“All our progress is an unfolding, like a vegetable bud. You have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge as the plant has root, bud, and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in 1803 and was an American poet, essayist and lecturer who delivered more than 1500 public lectures and wrote numerous thought provoking essays and collections through his lifetime.
He is a very well known literary figure for his important work such as Nature, Self Reliance and his Series of Essays and led the Transcendentalist movement of the 19th century.
Emerson’s spiritual quest led him to England where he met Wordsworth and Carlyle and on his return settled at Concord, Massachusetts that was also the home of Henry David Thoreau who became his close friend and ally.
Emerson believed in Transcendentalism where humans could transcend the overwhelming material world and look within their own soul for a higher power.
He was also a big believer in individualism, freedom, optimism and the idea of self-reliance and was against imitation, pressures of society and traditionalism.
Emerson espoused the idea that humans could and had the power to achieve and realize almost anything and the idea that nature was more spiritual than material.
In 1836, he published his first essay, Nature, which was followed the next year with The American Scholar. His Series of Essays followed soon thereafter.
Emerson was asked to sum up his beliefs on life and his response was:
“The infinitude of the private man.”
Emerson’s speech, The American Scholar, was considered by many to be a masterpiece and the Physician, poet and author, Oliver Wendall Holmes Sr. called the work to be
“America’s spiritual declaration of Independence.”
The speech marked one of the first consequential pieces of work to influence and shape America’s cultural philosophy and shaping its identity separate from that of Europe’s.
I have been influenced by the powerful work of Emerson over the years and his writing is timeless.
Here is the Guide to living Life that I constructed from the amazing wisdom and work of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
1. First Understand Your True Worth
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Begin with the idea that you have vast potential inside of you and you have the ability to go for almost anything that you set your mind unilaterally towards.
Often, you may look elsewhere for confirmation and completion, but the externals are simply reflections of the beliefs and the ideas that you hold and portray about you.
If you think that you have little to offer inside and little reserves of personal power, it becomes your self-fulfilling prophecy.
“Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
And become aware of the idea that you are unique and amazing, and you need to remove the dust of past conditioning to make the best of what you have because you are all that you have.
So, shake off the inertia and realign your life towards your excellence.
2. And Then Understand Where The Source Of Beauty Comes From
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
You may be looking for the source of beauty and inspiration outside and that might work for a while.
However, for the long haul, you will need to carry the source of beauty and joy within you and with you.
You will need to carry:
Your source of joy…
Your source of happiness..
Your source of beauty…
Your source of perseverance…
Your source of exellence…
You will also need to understand what enhances your source of beauty and happiness and not be dependent on external sources and validations for finding them.
You need to be a constant creator of your own weather and your situation.
You may not be optimally be able to enjoy the beauty of the world if you are unwilling to carry the light within you.
3. Then You Get To Make A Decision
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Things literally begin to happen when you make a firm and unflinching decision to go forward with your idea or your plan.
Once you are sure, almost magically the world provides evidence and tools to make it happen.
A firm decision is like your mind saying “red car” repeatedly to you.
Once you hear it, you will see more of that in reality because your consciousness selectively finds evidence and corroboration for that idea and becomes super awake and charged to “red cars.”
When you decide to go for something and repeatedly bring that into your awareness, you have a great chance of succeeding in it because hidden faculties and synchronicities will come to your aid.
In reality, everything that you needed was always there, but now you are selective towards your what you decided to accomplish and engage with it to bring it into reality.
But one word of caution here from Emerson:
“Beware what you set your heart upon. For it surely shall be yours.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you focus on all the ways you will not amount to anything, so shall be your reality because your neocortex or your thinking brain and your sub-conscious, your limbic brain will make a powerful alliance to fulfill your wishes.
What are you instructing to your powerful mind?
4. Decide To Go For Your Dreams And Your Passions
“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
The key word here is “courage,” or the power to live your story and your truth even though it takes a lot of guts.
This has nothing to do with unrealistic and wishful thinking but it has everything to do with concrete thought, feeling, belief and action.
Rekindle your dreams and begin to move forward.
