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Has An Inspirational Quote Really Ever Changed Your Life?

Here’s How To Make Them Work

I love motivational quotes. Who doesn’t? They litter my Twitter feed. They make me feel good. They’re inspirational.

Here’s the problem.

That high lasts about thirty seconds. Then we’re back to where we started. They lack that lasting impact. Plus, you often need to find new ones to replace the high. The one you’ve heard a thousand times loses its punch after a few times.

There is a way to change that.

Instead of seeking out motivational quotes I stick to the same five. All five offer practical advice for a life well lived. They align with my values and the values I aspire to.

These may not align with the values you aspire to or hold. I encourage you to pick three to five motivational quotes that align with your values. Read them every day and live by their virtues. In time, they become principles.

At the end, I’ll share the three guidelines for you to pick your own. Here are my five. Each of these meet the three criteria I define later.

The Amateur Mindset

That’s what all we are: Amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else — Charlie Chaplin, 1952

For a long time, I struggled with perfection. I still do, though I pretend to have overcome that problem. How refreshing is it to give yourself the freedom of being flawed? As amateurs, we’re still figuring stuff out. In life, we’re all amateurs. That is the read between the lines message. This quote and the value it represents liberated me from perfection.

Fear Not The Critic

To Avoid Criticism Say Nothing, Do Nothing, Be Nothing — Aristotle, 350 B. C. (give or take a decade or two)

Boy did those ancient Greeks know their stuff. You could sift through dozens of quotes by Aristotle and Plato and struggle to pick only three. As a writer, this one hits hard. Do you write? You need not be a writer or artist. Do you ever express opinions?

The moment you voice an opinion opposition surfaces to shoot you down. Once upon a time, criticism was somewhat cordial.

Today, we see the rise of anonymous keyboard warriors. They seek and destroy those with opinions who counter their own.

We have two choices. Live our lives and bear or ignore the criticism. Or, we can do as Aristotle states, and suffer the consequences. The latter is unthinkable.

Be Gracious

We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives — John F Kennedy, 1960??

This is a value I aspire to. I wish I thanked people more often. I mean to do it but then I forget. Having this quote visible every morning reminds me to thank those who enrich my life. It’s such a simple quote and that’s what makes it so powerful.

The Last Remaining Freedom

…Everything can be taken from a man except 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 — Victor Frankl, 1946

Viktor Frankl wrote this in Man’s Search For Meaning. The book recounts his experience in a Nazi concentration camp. The quote summarizes why Frankl felt he survived the horrors.

His lesson is that you may face unspeakable horrors in your life — like he did. There is one freedom nobody can take from you. The freedom to choose how you respond is always yours.

The foreword of the book summarizes it with more clarity.

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you respond to the situation.”

The horrors we face today — at least in the western world — are not even a fraction of what he endured. I try to remember that my response to any negative stimulus is a choice. I can react with anger, submission, or jealousy. I can also step back, pause and respond.

Better yet, I can avoid responding or reacting. Ignoring or forgiving those who offend, insult or harm you infuriates them to no end.

Our Insignificance

Someday all your successes, all your failures, all your contributions and all your mistakes will be forgotten forever. Even your legacy is temporary — Composite of several quotes.

I worried too much about what other people thought. Fear of how decisions might play out kept me in a state of paralysis.

This quote reminds me of my insignificance in the universe. Modern humans have existed 70,000 or so years — barely a fraction of the 14 billion years the universe has been around. The universe will probably continue on for billions of years after us.

I find the reminder of my insignificance an antidote to anxiety. My decision to take on a risky project, change careers or whatever have zero bearing on the outcome of the universe.

How To Pick Your Five

It’s hard enough to follow five principles. Until I master some of these, I’ll leave my inspiration quote bank closed.

If you want to pick your own five, follow these guidelines.

  1. Read between the lines. What’s the hidden meaning? Does it align with the values you hold or aspire to? Most quotes have either a direct message, like the JFK one, or a read between the lines message. I find the latter more profound.
  2. Is it practical? Be honest with yourself. Is it an achievable goal? Saying thank you more often is achievable. Saving the world is a stretch.
  3. Does it motivate you? Quotes in solid alignment with your values continue to motivate you long after the initial rush.

Read your five everyday. In time, they evolve beyond simple quotes. They become principles by which you live.

I write about perusaion, creativity and life. Get my best tools here. If you liked this story, please share so others find it.

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