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5 Quotes For New Perspectives On Life

“If you don’t create time to think, all you’re doing is responding.” — Laxman Narasimhan

Back in May of 2020, as I anti-climatically graduated from undergrad, I received a package in the mail from the president of my college. A gift for winning the 2019–2020 Distinguished Student-Athlete award my alma mater contests annually.

In the package was the book “What Ever You Are, Be a Good One” by Lisa Congdon. The book offers 100 quotes, some famous, some admittedly cliché, which provide perspective on various situations and challenges in life.

I had never been much into quotes or famous sayings, but this book helped me appreciate the fact that there have been many, many people (upwards of 105 billion people based on one analysis) who have lived and had vastly different experiences from my own.

Since then, I’ve kept a list of quotes I find most insightful and thought-provoking, so I can reflect on them and see how my interpretations have changed over time. After doing this for a year and a half I figured it would be a good exercise to assess my list, select my favorites, and unpack them a bit.

My hope is that someone else finds this to be engaging and insightful. So, without further ado, my favorite 5 quotes to date:

#1

“Understand that your time has a limit set to it. Use it, then to advance your enlightenment; or it will be gone, and never in your power again.” — Marcus Aurelius

Your belief, or lack thereof, of an afterlife aside, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius pointed out something that resonates deeply with me: we are on a clock and cannot know for sure how much time we have in this life, so we better use our time to expand our minds and grow as individuals while we have the chance.

The simple truth is our ability to think critically and be creative is entirely dependent upon our heart beating and breath flowing in and out of our lungs.

As long as that remains true, be present and grateful for the gift that is life and allocate time to improving yourself.

#2

“If you don’t create time to think, all you’re doing is responding.” — Laxman Narasimhan

Allocating time to reflect, assess and plan is integral to success in all walks of life.

We all know it doesn’t feel good to constantly be reacting in situations and stopping that spiral is important for maintaining our sanity.

Personally, I journal multiple times each week for exactly this reason. Through this process, I reflect on what excited me in the last few days, what irritated me, what I’m looking forward to and what I’m dreading. I also use this time to explore and learn about things that have recently piqued my interest.

By recording this information and giving myself a chance to explore ideas, over time, I find I am able to identify trends in my behavior and mindset which are often not very apparent while I’m going through the motions of life.

Making the time to reflect on your experiences and allowing your curiosity the freedom to roam goes a long way in helping you live a successful and fulfilled life.

Photo by David Travis

#3

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In laymen's terms, Goethe asserted that we can’t be content with “talking the talk”, but that we must “walk the walk” too.

Everyone has heard the before that being well informed is the first step to changing behavior and while this is largely true, what truly matters is if you take action based on the information you’ve been given or acquired.

Nobody likes a hypocrite. If you believe something, stand for it. Own your beliefs through action and embody the principles you wish to see in the world.

Not everyone has the resources and influence necessary to enact change at a macro level, but we can all hold ourselves accountable by practicing what we preach.

#4

“Competitive [golf] sport is played mainly on a five-and-a-half inch court, the space between your ears.” — Bobby Jones

From a young age, my father always told me, “life is a competition”.

I was involved in sports from the time I was 5 years old, so I understood competition in an athletic context, but I hadn’t fully grasped what he meant by that.

It wasn’t until I got to college, when I began focusing more intensely on my academics, in addition to my athletic commitments, that all of a sudden, everything clicked for me.

I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when something my father told me ended up being true. Crazy, right?

I quickly saw how each piece of my life was impacted by how I performed compared to others and also the personal growth I displayed. Being a naturally competitive person, I very quickly learned to apply the same competitive framework I used for my track racing to my academics. I’ve since done the same professionally in regards to my career.

Whether you like it or not, in life you have to be willing to compete for what you want. It's situational of course, but there will be many times in each of our lives when we find ourselves vying for an opportunity that many other people are also striving for. In the end, many times, only one will win.

Anyone who has competed seriously in any area of their life knows how much one’s mental state plays into the ability to compete at a high level. Despite originally stating this quote in the context of golf, Bobby Jones touched on something incredibly poignant that applies to so much more: the mind is our greatest asset and we each must learn to harness it to reach our potential.

Don’t be afraid of competition. Embrace it.

#5

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” — Viktor Frankl

This quote by the Austrian neurologist and philosopher Viktor Frankl is currently my favorite quote. Save the best for last, right?

The beauty of it is that there is not much extrapolating necessary, the message is perfectly simple:

In life, we will all face situations that challenge our mind, body, and spirit. That is a guarantee. Unfortunately, many of these challenges are things we cannot avoid, they often happen to us (i.e. death of a loved one, disease, etc.).

This is an unavoidable fact of life.

I appreciate this quote because it pushes back on determinism. Whether you believe we have full autonomy and power to determine our futures, no power at all, or you fall somewhere in between on the spectrum, it encourages us to accept that even if we do not have absolute control, we can always foster and maintain a resilient mindset in the face of adversity.

Being able to identify and appreciate the silver lining(s) in what is otherwise a negative experience is key to living a sustainably happy and fulfilling life.

These quotes alone won’t change your life. They didn’t change mine. They can serve as catalysts for change, but like anything else, the real work is up to you to internalize the wisdom contained within these words and implement the change you desire in your own life.

As Marcus Aurelius professed nearly 2000 years ago, with each day that passes we have one less day within our power to grow and develop ourselves, but through an optimistic lens, each new day is a day to make a positive change in our lives.

Don’t wait for tomorrow.

Samuel Gerstenbacher is a business analyst, sub-elite runner, and casual writer. His writing covers topics ranging from introspection and exercise to business ethics and politics. You can follow him here on Medium, connect with him on LinkedIn, and email him too (samuelgerstenbacher@gmail.com).

Finally, if you are interested, check out the Two Dudes Running podcast on Spotify!

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Runner. Casual Reader, Writer, and Guitar player. Always looking for a new perspective. • All thoughts & opinions are my own •

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Samuel O. Gerstenbacher

Samuel O. Gerstenbacher

Runner. Casual Reader, Writer, and Guitar player. Always looking for a new perspective. • All thoughts & opinions are my own •

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