History has provided an endless supply of advice from philosophers, artists, writers, and political activists that could fill a million books. From ancient to modern, we can take pieces of the past to comfort us during difficult times, and help us create a better future.
If you need something to give you strength and fill you with courage, these quotes might just do the trick:
Aristotle (384 – 322BC)
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
The ancients have inspired people for a well over two millennia. Aristotle; Greek philosopher, tutor to Alexander the Great and Ptolemy I, revered for centuries as, “The First Teacher,” studied and wrote about everything from politics to zoology, psychology to rhetoric. He left this world with an infinite amount of sage wisdom and advice. You might wonder then, why I chose this quote, and not the more obvious,
“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour.”
That’s because courage isn’t always about grand gestures, or big honourable public acts. Sometimes, courage is just getting out of bed, showering, and putting on your shoes. Sometimes, courage is the tiniest step that is really a big step, the first one we take towards being our own heroes, with no one watching, no applause, and no fanfare. These are the moments that get left behind when people talk about courage and inner strength.
“We are what we repeatedly do…”
Aristotle was on to something. What we do, even the smallest things, become a part of us if we keep doing them, good or bad. So if you need courage, start small, but do something every day to build yourself up. Getting up and focusing on one thing, however insignificant that thing might seem, can help get you in the right frame of mind to move forward.
Repetition becomes habit, and only then can you can focus on tackling the other aspects of your life that aren’t working. If we can do the small things well, make tweaks in our daily lives that make life easier to navigate during difficult times, we can crack the door open further and have the space and energy to take on bigger issues.
“Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
In my darkest hours, when I struggled most, daily habits were what kept me going until I could feel better and get to that happier space. I wasn’t in a place to make sweeping changes; just getting up and making it through the day was challenge enough. I had to learn to be my own biggest fan (not worst enemy) and praise myself for the small moments that moved me towards my goals. Even if that moment was something like getting through the work day and making dinner. It all counts.
Failure can bring you down, but what keeps you going are the initial steps you take to get back up again. They also help keep you moving and get you motivated quickly. Aristotle was on the right track. Courageous acts don’t have to be life-changing events; they can be found in the everyday moments of our lives. Thank you, Aristotle.
Anne Frank (1929-1945)
Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!
While her brief life ended tragically at Bergen-Belsen in early 1945, Anne Frank left behind a diary that carried her words of hope, courage, and strength to millions. In difficult times, her words often remind us to see the good in every situation and inspire us to overcome our fears and obstacles.
“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news.”
Anne displayed a remarkable sense of optimism, resilience, and wisdom well beyond her years, even in the face of the horrors of the Holocaust. She saw the good in everyone, and also urged others to find the good in themselves. This quote inspires us to see our infinite possibilities, our potential, and the best in ourselves.
The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”
Anne has so many quotes that exemplify courage and strength that it was almost impossible to pick just one. This particular quote inspires us to remember that we have these opportunities, and to keep going so that we have the chance to reach them.
Remembering these words may be difficult when you feel that you can’t go on, but in light of all that Anne Frank suffered in the two years her family hid from the Nazis, she was still able to see the good in most things, to find that silver lining. This quote speaks to me. It encourages me not to give up, and to keep trying because if I stop trying, I will never give that possibility a chance. When you’re struggling, sometimes courage and strength are about giving tomorrow a chance to be a better day. Thank you, Anne Frank.
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Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
If anybody were to embody courage and strength, it would be Nelson Mandela. Incarcerated for 27 years on Robben Island as a political prisoner, he went on to become the President of South Africa and helped bring an end to Apartheid.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”
Courage isn’t about pretending we aren’t afraid. That’s a tired trope that gets trotted out to inspire us to act brave when, in fact, it does the exact opposite.
Have you ever tried really hard to ignore something, like a craving, or a persistent thought, and it just amplifies the feeling, or sits in the background, a constant buzzing that won’t go away? The best way to conquer that feeling is to acknowledge it, because it gives you your power back. Pretending something isn’t there/ isn’t happening, almost never works. When you’re afraid, or anxious, and need to tap into reserves of inner strength, saying, “This is scary, but I can overcome it, and I will be OK.” is far more productive and empowering than the head in the sand approach.
“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Resistance of fear often compounds it, and makes it worse, allowing our minds to run amok with ‘what if” scenarios of the worst possible outcomes.
Nelson Mandela was right; part of being brave is allowing yourself to be vulnerable, because to show vulnerability in the face of what seem to be insurmountable obstacles, is much more difficult than to wear a mask and deny your humanity. When we acknowledge that we are afraid, we can accept the situation for what it is, and then move to a place where we can work to overcome it. We empower ourselves, and those around us, because our fears no longer control us.
We don’t need to look far for words of strength and courage to inspire us. Words can often comfort us, rouse us to action, and banish sorrow. Words can remain in our minds long after others are gone. These quotes are but the tip of the iceberg. There are millions of inspirational and affirming words of wisdom to be found in the past. Whoever encourages you to keep going and face your fears, be they political, philosophical, musical, or literary, matters not. What matters is that they have offered solace and the initial inspiration to encourage you to keep going.