In the course of creating the principles for his philosophy on morality, Immanuel Kant addresses an equally important question: What is freedom? Kant refutes Utilitarianism, an idea that seeks to maximize welfare and rests moral principles on collective preferences and desires, for what he believes is the essence of our existence as human beings: the autonomous freedom that stems from our unique ability as human to reason. “To act freely,” Kant argues, “is not to choose the best means to a given end; it is to choose the end itself, for its own sake.”† It is when we act autonomously according to our reason, we human can finally realize the true freedom in life and cease to conform to what might otherwise be biologically determined or socially conditioned.
If you accept Kant’s philosophy, freedom, in contrast to the widespread definition of being “the right to act,” then calls for our autonomy and is essentially determined by the reason that our act follows. It is my belief that success, therefore, requires autonomous freedom for it is a prerequisite of any meaning we human could give to our life and without it, we are only slaves of instinctive adaption like all other beings in the animal kingdom known to exist in this world. In essence, a success is a success not because of what we accomplish but our motive for choosing the end and will to preserve through the path. It is the exercise of our very capacity to reason and act according to our autonomous freedom that makes our life a successful one in its own right.
Now, your life at the age of 26 is consumed by your regrets, shame, and fear. You are ashamed of your incapabilities today while regretting for having missed the opportunities to develop your skills and characters in the past. You are desperate for a change and yet you fear for the unknowns that might follow as a result tomorrow. You are anxious. You feel powerless. Worst of all, you are now lost. Nonsense! Think. Don’t succumb your reason to emotions, negative or positive.
Freedom is not easy for the capacity of which is based on the reason that constantly requires your nurturing and determination to act according to it. Your regrets and fear are real, yet both of which are based on the events in the past and future that are mostly, if not completely, out of your control. You can’t change your shame for the present either: your incapabilities are what they are, at least for now. You do, however, have the freedom to think and start acting according to your reason. Yes, you have goals you long to accomplish in life. And yes, you feel powerless in the face of impossibilities and wondering that life has presented you. Yet remember: Your success begins when you start live an autonomous life, one with dignity and perseverance to stay truthful to your essence on reason. Fight, for the sake of your freedom to live. Success is yours regardless of the ends.
† Sandel, Michael J. (2010). Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? Farrar, Straus and Giroux.