There are hundreds and hundreds of potentially life-changing quotes out there, and this blog is an attempt to bring just five to the fore for your consideration. Sit back, relax, slow it down, and let these enter your mind, and your heart. They are, I believe, potentially life-changing quotes because they have the potential to provide a breath of fresh air in our busy, crowded, frustrating, isolating, difficult, money-centered society. These thoughts by some great thinkers from the past and present have the potential to wake us up, elicit great insight and enthusiasm, and help us integrate the often-separated and truncated parts of ourselves.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~ Mohandas K. Gandhi
Though this quote is often stated just-so, it is actually a slicing and dicing of a longer paragraph written by Mahatma (Sanskrit for “great one” I believe). But if we take the same liberal attitude that those who appreciate the Bible do, we might not concern ourselves with the absolute veracity of the statement. This is not a court of law; what matters is the impact. And impact it has! This is my mom’s favorite quote, and it has played some small role in guiding her productive, purposeful, and empowered life. Does it speak to you?
I think this quotation is compelling because of its content, meaning, and the fact that Gandhi said it (essentially). We all wish that the other would change, that our nation was better, and that our values were reflected in the world. “There isn’t enough justice; people don’t tell the truth; there are so many lazy people out there” we often hear. Well, those are perceptions, but more or less true. They are facts.
There are lazy, thoughtless, corrupt, selfish, ignorant and evil people out there in the world. It pisses me off, but it’s reality; folks deny others’ rights, really only look out for #1, and fail to really become educated. The reason this has the potential to be one of those life-changing quotes is that the world is what the world is, but how we are; how we perceive things, what our attitude is, is our responsibility. We are free to be as just, truthful, wise, and industrious as we choose to. We can’t control the world, but we can start with what we have significant control over: the self.
He who would move the world must first move himself. ~ Socrates
“The man seems to me to have very well understood the power of habit [i.e., custom] who first invented this story: that a village woman, having learned to pet and carry in her arms a calf from the hour of its birth, and continuing always to do so, gained by this habit that even when he was a great ox she could carry him. For in truth habit is a violent and treacherous schoolmistress. She establishes in us, little by little, stealthily, the foothold of her authority. But having by this mild and humble beginning settled and planted it with the help of time, she soon uncovers to us a furious and tyrannical face against which we no longer have the liberty of even raising our eyes.” ~ Michel de Montaigne (1580)
That is a heckuva quote. Not terribly easy to get through – he was a contemporary of Queen Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare, after all. This French polymath nailed the idea of “the tyranny of habit.” Montaigne is writing about the incredible power of habit, custom, inertia, laziness, myopia, and lack of a willingness to risk. History didn’t record who wrote this, but we owe them a tip of our hats: “To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure, but risk must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.”
If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.
This quote by another genius (this time, English, and from about 1930) places the Montaigne quote in good stead:
“Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possiblities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom. Thus, while diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, it greatly increases our knowledge as to what the may be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never travelled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familar things in an unfamilar aspect.”
“We draw the circle of our family too small.” ~
Philosopher Bertrand Russell believed that “[t]o be happy in this world, especially when youth is past, it is necessary to feel oneself not merely an isolated individual whose day will soon be over, but part of the stream of life flowing on from the first germ to the remote and unknown future,” and I think this is sage advice.
“The good person is the one that has empathy but chooses not to look away, and to act on his feelings. A good person will stand up for what’s right at the sometimes at the expenses of one’s own well-being. A good person is afraid like everybody else, but chooses to face their fears anyway. And will find pleasure and solace in the battle for ‘goodness’. Helping someone else. Being a good person is an incredibly difficult but brave position to be in. We need a whole lot more of those in the world.” ~ Matthieu Gosselin
Draw your circle a bit wider; push yourself to love, accept, tolerate, and assist those around you. Don’t go as far as Mother Teresa – she was obsessed with hospice patients – but do do more than you typically do. I will try to do the same. If you’re a Christian, you have heard this before. There are many poignant and life-changing quotes in religious texts, and out there in the world. In fact, I think Jesus and Albert Schweitzer spent very little time inside temples and churches praying; they were out speaking and helping.
