What Do Your ‘Evergreen Quotes’ Say About You?
Some quotes motivate you. Others reveal you.
I’m a sucker for inspirational mojo. And if you’re anything like me, you probably save an extensive list of quotes from, well, everywhere. Books, articles, professors, speeches, movies, friends, neighbors, you name it — This bona fide quote head’s got it.
But here’s the thing. Even as I’ve stockpiled lines about almost every possible life theme, I realized that there are only five quotes that have done some permanent damage in my life (in a good way, of course).
Doesn’t it make you wonder why some quotes stay with you more than others?
The Evergreen Quotes
Every day, we come across new, striking quotes. Even when you don’t, all it takes is a 5-second Google search and the internet’s got you swimming in a sea of motivation and existentialism. Whether it be an anonymous Tumblr source or Stoic philosophy, we’d gladly consume it. We highlight it. Save, share, and curate it. Copy-paste on Canva and you’ve got yourself an aesthetic wallpaper reminding you to chase your dreams and find life’s meaning.
There are lines that strike you for their beauty. Others for their hard-hitting motivation.
And then there are those that speak of who you are — even if you may not see it that way. Those are your evergreen quotes. The ones that never go out of style no matter what season it is in your life.
To you, they are perennial because they helped you get through a very specific time of your life. And because they’re tried-and-tested, they’ve become your guiding principles — Convictions, not just motivations.
To explain better, here are my five personal evergreen quotes with a bit of context for each. In the end, I explain how reflecting on these helped me get to know myself better.
1. Wherever you are, be all there. (Jim Elliot)
In my peak overachieving Type A days, my plate was always full. It was during this time when I discovered this quote and understood what I had to do to get everything done.
The key was compartmentalization. In class? Full student mode. Time for rehearsals? Dancer mode. Student council meeting? Leader mode.
“Being all there” made me efficient. But more essentially, it made me invested in the present. Looking back I realized that it’s also probably why I still see my student days as the best years of my life. Sure, I was this young, overeager productivity junkie who often had a loaded plate. But I savored and scraped through every bit of that plate.
2. Do what you love. Love what you do. Deliver more than you promise. (Anonymous)
Though I sometimes ended up spreading myself too thin, I didn’t really mind because it because I usually found a way to enjoy what I was doing.
I guess that’s why I was strongly drawn to this quote. It affirmed me that it’s always possible to put love into the equation — Either you chase it or inject it into what you’re doing. It’s that simple.
I also realized that when you’re successful with either of the first two sentences, the third sentence happens naturally. You wouldn’t want to sell yourself short if it’s something you’re passionate about. And I’ve found that no other mindset or approach can give the same sense of fulfillment. Everything should always be rooted in love.
3. Do or do not. There is no try. (Yoda)
You’d think my cheerleading coach was Yoda in disguise for how often he echoed this quote. For every new stunt he wanted us to learn, no matter how high-stakes it was, he didn’t want to hear us saying that we’d “try our best”.
It’s not that he was discounting the value of effort. My coach knew that saying that you’re going to “try” sometimes meant that there’s an underlying tendency to play it safe. Because you’re scared. Because your mind wants to make room for doubt. And with it comes this tiny possibility of not following through.
Doing, on the other hand, is the mindset of commitment. It’s telling ourselves that we were going to just do it.
4. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. (Randy Pausch)
At an early age, Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture changed the way I saw challenges.
Brick walls hinder a lot of other people. No one is immune to stumbling blocks. But the question is: What are you going to do about it? Because the answer is simply a reflection of how much you want whatever it is you say that you want.
So, every time I find myself facing a brick wall, I understand that it’s a test of desire. Brick walls keep all the other people out — those who don’t really want what’s on the other side, those who want it for the wrong reasons, or just aren’t willing to hustle or suffer and do whatever it takes.
5. Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
I used to be a perfectionist and overthinker. It took sustained burnout and anxiety for me to realize how toxic this combination was.
Over the quarantine, I made it my goal to rein in on my overthinking. At the same time, the world was giving us a real-life master class on essentialism — forcing us to draw the line between what’s essential and what’s not.
I came across this quote and it just put everything in perspective. It’s a powerful redefinition of perfectionism — It’s not about thinking more or having more. Something is in its perfect or most ideal state when you’ve stripped it down to its simplest form. Only then can you clearly see its worth and beauty.
A Way to Understand Yourself Better
Evergreen quotes reveal a lot about who you are and what you’ve been through. They don’t just motivate you. They make you, you.
Looking at my list, here’s what I realized about myself: Passion, or at least a sense of affinity, matters to me. I do not take commitment lightly — Either I go full throttle or not at all. But now, I know that I need to choose less so that I can do more of what matters.
And that’s the beauty of evergreen quotes. They stick because of the memories you associate with them. You experienced for yourself the true weight of its words.
Even if you may lose your way, you will always find yourself relearning them. After all, you gravitate towards your core. And you remember things that work.
So, instead of googling more motivational mojo on the internet, pause and think about your personal evergreen quotes. What lines do you find yourself coming back to? The ones that are reminiscent of a significant phase of your life and have already made an impact? The quotes that have saved you, and you know will continue to serve you well?
This simple, introspective exercise will help you understand what makes you tick. And who knows? By seeing yourself more clearly, maybe you won’t have to keep looking for inspiration elsewhere.