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Do Inspirational Quotes Really Inspire You?

Inspirational Quotes Or Just Clutter?

“The road to success is always under construction.” – Lily Tomlin

I was going to do one of those blog posts that rattles out 25 inspirational quotes. You know, the usual - Tony Robbins, Stephen Covey, Brene Brown.

And let me be clear - I loooove that stuff. But I feel like you can get that anywhere on the internet.

I also feel like we get kind of sloppy about inspirational quotes. We buy a fridge magnet and put it up. We write something meaningful on a post-it note and hang it on our computer monitor.

After about a week…we forget it’s there.

But I don’t want to get all eye-rolly about it. I don’t want to give up on motivational quotes for business or life. They can have almost electric power over us.

“Humans are aspirational. We want to look up to role models and leaders and follow what they ask,” Scott Sobel, media psychology expert, told Fast Company. “Leaders and their words–inspirational quotes–affect us on a primal level.”

Even at the best moments being an entrepreneur can be lonely, exposing, disorienting, and sometimes even boring. So a dose of inspiration stuck on your bathroom mirror isn’t a bad idea.

But if it doesn’t inspire you…it’s just clutter.

There’s a better way to do inspirational quotes - frankly.

  • Collect them

  • Change them

  • Dig into them

In this blog, I’m going to do more than introduce you to some motivational mumbo jumbo. I’m going to talk to you about taking those wise little nuggets all the way into your heart and mind.

We’re going to learn to assemble our inspirational quotes with intention and a method. I want you to really absorb them. Use them.

And, okay. I’ll share some quotes that mean something to me.

But this blog is not motivation-porn. When it’s done, I want you to go out and find your own inspirational quotes. Put together a gallery of sanity, comfort, and fuel for when things get tough.

The Ritual and Rigor of Inspirational Quotes

I think we use inspirational quotes a little haphazardly. We read something awesome. It rings a bell inside us. We pop it in a notebook or scratch it on the back of an envelope.

That’s fine. Nothing wrong with collecting quotes. But how about assigning a little process to it? Here are a few good rules of thumb about collecting inspirational quotes.

Have An Official Stash

No need to be anal about it. But if you collect quotes, have a regular place to deposit them. I don’t care if it’s a notebook or a recipe box.

If they don’t have a place where they officially get stashed, you could end up more deflated than inspired by your collection. You’ll come across a scrap in your pocket or folded in your bra drawer. Suddenly it feels like an empty ritual. Totally demoralizing.

So make it matter. Have a place where they can be cherished and used.

Change It Up

Definitely, you should stick them up. You should look at them every day - on the fridge, your bulletin board, whatever. Awesome! But you should change them out.

Consider having the first day of the month be QUOTE DAY. Go to your quote deposit box and see what’s in there.

What do you need this month? Because what helps you in August might not be a priority in September. Maybe you need to be more present this month. But last month you were struggling with procrastination.

Select an animating quotation for what’s in front of you. Keep it fresh and meaningful. You’ll get a lot more juice out of inspirational quotes like this.

Ask Why

Last piece of advice. And it’s kind of weird.

If you see a quote and think, “YES!” Don’t just write it down. Ask yourself why you felt that. Spend a little time with the quote and the question. What does it mean to you?

I only say this because autopilot is a crappy way to learn and change.

Inspirational quotes are just a narcotic if you don’t actually link them to you personally. The more you connect the dots of what a quote means to you, the more you’ll use it when you need it the most.

Cautionary Quotes

You know those quotes that scare the bejeezus out of you? In a good way? In that way that makes you want to stop doing dumb stuff immediately. And start doing what matters right now.

Inspirational quotes aren’t just about inspiring you toward action. Sometimes they inspire you toward putting on the breaks or taking brutal stock.

I call these my “CAUTIONARY QUOTES.” As in, “stop and examine what you’re doing before it’s too late” quotes. As shattering as those quotes can be, I think they’re kind of great.

Here are a few that work for me.

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” – Abraham Lincoln

I know this doesn’t necessarily sound cautionary, but for me it is.

I mean, for Lincoln the one-day-at-a-time model might be the best thing about the future - but to me it’s also the sneakiest thing about it.

