.”
Life is all about learning new skills. Once you have acquired these skills, you must constantly seek to improve them. In your industry/job, there will always be people who are up-and-coming. These people will surpass you, unless you are constantly seeking to improve yourself. Like my former teacher once told me: “The moment you are satisfied with what you have, is the moment that someone else will take your spot in the race of life.” Emerson believed that life is about growing, and there was no point in living if you don’t constantly grow. No matter what you know, or how many skills you possess, there is always more to learn about your respective interests. You can always do a better job, regardless of how good you are at what you do.

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
Destiny is overrated. Yeah, I said it. There are too many people attached to the idea of ‘fate’, and ‘destiny’, that they believe they can lay back, do nothing, and their fate will take over. Well I have some bad news to those people: Your destiny is not looking very good! Is there any wildly successful person, off the top of your head, who got to where they are by doing nothing? No. People who are truly great don’t rely on the concept of fate/destiny. There is no proof/evidence to support its actual existence. So here is one of the keys to life: Live life like fate and destiny don’t exist. Decide what you want to be, pick out your future, and make your own destiny. After all, whoever we think we are, we become!

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself” 
Perhaps Emerson’s most powerful quote. Ultimate power to the individual. Who else but yourself can bring peace into your life? It hurts to say this, but horrible things happen every day. Murder, kidnapping, rape, you name it. It happens to amazing people. The external world is never peaceful. But you don’t have to suffer at the hands of other people. Until the day you die, you can choose to be at peace with the world. You can let go of your surroundings, and be one with nature. One of Emerson’s friends, Henry David Thoreau, believed in the peace of nature. He spent a couple of years submerged in nothing but the beauty of nature itself! Now that is how you find peace! But I’m not saying that you need to spend years in the wilderness to be at peace with yourself. I’m saying that you need to acknowledge your spirituality, and the peace that has been within you since birth. When we learn to find peace within ourselves, the world around us changes. We attract more external peace, while radiating a signal of internal peace! It’s strange, but that’s how life works. From the inside-out, not the outside-in.

The human spirit is as strong as can be. However, society has gradually weakened it. As children, we are born with our own respective traits, attitudes, and beliefs. We are our own person. However, as we get older, we conform to society, and lose our sense of individuality. But you know what I say? No! Emerson refused to give up his right to be different, and refused to conform to society’s standard. This is what every human being is meant to do. To go against the grain, is to find your own way of life. To do it your way, like it has never been done before!

Josh Lipovetsky 
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