This week I stumbled across a snippet from the celebrated thinker Lao Tzu. The particular insight made a lasting impression on me – as you would imagine, having been written by the man whose name meant ‘Old Master’. Nevertheless, it got me thinking – what really are the most profound philosophical quotes to ever have been proclaimed?
After scouring the Internet, I have compiled below a list of philosophically enlightening tidbits, that, when taken to heart, just might change your life. Of course, if you can think of any great examples of quotes or musings that personally resonated with you the first time you read/heard them, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
1. “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” – Buddha.
There is nothing more true than the importance of finding the silver lining, whatever your situation may be, and Buddha reminds us of this fact aptly.
2. “We do not ‘come into’ this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean ‘waves’, the Universe ‘peoples’. Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total Universe.”. – Alan Watts
Alan Watts spent much of his career bringing the teachings of the East westward and one of his most insightful remarks, above, makes reference to human inclination to consider ourselves over and above nature. Nature is not there to serve our ends, but in reality Watts reminds us that we are Nature. The trend of environmental degradation we are seeing today must not be ignored. Nature produced us, and the connection shared between us and the planet must be nurtured, not undermined.
3. “Climb mountains, not so that the world might see you, but so that you might see the world.” – David McCullough Jr.
My personal favourite from this list, here we are being reminded in the age of selfies and self-entitlement, that the Universe simply doesn’t revolve around us. Take the time to appreciate the awe-inspiring nature of reality, rather than getting caught up with how many followers liked your recent Instagram post. Do things not such that others are impressed, but that you are inspired.
4. “The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey.
The world is rushed. Make sure that whatever you do you aren’t sacrificing the time you have for the sake of conformity.
5. “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” – Stephen Covey
The second insight from Covey is thus a helpful reminder that wherever you come from and whatever you started with, there is always a place at the top for the person who accepts that we are the aggregate of our free decisions, not our fortunes.
6. “If you hold eleven roses out in front of a mirror, you will see the twelve most beautiful things in the world”. – Anon.
Today there is a divide – between those who believe in themselves and those who cannot see their own self worth. Which kind of person are you?
7. “Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.
It is clear that we are the sovereign masters over our thoughts. Regardless what anybody may do, or what anybody may take away from us, it is the contents of our mind that remain characteristically ours. Never forget that for others to influence your mind you must make a conscious decision to allow them in.
8. “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go” – T. S. Elliot.
There is so much to be said for pushing the boundaries – the whole structure of our society has been founded upon the work of those who were not afraid to fail – of those who were not afraid to risk everything for greatness. Are you someone who can realise your potential, or will you leave this task for those with the courage to do so?
9. “If they spit at you behind your back, it means that you are in front of them”. – Confucius.
There is a powerful importance behind understanding that people who resent you – who wish to bring you down – are wishing to bring you down to their level, and that you should never stoop down for the sake of anyone.
10. “Never form a friendship with a man who is not better than you”. – Confucius.
You are the average of the people you choose to surround yourself with. To become motivated, befriend the motivated. To become a winner, befriend the winners. This is a simple maxim but crucial if you wish to develop the best version of yourself possible. Therefore, keep in mind who you’re meeting for that drink on Friday night!
And there you have it! My definitive list of the quotes I found most insightful. Are there any that you think I have missed out from this list? Which thinker’s ideas resonated with you? Leave a comment below!