More and more I have come to value charity and love of one’s fellow being above all else.
“If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.”
Ben is talking about using our powers of intellect to keep a check on our impulses. We have a “reptilian brain” beneath our mid-brain and our cerebral cortex; it’s not that we have evolved beyond the hunting and gathering, tribal, fight-or-flight stage of human experience in the last 100,000 years. In fact, since those war-like Greeks and Romans, we have made much less progress than one would like to think (or one sees when looking at an iPhone or driving a vehicle).
“At present, we are beset with pathologies of many kinds: mental, emotional, maturational, cultural, ecological, economic, commercial, political, philosophical, spiritual and others. How can we envision ourselves transcending these debilitating and dangerous aberrations? What can we learn and practice to divert our Titanic from the looming icebergs ahead?”
Philosopher Lou Marinoff wrote that “There is no need to repeat mistakes from one generation to another. We are compelled to inherit our parents’ genes, but we are not compelled to inherit their moral imperfections.” I think what he is saying is supportive of the Benjamin Franklin quote about integrating reason and passion, self-control with desires. It’s a potentially life-changing quote because if we grasp that we have to grow beyond child-like desires, wishes, and impulses, we can get along better, improve ourselves, and live a better, more functional life. This is pure Aristotelianism.
So long as we cannot accept the fact of what we are at any given moment of our existence, so long as we cannot permit ourselves fully to be aware of the nature of our choices and actions, cannot admit the truth into our consciousness, we cannot change.
“In the end the only way we can measure the value of our lives is by valuing the lives of others.”
Striking the same tune as the Mother Teresa quote above, this is a life-changing quote because if we believe that service to others, love, and other-centeredness (vs. self-centeredness) is the key to a life of purpose, a life of value, a life of fulfillment, then we don’t think of helping, giving, and doing for others to be a cost, but a benefit.
This is about a win-win. Booker T. Washington wisely noted that “[t]hose who are the happiest are those who do the most for others.” I think that is absolutely right. Think about the last time you helped someone; went out of your way a bit; really cared. It has the potential to wake you up in an amazing way. Kids, pets, and the despairing and the elderly have a way of really tugging on our heartstrings, and that’s no coincidence; we evolved as a social species, despite our current bizarre social lives.
Service to a just cause rewards the worker with more real happiness and satisfaction than any other venture in life.
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
This quote by the master writer has the potential to be considered one of those life-changing quotes because it refers to a fierce sense of strength, overcoming, courage, dedication, resilience, and meaning. Indeed, Nietzsche said “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
A bit less effusive is this by noted Unitarian minister and personal growth pioneer, Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Courage vanquishes some sufferings and patience the others.”
“Strong people are made by opposition like kites that go up against the wind.”
“For money you can have everything it is said. No, that is not true. You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; soft beds, but not sleep; knowledge but not intelligence; glitter, but not comfort; fun, but not pleasure; acquaintances, but not friendship; servants, but not faithfulness; grey hair, but not honor; quiet days, but not peace. The shell of all things you can get for money. But not the kernel. That cannot be had for money.”
Okay, six potentially life-changing quotes! These words of wisdom by Norwegian author Arne Garborg are amazing, I think. Such a beautiful and poetic vision of what is most meaningful in life. As well, it highlights the fact that money is not to be chased and lusted after, for in the end, it only buys certain things that are facilitative of happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction, not the real deal. The marrow of life can only be gotten indirectly. Values, virtues, flourishing, deeds, and relationships are free, but invaluable.
Epicurus says that being rich is not an alleviation, but a change, of troubles. In truth, it is not want, but rather abundance, that breeds avarice. ~ Michel de Montaigne
Here is a link to two other blogs that feature inspirational quotations, words of wisdom, and potentially life-changing quotes. Yours free here on Values of the Wise. Enjoy.
Keywords: life-changing quotes, integration, passion, fulfillment, meaning, virtue, character, wisdom, insight, hope, love, joy, self-confidence, development, self-growth, self-improvement, words of wisdom, inspirational quotes