Can An Inspirational Quote Really Change Your Life?

Or Are They Soundbites Of Mindless Bullshit?

Photo by Kyle Loftus on Unsplash

I’ll never forget the day I read the quote that changed my life. Does that ever happen? Inspirational quotes are like getting your hands on a coveted material object. It feels good for a few seconds, but the high quickly dissipates.

I once spoke with a “Twitter expert” who recommended I litter my feed with feel-good inspirational quotes. “You’ll gain followers much faster,” he said. I’m embarrassed to admit that I followed his advice for several months.

Back then I thought my Twitter follower count mattered. I soon realized the absurdity of my actions. I raised my opinion with a few other folks. Some agreed, but most replied with a canned response.

“You never know what inspirational quote will motivate someone to change the world.”

It sounded reasonable, but I knew it was mostly bullshit. It was a convenient excuse for these folks to justify their pointless actions.

One day, I was scrolling through Twitter. It seemed like every other tweet was an inspirational quote. I couldn’t take it anymore. I decided to drop out of the “quote” game. I refused to take part in something I despised.

The Quote Frenzy Continues

Fast forward a year or so, and my writing routine is in full swing. I hadn’t had many followers, but I put forth the effort to analyze popular writers and figure out their secrets. Many of these writers added famous quotes to their pieces. These quotes were often the most highlighted sections of their stories.

Yes, you guessed it. I started putting quotes into my stories. Sprinkling inspirational soundbites in my stories bothered me. It felt like a cheap ploy to generate excitement and interest. Sometimes a cheesy soundbite made sense if it fit into the context of the story without disrupting the flow. Most of the time I threw them in, just because.

There’s no denying one fact. People love feel-good quotes. I do too. They provide me with eleven seconds of euphoria before the feeling deflates like a popped balloon. There’s value in that feeling, however fleeting.

Make Them Work For You

Do inspirational quotes provide any other value aside from a burst of euphoria?

I have one quote on a whiteboard above my desk. It’s been there a long time. It comes from the book “The Art Of Possibility” by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander. I recommend the audiobook if you’re inclined to check it out.

“It’s All Invented.”

I know. It’s only three words. It doesn’t sound like much without the appropriate context. It reminds me that all problems are invented. These excerpts capture the meaning.

“Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view…It’s all a story you tell yourselves… not some of it but all of it… Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and problems vanish… create other conditions and narratives that support the life you envision for yourself and those around you..”

The “it’s all invented” quote is the only one I refer to day after day. That’s how you gain real value. Pick one that resonates with you. Choose one with a deeper meaning behind the words.

It’s all invented” does not produce that euphoric feeling like most inspirational words, but the underlying context gives me a framework to approach problems, stressors, and difficult situations.

I know what you’re thinking. One isn’t enough, right? Do you have one you refer to every day? Is it appropriate for your life’s situation and psychological makeup? If the answer is no, start with one.

How To Choose

There are so many good ones that provide deep meaning. How do you choose? Your first choice might be a quote that makes you feel good. These are often best left to Twitter updates.

Instead, pick one that provides you with a framework on how to act, decide, think or solve. “It’s all invented”gives me a structure on how to approach problem-solving.

Before you pick out your favorite, take time to determine what area of your life would benefit the most from a new framework of thinking.

Do you struggle with hope? Do you feel a lack of motivation? Do you struggle with problem-solving, overwhelm? Maybe you’re a bit hard on your friends and family, or you beat yourself up too much over every failure.

Let’s suppose you struggle with motivation. Find quotes that not only inspire you to act but offer a mental structure to follow through. Pick out several candidates and research them. Were they stand alone quotes or did they come from a larger text? If it is the ladder, what is the context behind it?

One And Only One

I listened to “The Art Of Possibility” audiobook on my commute to work a few years ago. I was blown away by the chapter that became my go-to phrase. I knew in an instant that this would serve me well — assuming I used it.

I don’t know if you’ll recognize your phrase instantly or if you’ll need to mull it over before it becomes a permanent fixture in your life. If you have trouble deciding, maybe you need a phrase to remind you of the perils of indecisiveness.

My Most Brilliant Idea

When I heard my catchphrase, I wrote it down somewhere and soon forgot about it. I had later recalled it and forgotten it again. I then came up with the brilliant idea of putting it on the whiteboard behind my desk, so I would never forget it. Duh!

Place your phrase somewhere conspicuous. It should be a location where you are sure to see it every day. Better yet, put it in multiple places: above your desk, on your phone, wallpaper on your laptop.

Make sure you read it to yourself once a day, if not more. Follow this practice, and you are more likely to recall it when you need it.


  1. Decide on the area of your life that would benefit the most from a new framework or approach.
  2. Pick out a list of quotes, focusing on ones that have a deeper meaning and provide a framework on how to act, decide or think.
  3. Pick one that resonates with you most.
  4. Place it somewhere conspicuous.
  5. Refer to it daily. This exercise ensures you remember it when you need it.

Experimenter in life, productivity, and creativity. Work in Forge | Elemental | Business Insider | GMP | Contact: barry@barry-davret dot com.

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