Why do we like quotes?

In yoga we love a good quote.  Many instructors (myself included) use them as the backbone of an entire class, choosing moves that simulate the meaning of the quote or create a journey that fosters or inspires the steps needed to achieve it.  There are thousands upon thousands of quotes, each one appealing to a different person at a different time in their lives…or wait is that really the case or can any quote appeal to anyone at any given time and is that one of the reasons why they are so prevalent? 

As I contemplated this, I began to wonder what exactly is it about quotes that make them timeless and allow them to captivate us.  After stumbling upon some incredible quotes over the years in addition to exploring hundreds of them as they relate to yoga, mindfulness and science I wondered exactly why quotes have such a meaningful place in our lives.  How can a short series of words hold such power and the ability to compel us?

I believe all good quotes possess these 5 qualities.

They inspire us.  Most quotes are motivational by nature, meaning they excite us and drive us to do or achieve more than we typically would by encouraging us to tackle something that is extraordinary. 

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

Mahatma Gandhi

They alter our mindset. If we hear something that inspires us then relate it to ourselves, we can convince ourselves anything is possible.  They create the opportunity to visualize achieving a goal, doing more or just becoming better versions of ourselves and that conjuring of strong imagery can lure us in as we see ourselves living through what the quote is insinuating we are capable of.  Another way it alters our mindset is by functioning as a coach would encouraging us we are able to achieve what we set our minds to.  Gwen Moran stated in her article after speaking to psychologist and motivation expert Jonathan Fader, “the message that someone else believes you can achieve what you want to achieve can be a powerful incentive to try harder”.

They are simple and easy to remember.  Good quotes are catchy and the ones that stick with us are easy to remember.  When I asked my husband what his favorite quotes were he said, “all things in moderation” and “know thy self”.  He said they were Greek and his grandfather used to tell them to him as a child.   A little goes a long way with a good quote.  They are intuitive and make sense.  They may be short but contain strong or powerful words, they are small but mighty. 

They are general. The beauty of a quote and why they touch and impact anyone is that they do not require a skill or certain level of expertise in order to act on what they inspire you to do.  Although a quote is general we have the ability to apply it to us personally.  We imagine ourselves being able to accomplish what the quote lays out for us based on our capabilities, therefore it develops a personal meaning to us based on our circumstances or goals.

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken

Oscar Wilde

They come from a reputable source.  Most quotes come from a well-known individual or worldly leader.  These people are trustworthy, set good examples and typically lead a life that inspires others.  Often times these people as leaders are the type that express their belief in others or in humanity.  Think the Dalai Lama, Lao Tzu, Walt Disney, Stephan Hawkins.

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.

Dalai Lama

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes.

The Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known

Carl Sagan

If you do not have a favorite quote, maybe it is time you found one. Here are links to a few quote lists.



If you have a favorite quote I would enjoy hearing what it is.  Please leave the quote in the comments.

One thought on “Why do we like quotes?

  1. I dug up the origin of my Grandfather’s quotes or actually they are aphorisms. They are from the wisdom of the seven sages of ancient greece.
    -To bring surety brings ruin.
    -Know Thyself
    -Do not let you tongue outrun your intellect
    -Know thine opportunity
    -All Men are wicked
    -Moderation is impeccable
    -Forethought in all things


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