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Inspirational Quotes and Mantras – From the Silly to the Destructive to the Inspirational: How to Use the Good Ones to Take Action

High School: Silly Inspiration


Maybe because it’s Friday or because it’s the first day of a new month, but it just feels like a good day to share some inspirational quotes. In my last post, I wrote about how your feelings for your job (or anything else in life) often change over time.  And when those feelings do change, sometimes you need some inspiration to move on and make the change know you should make (like quitting your job).

Aside from my changing relationship with Biglaw, another thing that changed for me over time was my view of inspirational quotes and little daily mantras.

These days, you can’t help but come across inspirational quotes on a constant basis.  Whether it is a quote on your morning coffee mug, a magnet in a co-worker’s office or, the most likely place of all, a celebrity’s Instagram post, inspirational quotes are everywhere.

That wasn’t the case when I was in high school in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Of course quotes have always existed, and most people my age can probably remember some sort of photo of a landscape or sunset in their guidance counselor’s office with a quote about perseverance or team-building.  But back then, there wasn’t this constant barrage of inspirational quotes like there is now.

The most memorable quote from that time in my life that sticks with me to this day is one from my high school soccer team.  Each summer we would get new t-shirts with our school’s name on it and an inspirational quote on the back.  My t-shirts are long gone or stored somewhere in my parents’ house, but I’ll never forget the message from one year in particular.  Not because it was inspiring but because it was just so silly.

Written underneath the image of a soccer ball that had beads of sweat dripping off of it was the following quote:  “Nobody’s ever drowned in their own sweat.”  I think it was supposed to inspire us to run and push to our limits, which in theory is a fine message.  But most of us just thought the sweaty soccer ball was ugly and getting that sweaty was pretty unappealing. Inspirational quote fail!

College: Destructive Inspiration


When I was in college, Instagram wasn’t yet a thing, so curated posts of beautiful places and beautiful people posting inspiring things wasn’t a thing, either.  My first introduction to a different type of inspiration – a daily mantra – came in college, but it wasn’t in a positive way.

My roommate had to drop off something for a project at a classmate’s dorm room. I didn’t know the girl and my roommate barely did, but we were on our way to lunch or class and stopped by her room to drop off the papers. She wasn’t around so told us to just leave it on her desk.

When we dropped the papers off, we noticed sticky notes all over her computer, saying things like “you are fat, don’t eat!” or “go to the gym, you’re ugly!”.  It was jarring and made me feel so bad that she was using such mean language to inspire a change. I never met the girl, so I have no idea if it worked, but I do know now that there are way better ways to inspire change than posting destructive messages to yourself and reading them on a daily basis.

Today: Healthy Inspiration


Since high school, when I thought they were silly, and college when I didn’t really take them into consideration, I have come around to loving quotes and inspirational messages. They can really lift up your spirits and motivate you to get things done.  Instead of using self-destructive language, reading a daily dose of inspirational quotes can be a great and healthy way to inspire yourself to change!

I’ll leave you with my two current favorite quotes, applicable to many things in life but especially applicable if you are longing for a career change but don’t believe it is within reach (it is).

First, you have to dream it.  Maybe you have a specific dream in mind or you just have the dream of not being where you currently are or not doing what you’re currently doing.  Either way, you have the same first step to take – dream it:

“Well, maybe it started that way. As a dream, but doesn’t everything? Those buildings. Those lights. This whole city. Somebody had to dream about it first.” – Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach.

Next, it’s time to act on that dream.  Nothing motivates me better than reading the following Chinese proverb because it just rings so true, giving me a sense of urgency but somehow calm as well:

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Do you have any favorite quotes to inspire you when you feel the need to change?  Are you a fan or a hater of inspirational quotes?  How about personal, daily mantras? Any good ones to share?

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