5. And Believe In Yourself
“Self-trust is the first secret of success.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Far too many dreams will deflate at this stage and it is best for you to know and become acutely aware of the dangers of giving up.
If you do not believe in your life and your plans, you will not succeed in them.
You have to trust in you before you can trust others and others can trust you.
A strong unwavering belief is hard to accomplish but very worth the effort.
Bring the dream in your attention consistently and allow the thought and the feeling to become a powerful force of imagination in your consciousness.
You will reach a point with the power of your belief that the only place to move is with implementation because your belief is set in stone and the only possible motion is forward, and the idea and the expectation cannot be revoked anymore.
Are you desperate enough for success of your goals and do you hold very strong beliefs? If yes, your success is imminent.
6. And Make Sure To Get Out Of Your Own Way
“Most of the shadows of life are caused by standing in our own sunshine.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Remember that skill and ability and will only make for part of the puzzle.
If you are on a seesaw as many of us have been when we were children, you need to be sure that the counter weight is pulling you back up and not keeping you permanently down in your corner.
Self-sabotage is one of the biggest reasons why people give up and fail.
The fear of failure.
The fear of success.
The hesitation to move into something bigger.
The discomfort of the unknown.
Resistance that weighs you down.
7. And Then Be a Pathblazer
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
You stand on the shoulder of giants for one good reason: to jump from there and take the big leap yourself and join their ranks in excellence.
Emerson challenges you to make a choice.
The choice is between whether you will keep moving the path everyone else is taking to where you are assured of the outcome or will you choose to create one.
Will you take the path that has not yet been created?
What will you do?
Of course, Emerson advises you leave a new trail in your wake and not take the path often travelled.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
And while you are trailblazing, remember that being yourself and expressing your authenticity will be a great challenge in your life.
If you stay true to your authenticity, you have accomplished a great feat.
“I hung my verses in the wind, Time and tide their faults may find.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Remember that your job is to launch your life into the best self-expression and excellence possible.
After that, you best leave it for the world to enjoy them or find faults with them, both of which are vital for your growth.
8. But Remember This First
“Every artist was first an amateur.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
In any field that you begin, you are going to really bad at it in the beginning.
Many people want results quicker than life can offer them.
And then they proceed to get offended and frustrated.
It is like asking a finely aged wine to mature overnight, and it is like asking great coffee and tea to be ready in a second without brewing, and it is like getting results without the hard work and the trials.
Life will humiliate and humble you and test you and make you feel like you know nothing before you move up the streams of mastery.
The greatest artists and achievers know that they need to hone their skills till there is no one standing in the room that is better than them.
This is not an ego driven enterprise but an interest and enthusiasm driven one where you would rather not do anything else.
The major thing that distinguishes true passionate professionals from amateurs: practice, practice and more practice.
9. Go Into Life With Some Enthusiasm
“Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
While you are at it and increasing your skills and going at your niche, remember that one of the most potent life-force powers is enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm turns a normal chore into an exciting project.
Enthusiasm molds a skill into a burning passion.
Enthusiasm changes an interest into a fascination.
Enthusiasm transforms boredom into engagement.
Enthusiasm makes drudgery into a thrill.
Enthusiasm turns getting by into thriving.
Enthusiasm breathes life into the ordinary to make it something extraordinary.
Enthusiasm gently changes practice into a meditative flow.
Enthusiasm whips the common into the miraculous.
Enthusiasm transforms life into an extraordinary adventure.
“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
10. And Wonder More
“The greatest wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.“- Ralph Waldo Emerson
“If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and adore.“-Ralph Waldo Emerson
And while you are engaging your enthusiasm, feed your spirit the amazing nourishment of wonder and curiosity.
Often, we lose our natural curiosity that we had as children due to all the conditioning that we receive.
You may begin to feel that asking questions and appearing wonder-eyed makes you look naive.
In this quest for apparent sophistication, many people give up on their simple wonder and curiosity and appear to “know it all.”
Emerson teaches us that life does not really work that way.
He declares that it is even surprising that we are not greatly surprised and amazed at the beauty all around us.
I think this is very true and similar to what the ancients have called spiritual “sleepwalking.”
