When I think back on my childhood, it’s funny what I remember. Yes, the big events and the times of intense drama. But what I think of even more are the little sayings that have stuck with me through the ages.
Every time I’d use the word “hate,” my mom would say, “You don’t want to hate anyone.”
I remember a favorite teacher telling me that I “had something inside that needed to be shared.” For a shy and reserved teenager, that saying helped me overcome and persevere throughout school and continues to impact my life.
One of my best friends in college (in an effort to prod me into asking a girl out) said, “Take more chances – you’ll have a few more real problems, but a lot less imaginary ones.” He even wrote it on our ceiling so I had to look at it every night. It changed my life (and the girl said yes).
When I think about it, those little sayings are a big part of who I became. There’s something about the simplicity of a concise, effective saying that can deeply impact the formation of one’s character.
The words we use are incredibly powerful, and the ones we repeat are the most powerful of all. That’s why we need to make sure we’re using the right ones… because you just never know what’s going to stick.
I learned long ago that any message I want to deliver has likely been summed up in far better words than any I could ever dream up. I think that’s why I love quotes so much. The people I admire most have strung together the words that tap into my emotions and lodge in my memory. They have changed me for the better.
As a parent and educator, there are so many situations in which the right message is needed to anchor a point or lesson. For many of these, I often fall back on great sayings from across the ages.
Here are 7 inspiring and powerful sayings for students you can use to instill great thinking:
Fortune favors the bold
We all know that taking risks is part of success. However, many of us are risk-averse, and we often model this to our kids and students who’ll inevitably acquire many of our tendencies subconsciously.
To manage this, I look to Shakespeare, perhaps the greatest word magician of all time, at least within the English language. This classic line is one of my favorites, and although my kids are probably getting sick of hearing me say it, it remains a succinct way to highlight the value of taking calculated risks in life.
People who read live a thousand lives
I don’t know anyone I admire that isn’t an avid reader. Lifelong learning is absolutely fundamental for happiness and success, and there is just no better place to start than the bookshelves at your local library or bookstore. I once heard a teacher share this with her class, and I haven’t stopped using it since.
Don’t try so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out
There is nothing any of us want more for our children than happiness and success on their own terms. And, when we think about it, we know this is closely tied to them connecting what they do with who they are; that is, their strengths, interests, values and deepest desires.
This inspiring saying is so important to my wife and me that we put it on a sign above the stairs so our kids will see it every time they come down, and be reminded to always stay true to themselves.
Those who gather have little; those who scatter have much
One thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that nothing is more rewarding or empowering than the feeling of helping others. We all have this ability, and the sooner we share it with our kids and students, the quicker the doors of opportunity will begin opening in their lives.
Yes, this quote from Lao Tzu seems like a paradox – the idea that we actually get more when we give more away. Many disagree, but it happens to be a fact; all the more reason to start illustrating the truth of its apparent contradiction as early as possible with the young people in our lives, especially in light of the great conversations it can foster.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
Initiative is a critical concept to teach our kids. I think today, because of the instantly-gratifying nature of digital culture, whether it’s through video games or immediate social media likes, our children are growing up lacking in the ability to delay gratification. The act of simply doing gives us energy by tapping into our creativity and bringing us to life, independently of any rewards. And teaching them to take on long-term objectives and gain confidence in their abilities will be essential to the challenges they will face as adults.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
My middle child is very reserved. She’s incredibly talented, but she doesn’t like to stand out. We spent years trying to encourage her to do things as common as going on a school field trip or performing in a school play. When she does, she shines every time; the problem is getting her to take the first step.
A few years ago, I got her a bracelet that has really helped. On the band is the inscription, “This little light of mine, I am going to let it shine.” Through different opportunities to work with students, I’ve adjusted it to make it fit, but in any form, it’s just a simple way to remind them they’re unique, brilliant in their own ways, and unlike anyone else. And that’s a valuable thought we want all of our kids and students to hold onto throughout their lives.
Be kind to yourself
This last one is a little different than the rest, but because this issue is so critical, it has to be addressed.
I would argue that society is more or less failing in instilling self-compassion in our young people. I believe it’s at the root of the alarming trends in anxiety levels, depression and even suicide among our students. Many of us are also inadvertently pushing our students toward unrealistic expectations and an impossible quest for perfection.
We need to reduce the pressure, and a great way to do so is to constantly reinforce to our children the need to have self-compassion. In other words, not to add to the stress by holding themselves to overly-demanding standards. There are many ways to communicate this, but I like this saying that keeps it simple.
In my work over the years, I’ve become increasingly concerned at the trends we’ve seen in our students and young people. To paraphrase Brené Brown, we’re creating the most obese, depressed, and medicated generation in human history.
Turning the tide on these epidemics is an extraordinary undertaking, but the key to doing so is changing the way our kids think. If we can do that, we’re moving them toward preventative maintenance and away from major repairs. Little messages such as these can and will transform how they think and communicate with themselves. Try these powerful sayings for students, and see how they impact your kids’ regard for their own amazing potential.