Personal Authenticity and Existential Will / Choice

Theme of the following quotations: It is difficult to realize the spiritual state which enables the seeming non-action of the Taoist Wu-Wei practice which is suggested by living in process. Until that realization, we experience ourselves as separate selves which express authenticity through existential will, valuing, choice, and capacity to act.

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Every man builds his world in his own image. He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice. If he abdicates his power, he abdicates the status of man….

~ Ayn Rand (1905-1982),
Russian-born American author and philosopher,
in Atlas Shrugged


Did you ever have to make up your mind
Pick up on one and leave the other behind
It’s not often easy and not often kind
Did you ever have to make up your mind

Did you ever have to finally decide
Say yes to one and let the other one ride
There’s so many changes and tears you must hide
Did you ever have to finally decide

~ John Sebastian (1944-)
American songwriter
from the longs (listen), Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind
see also the post “Relinquishment and Choice: Say Yes to One, Leave the Other Behind


The basic step in achieving inward freedom is “choosing one’s self.” This strange sounding phrase of Kierkegaard’s means to affirm one’s responsibility for one’s self and one’s existence. It is the attitude which is opposite to blind momentum or routine existence; it is an attitude of aliveness or decisiveness; it means that one recognizes that he exists in his particular spot in the universe, and he accepts the responsibility for his existence. This is what Nietzsche meant by the “will to live” ~ not simply the instinct for self-preservation, but the will to accept the fact that one is one’s self, and to accept responsibility for fulfilling one’s destiny, which in turn implies accepting the fact that one must make his basic choices himself.

~ Rollo May (1909-1994),
American existential psychologist


We have given you, Oh Adam, no visage proper to yourself, nor any endowment properly your own, in order that whatever place, whatever form, whatever gifts you may, with premeditation, select, these same you may have and possess through your own judgment and decision. The nature of all other creatures is defined and restricted within laws which We have laid down; you, by contrast, impeded by no such restrictions, may, by your own free will, to whose custody We have assigned you, trace for yourself the lineaments of your own nature. I have placed you at the very center of the world, so that from that vantage point you may with greater ease glance round about you on all that the world contains. We have made you a creature neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, in order that you may, as the free and proud shaper of your own being, fashion yourself in the form you may prefer. It will be in your power to descend to the lower, brutish forms of life; you will be able, through your own decision to rise again to the superior orders whose life is divine.

~ Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494),
Italian humanist,
in On Human Dignity


It’s when we’re given choice that we sit with the gods and design ourselves.

~ Dorothy Gilman (1923-present),
American writer


Willing emancipateth: that is the true doctrine of will and emancipation – so teacheth you Zarathustra. No longer willing, and no longer valuing, and no longer creating! Ah, that that great debility may ever be far from me! And also in discerning do I feel only my will’s procreating and evolving delight….

~ The character of Zarathustra in Thus Spake Zarathustra
by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900),
German philosopher


The act of will consists of six sequential phases or stages. They are:

The Purpose, Aim, or Goal, based on Evaluation, Motivation and Intention.
Choice and Decision.
Affirmation: the Command, or “Fiat,” of the Will.
Planning and Working out a Program.
Direction of the Execution.

~ Roberto Assagioli (1888 – 1974),
Italian psychologist & founder of Psychosynthesis,
in The Act of Will
~ see also the post, Analysis Paralysis and Starship Captain Jean Luc Picard


Valuing is creating; hear it, ye creating ones! Valuation itself is the treasure and jewel of the valued things.

Through valuation only is there value; and without valuation the nut of existence would be hollow. Hear it ye creating ones!

~ The character of Zarathustra in Thus Spake Zarathustra
by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900),
German philosopher


Before something can be a full value, it must meet these criteria. It must be:

chosen freely
chosen from among alternatives
chosen after due reflection
prized and cherished
publicly affirmed
acted upon
part of a pattern that is a repeated action

~ Sidney Simon,
contemporary American educator
in Meeting Yourself Halfway


The biblical passage which says of Abraham and the three visiting angels: “And He stood over them under the tree and they did eat” is interpreted by Rabbi Zusya to the effect that man stands above the angels, because he knows something unknown to them, namely, that eating may be hallowed by the eater’s intention…. Any natural act, if hallowed, leads to God, and nature needs man for what no angel can perform on it, namely, its hallowing.

~ Martin Buber (1878-1965),
German philosopher,
in The Way of Man


Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832),
German poet, dramatist, novelist, and scientist.


He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.

~ William Blake (1757-1827),
British poet,
in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell


~ Note: If you have found these quotes to be supportive, you may be interested in my book How to Be Yourself: A Guide to Living an Authentic Life which contains more than 300 quotations such as these which are organized into different topics related to authenticity. The book is available on Amazon in print and ebook format. (See top right cover image for a link to more info). ~

Return to the Markers on the Path of Personal Authenticity quotes collection



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