In Nietzsche’s book Thus Spoke Zarathustra, he presents three stages in life for self-overcoming: the camel, the lion, and the child.
1. The Camel
To Nietzsche, all of us are born camels, and most of us are going to die camels. Most people who interact with the world bear the burdens of others. A camel carries heavy stuff and it doesn’t complain, it keeps on ahead.
What sorts of burdens are tied to our backs? Nietzsche would say everything you’ve ever been told to do by somebody else, you’ve been getting weight after weight tied to your back, with people telling you all the stuff that you should do. To be free, we must get rid of these weights, to act as we truly are and say no to tradition.
Once you have unburdened yourself, you undergo a new transformation, you become the lion.
2. The Lion
For Nietzsche, the main struggle here is the existing lord, a dragon called “thou shalt”, which is the great barrier to true freedom. It sparkles with golden scales and on each scale is written a “thou shalt”, representing thousands of years of tradition. To conquer the dragon, one must build self-mastery and muster the courage to mutter the “sacred No”, asserting one’s independence outside external influences.
The final stage is the child.
3. The Child
Nietzsche states that:
“The child is innocence and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelling wheel, a first motion, a sacred Yes.”
He believed that the truly free spirit will resemble a child at play, who discovers the world for the first time, who is curious and filled with wonder. The child is not weighed down by rules and values, the child discovers for themselves the meaning in things. Having uttered the “sacred No” to reject everything that came before, the child shouts the “sacred Yes” that affirms life.