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There’s something about a profound or inspirational thought summed up that really gets humans in a tizzy. Yes, the inspirational quote has become something of an art-form. Even the tritest musings inspire some.
There is beauty in it, in the fact that a few words can encourage, motivate, invigorate, and inspire. Perhaps that goes some way to explaining why we love inspirational quotes so much. It’s a bit of a skip to the end sentiment. Save your story and just get to the good bit, the bit where I feel uplifted and ready to face life again.
Is that it? Can it really be as simple as that? Or is there more to our love of inspirational quotes?
According to sociologist Murray Davis, the reason for our penchant for inspirational quotes is that they offer a profound truth while applying to all situations or people.
Charismatic leaders often rely on this type of feeling to offer meaning and direction and they do so because they’re motivational or memorable. Anything that can spur new action, new thought, or remind us of a better time is something to be used.
A Saying for the Ages
Often, empty platitudes and cliched sayings fall short. They’re uttered in times of difficulty. A murmured this too shall pass, an emphatic I wish I knew then what I know now, a hopeful good things come to those who wait. They don’t quite hit the spot, they leave you wanting.
Is it because they’re overused or is it because the truth of them isn’t felt? Of course, it will pass, everything is only temporary. Of course, hindsight is 20/20. Life is a mystery? Fairly obvious unless you’re a psychic.
Why is it that, when even the most common inspirational quotes still resonate, that these clichés miss the mark? Perhaps the greater question is, why are we so in love with inspirational quotes?
We hold onto inspirational quotes like “Shoot for the moon. If you miss, you’ll still land in the stars.” While this quote from Norman Vincent Peale has been used time and time again, it’s an interesting one if you think about it. There are no stars between the moon and our place on earth so, if you launched yourself aiming for it, you’re more likely to meet an asteroid.
Still, it does the job, doesn’t it? It might not be accurate scientifically speaking, but people realize the point of it is to aim high because even if you fall short, you’ve moved forward to a better place.
It’s inspirational quotes like that, that we turn to when the going gets tough. They’re inspiring and many have become celebrated sayings in today’s lexicon.
One of the most famous that springs to mind is Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous comment that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” It’s a profound statement that reeks of common sense, yet it’s one we all need to hear sometimes.
With a long history of famous and influential people, why do some of those phrases stick with us? What is it that takes a simple phrase and transforms it into a mantra for the generations? “I have a dream…” is used in television, movies, and daily life. Four simple words that led to a greater speech have become an inspirational quote for the ages.
It likely depends on whom you ask. However, I believe the human attraction to inspirational quotes lies in the psychology of motivation and excellent wordsmithing. Those who find meaning in words and quotes will find they resonate more profoundly. That’s natural. For people who don’t necessarily find sayings or phrases particularly meaningful, they’re more likely to roll their eyes at the inspirational quote hanging in the living room.
Of course, there’s slightly more to it than that. Self-selection is also involved. We opt-in and we opt-out of things based on our interests and personality. So, some of us are more prone to inspirational quotes overall, while others will relate to more specific quotes that resonate.
There’s a coaching aspect to inspirational quotes. We’re drawn to messages that push us, motivate, and spur us on. An inspirational quote helps build self-efficacy because essentially, the quote is encouraging an inner dialogue around something you’re processing.
The Power of Words
The pen is mightier than the sword.
Isn’t it? Equal. Maybe?
Language is powerful, of course. Humans have an appetite for wisdom that’s well-expressed and motivational. Families have mottos on their clan crest dating back centuries. They matter enough to some that they ink them on their bodies for eternity, from Invictus Maneo (“I remain unvanquished”) to Dum Spiro Spero (“While I breathe, I hope”).
Our obsession with language is powerful enough to urge us to embrace sentiments in Latin. They might not count as inspirational quotes per se, but it shows the staying power words have. These sayings are triumphs and an inspirational quote is a memorable expression that sticks with us.
Of course, there’s something to be said for phrasing. The way a saying, quote, or expression is phrased has a lot to do with whether it’s effective or not. According to a study from Lafayette College, participants could look at two statements expressing the same meaning and the one that rhymed seemed truer.
The wording does matter. There’s a wide variety of ways to say something and only one of those ways might resonate. It doesn’t matter how you say it, it doesn’t change the meaning or its truth, but it does change the judgment regarding merit. It’s just a fact that a specific phrasing can make a statement or thought more convincing and pleasing.
Perhaps there’s a biological aspect as to why we’re so drawn to inspirational quotes. As a species, humans have big aspirations. We’re aspirational. It’s natural for us to seek our leaders and role models who we aspire to be like. So, when a leader or notable person says something inspirational, their words are like a balm to our souls. It gets us on a primal level.
When those words come from someone recognized they hold greater weight. There’s a gravitas about them because we’re primed to assume that people in public positions are accomplished and wise. Otherwise, how would they have attained the position they’re in? That’s our perception, and that’s why so many inspirational quotes stem from famous people.
If you’re open to the message within an inspirational quote, then it can be a powerful tool. A message that relies on strong imagery appeals to the aspirational nature of humans, and if well-structured, well, it can change the way you think and the way you see yourself.
That’s why these inspirational quotes pass from generation to generation. That’s why we love inspirational quotes so much. Ultimately, they give us hope. They give us something to hold onto even when it feels like everything is falling down around us.
If you have a soft spot for inspirational quotes, know you’re not alone. While you may have long thought of them as your guilty pleasure, I suggest you proudly embrace the things that motivate and inspire you on your way to greatness.