Sometimes I envy animals who hibernate. Curling up into a warm and cozy sleep until spring arrives, sounds appealing at times when life feels overwhelming and the winter blahs are in full effect.
When I need a little inspiration to keep going, I turn to these 10 quotes — they're posted on my bathroom mirror, on my desk and in well-loved earmarked books.
1. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead
This quote was particularly powerful for me during my environmental activism days in college, but still resonates deeply as daily acts of inspiration. As one of the world's foremost cultural anthropologists, Mead's quote is informed from her observations. Whenever I feel small and insignificant, I read this quote and remember the power we each have to change the world.
2. "If you think you can, or if you think you can't, either way, you're right." -Henry Ford
I often think about this one when I have self-defeating thoughts and it inspires me to challenge myself and change my thoughts around. So many of the hard times I experience in life are the ones I give myself, and facing a challenge having already decided that I will fail certainly doesn't improve my chances of success.
3. "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step." -Martin Luther King, Jr.
This is a vivid image for me, because I feel like this pretty much every day — though Dr. King was referring to much greater challenges than those I face on a daily basis. However, the rule still applies — it's all about faith. It's about the sureness that even if you can't see how it will all unfold, you know the Universe has your back and everything will work out.
4. "The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire." -Ferdinand Foch
Foch was a French military general during the First World War and when he talked about weapons, he was usually talking about the kind that explode. However, this quote remains meaningful because it inspires us to ponder what truly lights the soul on fire. I have felt it — at times when I am working on a project I'm really passionate about, when I'm immersed in my writing, when I'm in the zone with my children — I know that at those times I am truly at my most brilliant and powerful. My personal challenge is to light that fire every day.
5. "Think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course." -Kahlil Gibran
My husband and I printed this quote on our wedding programs twelve years ago, as it really epitomizes our unlikely love story. It still brings tears to my eyes. All of the best strategic planning in the world could not have orchestrated the myriad of "coincidences" that had to take place for my husband and I to meet and fall in love. This is of course, the case with most of the wonderful things that happen in the rest of our lives, too. When we let go and let the Universe (or God, Love, etc.) work its magic, the result is far more spectacular than that which we could have created with our thoughts and actions alone.
6. "All that we are is a result of what we have thought." -Buddha
This is really the basic tenant of Buddhism, and it is not to be taken lightly. I often take a mental inventory of my thoughts to gauge what I am currently creating in my life. How much anxiety and worry is floating around? How much internal complaining? How much gratitude and wonder? If all that we are experiencing now is a result of our past thoughts, then we are literally creating our future with our current thoughts. It takes some acceptance of responsibility and accountability, but I love feeling and knowing that I have this power.
7. "I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one." -Mahatma Gandhi
Honestly, I never meditate for one hour, let alone two, but the sentiment in this quote is exactly what I need on many days. When my to-do list reaches critical mass, my tendency is to feel overwhelmed and frantic and therefore make more errors, have more accidents, and generally feel miserable as I accomplish my tasks simply for the sake of checking them off the list. When I remember Gandhi's wise words, no matter how busy I am, I sit quietly and breathe until I feel calm again. Then I can go forth and accomplish, knowing that my top priority is not how many things I get done, but how I feel while I am doing them.
8. "The path of least resistance is non-resistance." -I Ching
It was Carl Jung who first said, "What you resist persists," a phrase that has become popular among spiritual seekers. Jung was a student of the ancient Chinese text, the I Ching, so perhaps that's where his thoughts on the matter originated. I too have studied the I Ching for many years, and it continually reveals new and wondrous wisdom to me. I love this pearl of wisdom in particular, because it is so simple. When I am stuck in fear or anger or any other negative emotion, simply yielding to what is and removing any resistance always has the power to shift not only how I feel on the inside, but also the circumstances on the outside.
9. "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." -Mark Twain
This wisdom and wit of this quote certainly applies to my life as I slide into my 40s and embrace aging gracefully, but I also like to think of this quote whenever anything is bothering me. All I really have to do is stop worrying — whether it's about my age or not. Easier said than done most times, but so effective whenever I master it. I'm making this my motto for the year, and am really practicing the art of "not giving a damn."
10. "Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know." -Pema Chodron
When I think about the challenges that have lingered in my life and the magnitude of the lessons I've learned from them, I know Chodron is right. I also think about those things that have left my life in what felt like too short of a time, be it loved ones who have died or relationships I wasn't ready to let go of — the same wisdom applies. When I view my experiences, my relationships and my challenges as teachers, I am more inclined to pay attention to the lessons they are bringing me.