10 Quotes to Inspire Your Work

It’s easy to become cynical in these times – even about our own aspirations and possibilities. It’s more important than ever to understand what we believe and how our actions are aligned with our behavior.
Here are ten quotes that are food for thought – opening up the fields of possibility in how you think about your work every day. 

  1. “Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness.”–James Thurber

I recently rediscovered this quote and found such solid wisdom in its practical advice.  Regret and lack of forgiveness often mire us in the past and sap the energies we need to carry us forward.  I’ve often written about fear – the most corrosive and debilitating emotion. Don’t let it dominate you this year.  Thurber rightly reminds us that instead of becoming caught in ruminations of yesterday and the anxieties of tomorrow – to look around in awareness – right now – in the moment at what is.  The present is a potent place to be – let’s try to dwell in it more often. .

  1. “Thought is action in rehearsal.” –Sigmund Freud

Thought is the wellspring of creativity – of everything we do.  While action is required to bring our intentions into fruition, our thinking process is where it all begins.  I am more committed than ever to guard my thoughts. Living in the modern media age, it is easy for our minds to become polluted with lots of negative and useless information. This year guard your thinking process like the treasure that it is. Clean out the clutter, delete (as best you can) the junk files and stay conscious of what you want to allow in.

  1. “There is no persuasiveness more effectual than the transparency of a single heart, of a sincere life.” –Joseph Barber Lightfoot

Lightfoot, a 19th century English theologian was known for extracting the common truth and wisdom from the aphorisms and teachings of his day. Recent polls show that Americans’ mistrust not only includes most institutions and figures of authority but also each other.  Collective cynicism is crippling our ability to work together in community to solve the huge problems we face. Marketing and even self-branding has become so pervasive and disingenuous that many people no longer expect truth – just the best presentation of the story.  As Barber says nothing compares to the power of sincerity.

  1. “Surprise yourself every day with your own courage.” -Denholm Elliott

The late Denholm Elliott was a wonderful British character actor who first came to my attention in the film, A Room with a View. I’m sure in Elliott’s career he was challenged to play many roles outside of his comfort zone; in many ways, we all are. One thing I’ve noticed about change is how small and incremental it can be. When we look back and recognize the ways in which we are different, we mostly see that the changes were built over time.  We all know when we play it safe and choose to stay small.  I’m taking Elliott’s advice to surprise myself – even just a bit – with my courage and willingness to take new steps and move more outside of my comfort zone.

  1. “Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy & mutual valuing.” – Rollo May

Rollo May was an existential psychologist whose work had a huge impact on my thinking as a college student.  His book, Love and Will, helped me to understand the deep impact of personal connections and a re-thinking of the concept of intimacy.  For many of my clients in the workplace, communication is a means to an end. In other words, it is task-driven. In the workplace people need and want to get things done– the ostensible reason for communication. May is asking us to broaden our concept of the meaning of communication.  If, he says, we learn to communicate from a deeper place – with the intention to understand others, we may reach a level of intimacy that gifts the communicators with a sense of mutual value.   Let’s start imagining and practicing more of that in the workplace.

  1. You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” –M. Scott Peck

I’m sure there are many people who would disagree with this quote. The epidemic of distraction in our culture make listening – truly listening – to others such a rare event that many people I work with say they are uncomfortable when they receive undivided attention.  Too many of us think that listening is simply hearing – it’s not. Your ability to reiterate someone’s words is not the kind of listening Peck and I are advocating.  What’s needed for real listening is whole body attention – your complete presence.  Unless you tune in at some feeling level to what others are saying (empathy, curiosity, respect, caring, concern) you’re not fully there. Personally, I aim to lessen my distractions and become more present to people and life around me. Listening is a vital part of that experience.
7.  “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”
– William James
If we regarded everyone with this belief, we’d fundamentally change the world. In a world where people are labeled, categorized, judged, discarded and revered, acting from William James’ belief is a revolutionary act.  We assign motive and meaning to the behavior of others (the media is filled with this mind reading mania) based on our own perceptions and interpretations.  James, an influential late 19th psychologist and philosopher believed that appreciation was not only pragmatic but transcendent because it can permeate the mind to reach into our essential human nature.  True appreciation goes beyond typical ego craving – it is the essential fiber of our desire to be connected to others and yet be recognized for our autonomy.  My helpful mantra – less judgment – more appreciation.
8. Somehow, in the process of trying to deny that things are always changing, we lose our sense of the sacredness of life. We tend to forget that we are part of the natural scheme of things.”– Pema Chodron
This is a pretty deep quote to drop into #8 but being a fan of Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron, I could not resist.  Like many others, I’ve spent too much time resisting what is not in my control to change.  This includes resistance to change. It’s only when I am reminded of what Pema says in this quote, “we tend to forget that we are a part of the natural scheme of things,” that we can connect back into the deeper realms of life. Nature is a great teacher of this. So is deepening, and not resisting, the truth that along with life’s splendid joys – comes suffering.  I’m reminded that I am part of this great inexplicable wheel of life – and acting from that place is a guiding aspiration.
9. “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”  ― Charles Dickens
Generally Dickens is not thought of as “funny.” Our modern image of the brilliant Dickens’ work has focused more on the plight of Tiny Tim and the denizens of the notorious Victorian workhouses.  But Dickens was considered a great humorist in his day. From the miserable money-lender, Mr. Smallweed (Bleak House) to Mr. Dolls, the drunken father in Our Mutual Friend, Dickens helped us bear the burdens and understand the complexity of the times by lightening our load with such endearing monikers and incisive wit.  So whether it’s Dickens or slapstick, choosing more laughter, daily, can lighten and enliven our work.
10.“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”—Plato
Attributed to Plato (who knows?) recently I’ve seen this quote everywhere. That’s a good thing because it is sorely needed to cut through knee-jerk assumptions many people make about others without knowing them. Kindness of thought, feeling and action is a soothing and healing balm we need more of this year.  Judgment separates us from others – sharing our stories provides us with bridges to understanding. We often act on our assumptions and beliefs about others without having any real appreciation of their needs and certainly not their struggles.  The essence of this quote speaks to empathy – which begins with self-compassion.
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, subscribe, share, like and tweet this article. It’s appreciated.

Louise Altman, Partner, Intentional Communication Consultants

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  1. Ronnie Ann says:

    All wonderful and inspiring. Thanks, Louise.
    This one especially fits so well with something that happened to me yesterday with someone who was asking for my help – and then looking things up on the computer at the same time I was still speaking to her on the phone:
    “You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” -M. Scott Peck
    I know it is a sign of the times to be multi-tasking and connected to our devices at all times, but so much is lost. Including a chance to truly connect with another person in the moment.

    • Hi Ronnie
      Yes, it does become automatic behavior – our whole pace seems to have become sped up in tune with advancing technology. So much of it, I think, also has a great deal to do with constant access to devices and media.
      There is no question that these behaviors are having an impact on the nervous system. All of this becomes habituated.
      I’ve seen it suggested recently that the “mass” appeal to mindfulness practices is a result of a sense of this all become out of control. Of course, we never lost control – we makes choices constantly about how to relate to technologies of all types.
      Although Peck’s quote may seem extreme – I use it as a reminder to slow down and stay fully present.
      Thanks for the comment and glad you appreciated the article.

  2. These are fabulous, Louise! Thank you!

  3. Sangeeta says:

    Once again in appreciation and in agreement with what you say Louise. Sharing it on all my social media channels.

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