The Greek philosopher Socrates (who lived around 5th century BCE) was perhaps one of the first philosophers who introduced the concept of self awareness to the Western world. One of his most popular (and powerful) quotes consists only of two words – ‘Know Thyself‘.
The following is a list of 15 selected quotes of Socrates and the profound life lessons they contain to expand your consciousness. Most of Socrates’s preachings are contained in these 15 quotes.
So let’s have a look.
1. “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
Lesson: It is only when you understand yourself that you can start to live life to your fullest potential. Understanding yourself is also the prerequisite to self love. So spend time in self reflection. Become conscious of your thoughts. Questions your beliefs. Find out who you truly are beyond all those beliefs.
2. “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”
Lesson: True wisdom comes when you realize how little you know of this infinite universe. It is this realization that keeps the flame of curiosity alive and opens your mind to constantly learn and grow. The moment you think you know everything, you become closed minded and stop learning/growing.
3. “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”
Lesson: Education should create in a child an appetite for learning and discovering new things. It should kindle the child’s natural curiosity and encourage individualistic thinking. It should encourage the child to challenge assumptions and question reality, to question established thoughts, ideas and ideologies.
It should not fill the child’s mind with concepts and ideologies.
4. “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”
Lesson: Life is all about balance. It’s okay to be busy but you also need to consciously take time for leisure, relaxation and self reflection.
5. “To find yourself, think for yourself.”
Lesson: You cannot find your true self as long as you are unconsciously subscribing to other people’s thoughts, beliefs and ideologies. To find yourself, you need to start having a conscious look at all your beliefs and assumptions. You need to develop a habit to question everything and looking at things from various perspectives. This is the only way to break free of the conditioned mind and find your true self.
6. “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.”
Lesson: The wisest thing to do is learn not only from your life experiences but also from life experiences of others. And reading what others have written is one of the best ways to do this. Therefore, reading is a good habit to develop.
7. “The highest realms of thought are impossible to reach without first attaining an understanding of compassion.”
Lesson: Compassion is empathy. It is the ability to understand yourself and others on a deeper level. The only way you can develop empathy is by practicing self reflection. Because only when your understand yourself can you understand the other. Understanding broadens your mind and takes you to higher realms of realization as Socrates points out.
8. “Bad men live that they may eat and drink, whereas good men eat and drink that they may live.”
Lesson: The lesson here is to not overindulge in anything. Food offers sustenance and also pleasure, but if you overindulge in it, you are opening the door to ill health. So is the case with everything in life. The important thing to remember is to always maintain balance.
9. “Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.”
Lesson: Gossiping can be fun but it is of little significance. It does not help in your growth. Instead a far better way to converse is to exchange ideas and learn from the other person’s perspective.
10. “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
Lesson: Contentment is an inner feeling. When there is lack within, you feel lack outside and no amount of external possessions or achievements can satisfy this sense of lack. Contentment comes through self love and understanding that you are enough as you are. So to become contented, get in touch with yourself. Make an attempt to know yourself on a deeper level.
11. “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think”
Lesson: It’s okay to listen to other people’s thoughts and ideas but you should not subscribe to these ideas without actively reflecting on them. The only way to learn is to reflect and try to understand things from a deeper perspective as opposed to simply accumulating beliefs/ideas.
12. “Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”
Lesson: To wonder is to be curious. It’s the desire to look at things from different perspectives and to know things on a deeper level. So reignite your sense of curiosity, the one you had as a child. Question everything, look at things from different perspectives and make it a point to understand things on a deeper level.
13. “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
Lesson: Happiness just like contentment is an inner state. When there is a sense of lack within, the external cannot fulfill it. This is why a lot of people end up chasing happiness through achievements but never find what they are looking for.
14. “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”
Lesson: The universe is infinite and what we know about it is not even the tip of the iceberg. To realize this is an humbling experience. It opens your mind to constantly learn and grow.
15. “Intelligent individuals learn from everything and everyone; average people, from their experiences. The stupid already have all the answers.”
Lesson: Always be fluid and open to learning as learning is infinite. Constantly question your unconscious beliefs, ideas and assumptions. Stupid people think they know everything and hence they hold on to rigid ideas and stop learning/growing.