My Top 7 (Non-Abe) Inspirational Quotes


What’s your favorite inspirational quote? Do you have one (or several) that you find yourself thinking about again and again?

Although I’ve been inspired by countless quotes, there are about a dozen that I regularly reflect on — words that I find myself coming back to again and again for guidance, solace, and inspiration. In my previous post, I shared my seven favorites from the Abraham-Hicks teachings. Now, I’d like to share my seven “non-Abe” favorites, along with some thoughts about them.

You may have already seen some of these (perhaps numerous times) making the rounds on Facebook or elsewhere, while others might be new to you; but, in either case, I hope that you enjoy reading and reflecting on these words as much as I do — and that, like me, you find them to be an ongoing source of inspiration for your own life. 🙂

In no particular order, here are my top 7 (non-Abe) quotes to live by:

1. The Serenity Prayer (“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” ~ Reinhold Niebuhr)

Although I’m not Christian and have never been in a recovery program, I find myself returning to these simple-yet-powerful words almost daily. It might be for something as mundane as reminding myself not to get bent out of shape over bad weather (or negative news or countless other beyond-my-controllables) and reminding myself that I can change my reaction to the situation (and what I choose to focus on and how I choose to respond to that).

Perhaps my favorite (and most concise) take on this prayer came to me from Lisa Hutchison (in the book 365 Ways to Connect with Your Soul). She says, regarding the prayer’s first line (“…things I cannot change”), “this means other people,” and regarding the prayer’s second line (“…things I can”), “this means me.” Keeping this in mind makes it a whole lot easier “to know the difference”!

2. “The one you feed.” (from the Cherokee legend of the two wolves)

In this story, a man tells his grandson that two wolves are fighting within him. “Which one will win?” the boy asks. The grandfather tells him, “The one you feed.”

I’ve returned to this idea countless times, often summarizing the message with the two words, “focus feeds.” I think of this message when I find myself dwelling on something negative. “No,” I think. “This is not the ‘wolf’ I want to feed!” And then I make a conscious decision to “feed the other wolf” — to give my attention to positive thoughts, things I appreciate, or anything that shifts me in a better-feeling direction.

I also think of this message when I notice myself focusing on something positive — and feeling better and better as I do — and I think, “Yes! This IS the ‘wolf’ I want to feed!” And I keep on feeding it…and keep on feeling better!

3. “Now and then it is good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” ~ Guillaume Apollinaire

This falls into the same general category as another one of my favorites (which certainly could have made this list — or at least gotten an honorable mention): “The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.” ~ Frank Herbert

Both of these quotes, to me, have the same underlying message: We can spend so much time striving to reach goals, practice self-improvement, or “figure it all out” that we forget to actually LIVE — to experience the life we have!

Just as Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” others have added, “The unlived life is not worth examining!”

By all means, continue to explore, to question, to learn, and to grow — but remember to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. Therein lies the joy in life.

4. Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” quote

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I find this quote coming to mind more than ever these days, in the age of flippant tweets, snarky blog comments, and other ways to critique others’ performances (often anonymously and not always positively). Yes, it’s easier to hide in the “bleachers” than to get in the “arena” and give life your best shot, but there’s no glory on the sidelines. (In many ways, this echoes the central theme of The Bhagavad Gita. Or, to paraphrase another of my favorite sayings, “No kid ever dreams of growing up to become a critic.”)

To put a modern spin on Roosevelt’s words: Haters, step off!

To put a more positive spin on Roosevelt’s words: Get out there and LIVE!

5. “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.”  ~ Eckhart Tolle

(Or, for a slightly more in-your-face variation: “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the [b.s.] story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.” ~ Jordan Belfort)

I admit, I “reverse-engineered” this one. What really comes to my mind frequently is the idea that it’s not so much the facts of our experiences that matter, but the story we tell about them — this is what determines our worldview, our beliefs, and our LIVES. (With this in mind, I went searching for quotes that sum up this idea, as Tolle’s words [and, in more of a motivational context, Belfort’s] seem to do.)

In my last post, I highlighted the Abraham-Hicks teaching question, “Is this belief serving me?” You could also substitute “story” for “belief” and see if your stories about your life and the world are serving you — i.e., leading you toward happiness. And then, if need be, you can “edit” your story to lead you to a happier ending. No, this doesn’t mean lying; it simply means viewing the facts in a way that is most uplifting and helpful to you (and, most likely, to others as well).

(This is the short version of this idea — for 4 weeks’ worth of exploration, engagement, and implementation, you can check out my ecourse, Rewrite Your Story: A Soulful Path to Becoming the Empowered Author of Your Own Life.)

6. “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman

(Not sure if there’s anything I can add to this one — that’s how good a quote it is!)

7. “Go back to bed.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

You may have heard Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) tell the story of the first time she spoke directly to God…and got a response! She was sobbing on her bathroom floor at 3:00 a.m. when she first heard what she describes as an omniscient interior voice conveying a critical message to her: “Go back to bed.”

What an anticlimax, right? How banal! Certainly not the spiritual thunderbolt most of us would expect (or want) from a wise, omniscient voice. But it was exactly what she needed to hear in that moment. And it’s exactly what so many of us need to hear much of the time.

Although it might not seem as profound or inspirational as the quotes mentioned above — or as deep and “spiritual” as yoga, meditation, or various mystical practices — taking care of your physical body can have a HUGE impact on every aspect of your life. Yes, this includes a healthy diet and joyful movement, but the first step is to get a good night’s sleep.

The next step is to wake up and LIVE! 🙂

What are some of YOUR favorite inspirational quotes? I’d love to hear your thoughts about the ones above or any others that have inspired you!


4 thoughts on “My Top 7 (Non-Abe) Inspirational Quotes

  1. I really enjoyed all these quotes, Dan. The Serenity Prayer is such a wonderful guide to just about any situation. And I loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s quote, the more I think about it the more it has to offer … self care, stepping out of worrying thinking, accessing our intuition … Nice.

    • Thanks for your kind and thoughtful reply, Dave. Yes, the Serenity Prayer (and the others) have so much day-to-day, moment-by-moment wisdom to offer. And EG’s — even though it might not sound as “deep” is a great reminder of the profound value of self-care. Hope you’re taking good care of yourself these days! Always great to “see”/hear from you! 🙂

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