Candace Ganger
March 23, 2015 6:00 am

Some expressions are so worn out that they are practically threadbare. Carpe diem? I love the message, but I’ve seen it embroidered on pillows and emblazoned on novelty rings, not to mention T-shirts, calendars, beer koozies — in fact, “seize the day” is almost synonymous with “do whatever the hell you want,” and I’m pretty sure keg stands were not what Horace had in mind when he coined the phrase in 23 BCE. That said, I still believe pithy phrases can provide that kick in the arse we sometimes need to get motivated, and when are we ever in more need of motivation than on Mondays? So here’s some thoughts by revered people to get you through life, or at least this week.

Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings. —Salvador Dali

While it’s nice to imagine ourselves curled up in an alcove, next to a pile of books, forever absorbing all the knowledge the world has to offer, it’s not going to do us a whole lot of good if we don’t apply what we learn. It’s kind of like when you graduate from college feeling very happy that you understand what Foucault had to say, but find that no one’s really asking you to put it to use. Few of us can afford to be professional students, so dream big! Make a five-year plan or a 10-year plan or just a plan. Remember that change is good, and always be on the hunt for opportunities. And don’t mistake ambition for just envying other people. Actually become more like those whom you admire. Otherwise who’s going to invent the next Internet or Pillow Pet?

If things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew. Just go right along and you’ll start happening too. — Dr. Suess

Life moves fast and sometimes you feel like you can’t control the things that happen to you. This quote reminds you to stay in the moment, go with the flow and allow yourself to roll right along with the scary, fast-moving moments as they’re happening. Hold on for the ride and let it help shape you into the person you want to become.

You may not control all the events that happen to you but you can decide not to be reduced by them. — Maya Angelou

Nothing’s going to stop you now. You will survive. Unbreakable! You’re alive, dammit. How many more songs shall I appeal to before I convince you that, like Ms. Angelou says, you’re going to get back up, and not let what happens in life define you? Mic drop.

Being deeply loved gives you strength; loving deeply gives you courage. — Lao Tzu

It’s better to give than to receive, basically. You feel good inside when you care about other people, and doing so makes you a wiser, more empathic person. It also makes you unstoppable, because when you you care about someone, you are determined to help and protect them, to make them happy, and whether that applies to your immediate family and friends or a whole city full of people, it makes a difference. Be brave enough to be vulnerable.

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.Socrates

This little aphorism is the more optimistic sibling of Mark Twain’s infamous: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” Basically, even the smartest people in the world can still stand to learn a little more. Listen more closely. Read more extensively. Never stop learning new things. Respect the knowledge of those around you, especially when it differs from yours. Maybe your dad doesn’t care a whit about politics, but he can show you how to change a tire. Maybe a friend can teach you something about gardening and an aunt can school you on grape varietals in different wines. Don’t discount information, even when you’re not expressly looking for it. We’ll never know it all, which is all the more reason to keep trying.

Believe you can and you’re halfway there. — Theodore Roosevelt

Don’t waste precious time on doubt. If you want to get the job done— an A on the term paper, passing the bar exam, writing that book — have the confidence in yourself to say: I can and I will. Setting your mind to it is half the battle. Look at that, you’re almost finished.

Either I will find a way or I will make one. — Philip Sidney

Although this quote has been attributed to everyone from Punic commander Hannibal to Sidney’s brother Robert, English Poet Philip Sidney has been largely credited for this empowering phrase. I think we all know what good ol’ Philip (or Robert or Hannibal) meant by this: If the bakery is closed, make the damn cookies yourself!

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