The number of great posts here about the importance of reading the classics to improve oneself made me think that I should share with your some of my favorite motivational quotes by some of my favorite classical authors. If the classics can help us educate ourselves, then their authors, many of whom have struggled and persevered in the writing of these massive cultural books, can certainly help us motivate ourselves.
Here is a selection of five quotations from my quotebook; I often turn to many of these quotes when I find myself in the midst of an enormous challenge or when my spirits flag on some of the more stressful days. I hope they can be of some use to you.
“I was working on a proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back in.” –Oscar Wilde
This quote by the famous playwright Oscar Wilde motivates me to constantly pay close attention to the details of all aspects of my life, especially my writing and blogging. At first glance, the quotation speaks to the frustrating nature of writing; however, I believe it also shows that without being extremely motivated, one could never have the patience to succeed in the face of so many annoying, seemingly trivial details. However, ultimately, those details are just as important in life as the overall flow of things.
“I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too.” –Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I very much enjoy this quotation because it reminds me that creativity can be a great motivational agent. All too often we remained trapped in the status quo; we don’t think to look for the pleasures that can come from imagination and the unknown. Dostoyevsky reminds me here to look for and thrive on the unexpected, to be charmed by things I cannot control or that seem impossible. By seeking impossibility, I can overcome my own limits.
“Life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning.” –Virginia Woolf
I love this quote because it speaks to how delicate and beautiful life can be. This quote motivates me to constantly enjoy the envelope of my life, to ‘stop and smell the roses,’ so to speak. Woolf was well know for her writing about the passage of time, how it often can speed incessantly forward or slow to a near stop as we pass through each life’s experience. This quotation reminds me that, regardless of how quickly or slowly each moment passes me by, it is a beautiful thing and I must appreciate it.
“Why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation?” –Jane Austen
Many times I have failed to take advantage of a wonderful opportunity because I delayed in order to make sure I had carefully evaluated all of my options. Such evaluation is a good thing, usually, unless it takes the form of subconscious procrastination. Austen encourages us to seize the moment of our happiness. First we must learn to recognize that opportunity, and then we must act. I still struggle with this to this day; however, I have gotten better as time has passed.
“It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger for them.” –George Eliot
Finally, this quotation by Eliot keeps me dreaming and yearning for good in my life. This desire motivates me to do everything I can to achieve my goals and to succeed. Without this desire, I would remain stagnant and anxious. But, because I have something to look forward to each day I wake up, I am an active person who feels confident that I’m actively living a better live.