These words remind me that life’s about an accumulation of tiny moments. It warns me that all my decisions today - for better or worse - add up. Those moments make up our lives and create the future.

Which makes me think of Mel Robbins:

“None of us wake up and say, ‘today is the day I destroy my life.’...we make these teeny tiny decisions…that take you so far off track.” - Mel Robbins

Yeah, Mel gets it.

You can create momentum with each little purposeful action. And you can create a life of low-grade misery by making little easy, destructive choices. Inch by inch you create your life.

Ugh. These are inspirational quotes, but they make you wet your pants a little. Which is sometimes just what I need. Embrace it.

What’s your cautionary quote?

Quotes To Trigger Learning

Inspirational quotes are usually used for two things. Lifting you up when you’re down and kicking you in the patoot when you need it.

But I recommend inspirational quotes for more than cheerleading and patoot kicking. Have a few that remind you to think, to question, to poke the box.

If you work with ideas, like me, a lot of your job is telling people. Instructing. Coaching. Advising.

It’s easy to forget that you don’t have all the answers. We need to ask questions.

Aside from making life interesting, curiosity is what makes you useful to your clients and invested in the world.

I keep a few quotes on hand that challenge me to learn.

“I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.― Eleanor Roosevelt

Preach, Eleanor! I loooove inspirational quotes that remind me to open my eyes.

I move a million miles a minute. Sometimes I need to stop and listen. To observe. To reflect. This quote is a tap on my shoulder. A reminder.

“I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” — Winston Churchill

Sometimes learning means learning that you’re wrong about something…which, let’s face it sucks. But it’s essential if you want to know more today than you did yesterday.

This quote reminds me that I don’t have to like learning all the time, I just have to do it. If Churchill can learn to suck it up and admit he’s wrong sometimes - so can I.

Quotes About Doing The Work

Do you catch yourself saying things like, I think the Universe is telling me something?

Yeah me too. The problem with quoting The Universe is that you can kind of put words in its mouth. As in “The Universe is telling me to sleep in today.”

Dude, The Universe is not telling you that.

So, I like this quote instead.

“I’m an optimist, but an optimist who carries a raincoat.” – Harold Wilson

The Universe treats you better when you carry your weight and do your work. This quote reminds me to think positively, but prepare. Don’t try to build your business on wishes.

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy, and that hard.” Neil Gaiman

Instagram can really make it seem like business is all about stepping off jets and making speeches at TED.

But part of business is mastering the mundane.

I spend a lot of time on social - so this quote is a great reminder that if I want it, I have to do the work - even when no one is watching. I have to put my butt where my heart is.

I need this kind of inspirational quote to combat my impatience, my rabbit brain, and my whiny voice.

Inspirational Quotes About Quitting

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is probably the way we most use inspirational quotes. Give me something that keeps me from giving up.

I’ll be honest - in my worst moments, I don’t want to hear it. I just want ice cream, my dog, and my pillow. But. Once my tummy is full and I’ve wiped my face of tears and dog saliva - the right words can get me back in the game.

When it works…it feels like a little revolution In my body. It’s the best that a motivational quote has to offer.

“A champion is someone who gets up when he can't.” ― Jack Dempsey

When you can’t get up, get up. When you don’t want to do it, do it.

These quotes remind me that the pain I feel right now isn’t the whole story. What I’m working for matters - even on rough days.

We can do hard things.

Remember to Live

So this has been fun. And I encourage you to go out and scour the internet for inspirational quotes. Jot down that great thing you heard on a podcast. Buy that bumper sticker you love. Hang up that cat poster if it moves you!


“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

(Um, you didn’t think I was ending this without a Harry Potter quote, did you?)

I want to give you one more thing to be inspired by… Life. Don’t just hustle. Don’t just work. Don’t use inspiration to tie yourself to a grindstone.

Inspiration is for living.

I mean - yeah. Snag inspirational quotes that make you put on your sneakers, wake up early, face your fears, and overcome adversity.

But remember to stop. Smell roses. Play games. Snuggle a dog. Meet someone wonderful. Breathe. Dream. Live.

Your work is just one mission. Life is THE mission. And that’s something to be inspired about.

Have we connected on Instagram yet? OMG, what are you waiting for? You’ll get inspiration, information, and one glorious image of me dressed as a hot dog. Seriously.


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