13 Existential Quotes to Help You Ponder the Meaning of Life

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Existential quotes seek to explain the things we do not yet know, but even the wisest of them are still just guesses.

What happens to us after we die? What is the meaning of life? These are the great mysteries of life.

We’re not meant to reflect on these existential quotes and find answers, but rather we are meant to ask our own questions.

This is the meaning of existentialism!

It’s a pursuit of truth and answers, even fundamentally knowing you might never find them.

It’s similar to belief in many ways, and it can give a person purpose as they wander through life.

Let’s look at 13 of the most potent, powerful existential quotes

1. “There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point? The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it.” — Richard Dawkins

Existential quotes often clash with religion, despite sharing many of the same fundamental truths. Where they differ is on the burden of proof.

Belief is about putting the burden of proof on God; existentialism is about seeking answers to your questions and laying them bare with proof.

The quest for answers is prevalent within all of us, how we come to peace with them (or the lack of them) determines our fundamental set of guiding principles.

2. “Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself.” — Jean-Paul Sartre

Self-discovery is a major focus of existentialism quotes.

Since the dawn of time we have tried to discover who we are, what we’re doing and what it all means.

There still aren’t great answers to these questions and no real definitive proof—only schools of thought.

But, in deciding who you are and how you act, you’re able to shape your own destiny, bringing you one step closer to those unanswered existential questions.

3. “Man is condemned to be free.” — Jean-Paul Sartre

Existential quotes focus a lot on the idea of freedom

Are the actions we take and the decisions we make truly our own? Or are we coerced into them by unseen forces and situational factors?

If you decide to do something, are you consciously doing it or unconsciously doing it?

This quote shows us that free will is as much a burden as it is a luxury.

4. “You look up when you wish to be exalted. And I look down because I am exalted.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Another of the many existential quotes that clash with religion, this one encourages us to take responsibility for our actions.

Existentialists argue that it’s easy to attribute actions (good and bad) to God.

What gives a person power is taking responsibility for their own actions and embracing the success or consequences.

Only then will we have a reason to celebrate: The reason of self-actualization and self-realization!

5. “You are free and that is why you are lost.” — Franz Kafka

What do we do when every choice is ours to make? What if we make the wrong one or the best one is left unmade?

This is the curse many existential quotes argue plagues the self-actualized man.

It’s being able to make decisions with confidence, regardless of the opportunity cost, that makes us free.

6. “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Inspirational quotes like this encourage the existentialist mind to embrace mistakes as the building blocks of learning.

If you set out to understand life in a way that no one else has before, you’re bound to come up against roadblocks and barriers that force you to turn back or adapt your views.

This is okay: Mistakes are the realization of your capacity to be a human being.

7. “I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.” —  Jack Kerouac

Inspirational existential quotes like this one can be truly motivational!

The concept is a simple one: Focus your mind and apply yourself and you’ll be the master of your own destiny.

Every experience you have, every failure or mistake you make, your life will be enriched and your story written even more completely.

8. “I rebel therefore I exist.” — Albert Camus

Every existentialist is a rebel in his or own way

There’s something so inspirational about going against the grain and asking “why” in the face of conventional wisdom.

When you question what you’re told and dare to think differently, you’re embracing the existentialist philosophies that extol individualism.

Don’t be concerned with what others think: Discover your own truths!

9. “Struggle is what it means to be alive and free.” — David Budbill

So many existential quotes focus on struggle as part of the human condition.

If life were easy and all things were known, what would be the point or purpose?

Struggle reminds us that we’re alive and in pursuit of the unknown. Struggle triggers our emotions and hardens our spirit, so that we can press on to understand what few before us did and what those in the future may not.

10. “Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.” — Kurt Vonnegut

Existentialism is about preservation as much as it is conquest

We must leave behind our knowledge and wisdom to share with others, so that they may make new advances and uncover new truths.

We should strive to learn and impart our wisdom on others, so when we pass away, all we’ve learned will be crystalized for someone else.

11. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” — Viktor Frankl

The best existential quotes encourage us to always be evolving.

If the path ahead is blocked and there is no way around, ask yourself what you can do to overcome it.

Focus on the obstacle, because it’s the key to your own evolution.

When you rise to face the challenge and conquer it, you become impossible to deter with others. You are ever-evolving.

12. “I have an existential map. It has ‘You are here’ written all over it.” — Steven Wright

Funny existential quotes like this one poke fun at the idea that existentialists truly don’t have the answers.

At times, it can be quite comical.

When your existence is based on understanding your existence and your answer is half-formed or null, you can’t help but laugh.

It’s another form of self-actualization.

13. “Once a week, I like to slip into a deep existential depression where I lose all my sense of oneness and self-worth.” — Bo Burnham

More funny existential quotes like this show the power of the self to shape your outlook on life.

Because you are sad today doesn’t mean you will be sad tomorrow.

What you don’t understand today may be learned tomorrow. There’s always a reason to explore yourself and always a reason to look forward to tomorrow.

Are there any quotes that inspire you to think about what it means to exist and be alive? Share your favorite existentialism quotes in the comments below. We may not have the answers, but there are no shortage of theories about the meaning of life and living!

We hope you were inspired by the above existential quotes, which are part of our inspirational quotes on spirituality series.

What are the best existential quotes you know? Share them with us in the comments below to inspire others to find the same positivity you’re working toward!

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