It is a state of awareness where the awareness is present but not really awake to the joy and wonder all around.
This happens when people have tunnel visioned their awareness into a narrow window.
When you allow preconceived notions to fall apart, you are confronted with the beauty and joy of pure awareness.
A tree becomes something to marvel in and to explore because it is ever changing like life itself.
No two moments are and can be the same.
The snow never falls the same way twice.
The rain does not wash away the dirt the same way.
Your life is also continually changing and if you become alive to the idea of wonder and curiosity and look at things from a beginner’s mind, you have much to explore and learn.
11. Get Out Of Your Normal Comforts
“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Many people learn skills, get degrees, find jobs and simply stagnate in what they are doing.
The problem is that they eventually confront a deep sense of emptiness and non-satisfaction with their life.
It may feel like everything is fine but still something is missing.
There is a different way.
Emerson advises you to try reaching your mastery level continually to keep the process of growth engaged.
Learn new skills.
DO something that is a bit beyond your comfort zone.
Find what excites you and engage in that activity.
Stretch into a challenge and into new horizons and learn what secrets and fruits they hold.
Transcend your hesitations and fears and reaffirm your commitment to grow and stretch.
12. Taking Massive Quick Action
“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
As you stretch and grow, your greatest ally is speed and quick action.
Every successful person is a great action taker and does not hesitate to move forward.
This is simply the most important quality for success and fulfillment, the ability to take action when needed and the ability to let go and stop when the work is done.
“In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Anything less than massive action is not enough.
Anything more will be just spinning your wheels in one spot.
And remember that what we reap is what we sow.
“Do not believe that possibly you can escape the reward of your action. ” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
You may not want to hear this but our lives are the results of our past actions or inactions.
So what are you in the process of sowing right now?
13. On Rising from Failure
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Do you rise or do you get crushed by failure?
You may have grown up thinking that success is great and failure is a humiliation to be avoided.
This is a very unproductive approach to life.
Embrace failure and invite it into your house to learn from it like a seasoned master.
Take great action and then fail.
And fail often but learn greatly from what does not work.
Most importantly, change something to make things different.
After all, Einstein famously said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
14. And You Will Need To Silence The Critics
“Whatever course you decide upon there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires….courage.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Your greatest critics might also be your greatest teachers. This is not easily digestible but they are giving you attention, albeit negative and making you aware of something.
Your task is to listen carefully, not take it personally and distill the lesson from it, if any, to make your life more awesome.
However, your greatest critic may not even be from the outside, it might be your inner voice whispering to you:
I am not good enough.
I am not ready.
I will not be able to change anything.
People will laugh at me.
I am not worthy.
I do not deserve success.
I cannot possibly provide any value to others.
Your effectiveness in life will depend on learning from the critics, then ignoring them and doing what you wanted to do all along the way.
15. And When You Are Feeling Low, Remember…
“If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Depend on your inner powers when you feel low.
Increase your self-belief and uplift your self-confidence to begin making a dent in your universe again.
“People only see what they are prepared to see.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
So quit trying to please everyone and begin with doing the best that you can with the abilities you have and stretch into new skills and interests.
16. While You Are Doing Great Achievements, Do Not Forget Kindness
“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Many people require a kind word because they are having a hard day.
Many people need some support and some genuine listening to sort their problems.
Make kindness a part of your life, and make giving a philosophy of life.
Why? Because it feels great and it assists others to reach their goals and makes you understand more about yourself and your journey.
“Life is short, but there is always time enough for courtesy.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
17. And Spread Some Joy
“Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting some on yourself.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
The shortest way to personal joy and happiness is to make someone else’s day and spread joy and happiness around.
This does not mean the perpetual smiley face and unrealistic or non-empathetic happiness.
What it means is refusing to allow negativity to take a firm foothold in your life and dealing with things in a positive and hopeful way.
And sometimes it may mean just being there, not smiling and not joking but just being present.
18. And Keep Learning
“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Really embrace the learning mindset and learn something new everyday, even if it is small.
19. And If All Else Fails, Take A Walk In Nature To heal
“Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sometimes when you are unable to let go, reunite with your source and take a walk in nature to restore your spirit.
