Regular readers know that I often use quotes to start my post … the quotation above both verifies my claim and offers an explanation for why I do so.
My habit, which I share with many, is in the same vein as “not reinventing the wheel” (author unknown), I try to avoid creating cutesy or memorable versions of a truth that has already been stated nicely by another, simply to restate what has already been said.
That said, let me offer three good reasons to use quotations:
The thoughtful or incisive words of others may stir our intellectual muscles to work harder or point in a previously unnoted direction. A good quotation makes us think, because it says something in a devastatingly clear or entertaining way … we find the idea hard to ignore, when presented to us in a well-stated fashion.
Aristotle is reported to have once said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” This should make you reflect on how you spend your days and nights, examing each decision aobut the choices beeing made for how well it fits our self-image and goals.
Now we have moved to planning, reflection, and possible behavior change management, all from that deceptively simple quote by Aristotle.
I usually choose quotations which show what I believe, which is another all-too-human trait. This is understandable, since it provides a measure of reinforcement for what I believe. If I can quote some famous and long-dead person, my own words may carry more weight.
We have to be honest here, as well. Someone else’s words often convey important beliefs or observations far better than my own. Their words have already been recognized by others as well-stated and add clarity of communication to my thoughts.
A good quotation should stir you to think more deeply about something, even to the point of questioning your own beliefs and behaviors. This is where true growth occurs.
I enjoy many older quotes, by which I mean those from centuries past. Language changes, both in words used and in sentence structures, from time to time, and sometimes a thing just sounds better when stated in an older tongue.
The impact of a thought often grows and even changes through the words chosen to convey that thought.
For example, Patrick Henry could have said “I would rather die than be a slave to England” and his position would have been clear. Instead, he chose these impacting and even more clear words: “Give me liberty or give me death.”
One more thought …
I have to remain open to new expressions of new or simply different ways of looking at a thing than the ways I know and feel comfortable with. A good quote can move you to reflection, without distracting you by being so different that you do not receive the message behind the words.
Quotes used by themselves make for great Internet memes or posters to hand on your office wall, but often provide little more than decorative value …
However, quotations used as “jumping off” points for our minds to ponder and seek further truth become valued tools in our intellectual journeys.
Bottom Line: Use quotations as creative and critical thinking tools, rather than as decorations … and add your own flourishes and nuances to what others have already stated.
What quotations do you most often use?
What is the most inspirational experience you have had through using a quotation?
What has not been said about effective quotation use that needs to be shared?
Reflecting on the value of someone else’s words in the Heartland ….