This interesting article (find the link at the bottom of the post) takes a look at what some famous existentialists (Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre, de Beauvoir) have thought about the nature of human freedom. Of special note is Jean Paul Sartre’s conception of freedom. Sartre thought that each individual is radically free to shape his/her own existence, but that the majority of individuals deny themselves this ‘dizzying’ freedom, as they are too weak to bear the burden of its responsibility. The words of Sartre below, if looked at from the right perspective, can serve as a strong motivating force. For if, as according to him, our life is nothing other than what we make of it, we might as well get to work immediately and paint a masterpiece:
“Man is nothing other than his own project. He exists only to the extent that he realizes himself, therefore he is nothing more than the sum of his actions, nothing more than his life.” In view of this, we can clearly understand why our doctrine horrifies many people. For they often have no other way of putting up with their misery than to think: “Circumstances have been against me, I deserve a much better life than the one I have. Admittedly, I have never experienced a great love or extraordinary friendship, but that is because I never met a man or woman worthy of it; if I have written no great books, it is because I never had the leisure to do so; if I have had no children to whom I could devote myself, it is because I did not find a man with whom I could share my life…” In reality, however, for existentialists there is no love other than the deeds of love… there is no genius other than that which is expressed in works of art; the genius of Proust resides in the totality of his works; the genius of Racine is found in the series of his tragedies, outside of which there is nothing…In life, a man commits himself and draws his own portrait, outside of which there is nothing.
No doubt this thought may seem harsh to someone who has not made a success out of his life. But on the other hand, it helps people to understand that reality alone counts, and that dreams, expectations and hopes only serve to define a man as a broken dream, aborted hopes and futile expectations; in other words, they define him negatively, not positively.” (Sartre, Existentialism Is a Humanism)
Find the entire article here: http://www.newphilosopher.com/articles/you-are-your-life-and-nothing-else/