“Don’t get trouble in your mind” is the cheery refrain of a bluegrass chestnut, performed in the video below by the Carolina Chocolate Drops.
I’d never heard the song until a friend posted this video on Facebook the other day, and it just hit me in a sweet spot. Since then, it’s been an earworm.
But unlike most earworms, this one could prove useful.
This very excellent quote comes from the friend mentioned in my last post, who wondered why she shouldn’t strive for perfection. She and a friend of hers came up with the above saying, which she posted over her desk.
This friend struggles with procrastination, a common symptom of perfectionism. And so she is having to learn to let go of her fear of falling short of perfect and to trust her own talent, which is prodigious.
Like the previously discussed Voltaire quote, you could interpret this quote as aspiring to mediocrity, eh…good enough is good enough. And if you’re a lazybones (and you know who you are) then maybe it is aiming low.
But genuine half-assery tells eventually. I am assuming you are hard working and have high standards for yourself.
Live by the harmless untruths that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy. — Kurt Vonnegut.
Ah yes, the little white lie. I’m all for it. You’re haircut looks great! The party was a blast! No, I don’t mind doing you a favor at all!
Life is indeed nicer with harmless untruths like those.
But this quote also makes an argument for what I think of as benign denial.
I grew up in a family mired in unhealthy denial, which convinced me that denial must be avoided at all costs. Denial can be a terrible problem. It keeps people in unhealthy relationships, reassures them that lung cancer only happens to other people, causes financial ruin, and all kinds of other bad things.
But there are other kinds of denial that are no big deal.
“The best years of life are the ones where you decide your problems are your own.” — Albert Ellis
Oh yeah. I love it when the problem is mine.
Sure, it can be lots of fun to point fingers and heap blame on other people.
It’s nice to imagine that we are perfect and that the only thing standing between us and whatever it is we want are all those other annoying people. Or our parents. Or the government. Or society. Or The Man. Or whatever other scapegoat we have chosen to keep ourselves from success.
But there’s one big problem with that approach: You can’t change anyone else no matter how much you whine or rant or rage. The only thing that each of us has the power to change is ourselves.
Nothing against the lovely, late Audrey Hepburn. I love her movies, her look, her philanthropy. But this motivational quote? Not so much.
This is one of those clever sayings that sounds great until you really think about it.
Nothing is impossible? OK then—flap your arms and fly.
No, not even Audrey Hepburn could do that.
“I hate that one,” a friend said. “Life is so difficult already, and they’re saying you’re not even supposed to wish?”
That little aphorism is so old and musty and familiar, I never gave it much thought until my friend said that. But now that she mentions it…what the hell?
What kind of crippling curse is that to put on someone? How can you wish for anything when you are told that there’s a damn good chance that wish will blow up in your face?
As I said before, you never know when you’ll stumble on wisdom. You remember Ricky Martin, don’t you? Formerly of the boy band Menudo, had a hit with Livin’ La Vida Loca, swiveling hips, cute as a button, bubblegum pop star? Yeah, that Ricky Martin.
Not exactly Socrates. But I came across this quote in the newspaper many years ago, cut it out, and posted it on the bulletin board over my desk because it’s so damn wise.
This is a widely used mantra to get yourself to exercise. I even have a fitness-related blog with that as its title.
Theoretically, it’s a good motivational mantra. No matter how much I don’t want to exercise, if I force myself to put on my workout clothes and get started, I’ll get a good workout in. Suiting up + showing up = working out.
If only they were magical words, though. If only correlation was causation. If only suiting up actually caused showing up. But it doesn’t.
Who knew there was a pithy quote about pithy quotes? Perhaps Sophocles was a fan of that Aesop guy, who may or may not have existed. Maybe Sophocles had “Slow and steady wins the race” chiseled into the bulletin board over his writing desk. Haven’t you hung motivational quotes where you can see them when you need a nudge? I have. Lots.
I love those short sayings, when they are genuinely wise and not just pseudo wise. Having a little slogan to recite when I find myself veering from my track can be a shortcut back to where I need to be. Some pithy quotes shine a light on something in a way I hadn’t thought of before. Some buck me up when I’m feeling downtrodden or insecure.
The good ones, that is. Some pithy quotes are just deep-sounding blather, or misguided. I stumble on plenty of quotes online that sound like someone just mixed unicorn juice with angel tears and rainbow sparkles and threw it all up in the air to see how it landed. Just because words sound loving and encouraging doesn’t make them genuinely useful.
And you never know where you might stumble on real wisdom. Some of the quotes I’ll trot out came from friends, some from my own head. I had a quote from actress Jenna Elfman (remember Dharma and Greg?) over my desk for years. I can’t remember the whole thing, but it started out “Do other things,” and talked about how she has interests other than acting because if you just do one thing all the time, you get kind of achy and sore. Pretty wise stuff from a sitcom star and one that I have taken to heart.
So in this new blog, we’re going to have fun with pithy quotes—breaking down the good and the bad to build a collection of short sayings with much wisdom for better living.
So if you have favorites—or least favorite—please bring them here. Let’s talk them through.
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