All the greenery and the rugged beauty of nature is a wonderful reminder to slow down and breathe the beauty in.
Sometimes, you do not know why it feels great but returning back to nature feels like a return back to source energy.
And as Emerson says, the art of walking needs little but many do no understand it at all.
20. And Learn To Appreciate The Small Things
“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Live your life as if the small things are the big things.
Next time you find yourself avoiding the simple pleasures of life, ask why your life has become so busy?
21. And Ditch The Complaints And The Lack
“No great man ever complains of want of opportunities.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Opportunities are available if you look. The choice is yours to make.
22. And There Will Always Be Your Fears To Confront
“Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Often, the anticipation of fear is greater than the fear itself.
What if I fail?
What will others think of me?
Will I be crushed?
How will I deal with the fear?
I am not sure of the process.
“Fear always springs from ignorance.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
But one the greatest pieces of advise to overcome fear comes from Emerson, and instead of over thinking the process, if we could just attempt to do the thing we fear, the fear is placed in the right perspective and does not appear as scary anymore.
23. And When You Think You Are Done There Will Be New Fears
“In order for one to learn the important lessons of life, one must first overcome a fear each day.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
When we seem to think that we are done with our fears, more ancient ones keep spring up like our nemesis from the past.
The good news is that if you make it a habit to go through your fears and do it often, you have the ability to transcend fear with more certainty and confidence.
And to really grow like Emerson rightly points out, we need to reach into what scares us and take one step into the unknown.
24. And There Will Be Moments Of Anger
“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Anger is fine so long as you remember to let it go after you have experienced it.
The repeated staying with anger is very counter productive to your state of natural well-being and happiness.
25. But You Can Come Back To Your Center
“Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
When the going gets tough, smile a little and lighten up.
Allow yourself to be a little silly and laugh at the difficulties of life.
After all, in a few years, this difficult day will no longer appear as a big deal to you.
So, instead of waiting for a long time, attempt to place the difficulties in a proper perspective right now.
Regardless of how vast your setbacks, you are still experiencing things that you can grow and learn from.
Often our difficult times are the places where we learn the most.
26. And If You Feel A Disconnect With People
“Love, and you shall be loved.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is a wonderfully short but highly effective suggestion from Emerson.
Give love out to receive more love.
The principal of reciprocity has been well proven to be a great motivator in humans.
When you are feeling a disconnect with people, examine within you to see if you are reaching out or if you are shutting down or you are unavailable.
Become a good friend to receive more friends in your life.
“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
27. And Begin A New Day
“Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Make a fresh start every day.
You do not need a new years to begin with resolutions.
Resolve to make this new day wonderful and meaningful.
“Hitch your wagon to a star.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely…”– Ralph Waldo Emerson
28. And Attempt To Assist Others By Providing Them Value And Inspiring them
“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
In your journey, no experience may be as rewarding as the experience of giving and uplifting others and no action may be as spiritually and emotionally fulfilling as doing work that generates value and has a good impact on humanity.
And in the process of assisting others accomplish their goals by building systems and tools. You will find renewed vigor and meaning in your own journey.
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
29. And Then You May Stumble Upon Success
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
What is Success?
A deep and heartfelt desire to celebrate joy through contagious laughter and smiles.
To persist till people see you in a light of respect and as a mentor.
To give value till you have made a little dent in your universe and end up making the world a better place.
The understanding that you have helped even one other person through your writing, words, support and presence.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Among the numerous things that I got aware of from the wisdom of Emerson, here are a few of them:
Being Compassionate is often better than being right.
It is important to make a difference for the planet and its people, even if it is in your own small way.
Realizing that life is a journey and an adventure and not a destination and is certainly not static.
Finding your purpose, passion and skills and using them to spark change and bringing value to the lives of others is important.
To live your true and authentic story and get past the trials and setbacks and fears that hold you back.
Look within yourself for a source of personal power and self-reliance and develop a deep inner core of confidence and self-worth.
Be simple, live simply and make things functional
And in all these things find meaning and purpose and live well.
“Life is a progress, and not a station.“-Ralph Waldo Emerson