If you think about it, people have changed very little in the 10,000 years or so of modern human history. Our life goals are pretty much the same: eat, sleep, mate, procreate, repeat. Of course, if life was really that simple, we’d all live in a much more harmonious world. But in the quest of love, happiness, success and power, there are always those who wonder, “Is there more? What is the point of all this? How do I make the most of my time here?” And then there are those who have figured it out, leaving behind their words of wisdom to help the rest of us gain perspective on living a meaningful life. Here are 10 quotes that do just that.
1. Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.
Who better to pass on this lesson than Carnegie Mellon professor-turned-bestselling-author, Randy Pausch, who became famous for the inspirational lecture titled, “The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” upon learning that he was dying from pancreatic cancer. Pausch reminds us to remember that what you learn on the journey is a reward in itself, and it’s important not to focus so much on just the destination. You won’t always get what you work for, but if you can appreciate what you learn along the way, you won’t feel like you lost out either.
2. Anger is the feeling that makes your mouth work faster than your mind.
American humorist Evan Esar couldn’t have described the dangerous working power of anger any better. How many times have you been on the receiving (or giving) end of irrevocable, harsh words that you know were only spoken out of anger? How many times did you wish that they didn’t hurt? No matter how much “you didn’t mean it,” the wrong words spoken at the wrong time with anger driving them can slash someone open — and there’s no undoing it. Esar was wise to know that just taking time to think before you speak when you’re angry can spare a lot of damage to more than one person.
3. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.
Holocaust survivor and author of the Night trilogy, Elie Wiesel, is well-deserved to speak about the topics of hate and ugliness. His thoughts combat popular belief that the elements of life work in opposites; instead, he proposes that it’s the gray area in between that is the true enemy. Perhaps it’s not the polar opposite of love and faith that undo humankind; it’s just the lack thereof either.
4.When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.
Helen Keller speaks a valuable lesson for anyone to learn, at any age, in any place. Life is cyclical and just as good things happen, bad things will follow, but then something good will follow that. It’s important to be able to keep looking forward and maintaining the perspective that there is something, anything, out there to be grateful for — otherwise you might just miss it altogether.
5. Whatever you are, be a good one.
What great advice by good ol’ Abe Lincoln! So simple, and yet so profound. It’s good to remember that not everyone can be a neurosurgeon or a famous movie star. We can all serve a purpose somewhere and do our part to keep the world running, so instead of aspiring to go against what you already do well, just do it really well — and that’ll be more enough.
6. But love… is more than three words mumbled before bedtime. Love is sustained by action, a pattern of devotion in the things we do for each other everyday.
A quote from the Nicholas Sparks novel, The Wedding, presents an insightful thought that to love someone is more than just to say it. Whether it’s your parents, friends or partners, this is a great reminder that ‘I love you’ isn’t what love is about. Do something everyday, even if it’s small, to prove it — then it those words will mean something.
7. Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?
This quote by Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, is one of those quotes that you’d expect to see on a school poster or in a child’s room. There’s always something everyday that you wish you did differently or that will get you down in the dumps. But just remembering that tomorrow is a new day with a fresh, clean slate is a small bit of inspiration to get through the crap of today.
8. I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.
Whatever your spiritual beliefs on life, death and the afterlife, you have to admit that Mark Twain’s incredibly logical and simplistic view on the act of not being alive is a light and amusing way to deal with the morbid topic. After all, he is right — we weren’t all alive for the entire time we…er…weren’t alive — so it shouldn’t be as daunting as we make it out to be, right?
9. Have no fear of perfection — you’ll never reach it.
It’s as if Salvador Dali was particularly aiming this thought at the millennial generation. In a day and age when ‘good’ is just not good enough, maybe we should chill out and ease off on the pressure. Perfection is a myth, and even though we’re all well aware of this truth, we persist on aiming towards it. It’s fantastic that we live in a time when we’re always encouraged to aim higher and be prettier, smarter and more successful, but it’s important to remember that perfection is unattainable because perfection is based on perspective — and everyone’s perspective is different. Work hard, and you’ll always be great — and that’s good enough.
10. Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.
An inspirational thought to round out the bunch, motivational speaker and author Dr. Steve Maraboli offers an incredibly insightful truth on what constitutes for happiness. Most of the time we’re so wound up in pointing out why other people are happy (their lives just seem so perfect on the outside, right?) that we forget that happiness, too, is all about perspective. Everyone has problems — EVERYONE. (Yes, even Kim Kardashian and the Queen of England, believe it or not.) You don’t know what another person’s life is like or what they’re is dealing with until you take a walk in their shoes, so don’t be pretentious enough to assume you’re the only one with all the problems in the world. The beautiful thing about happiness is that it’s the one thing that everyone has access to — and it’s all in your control. Flip the switch and make up your mind to be happy with what you’ve got; that’s all it takes.