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Seven Inspirational Psychology Quotes and Their Meaning

Updated on August 18, 2018
Natalie Frank profile image

Natalie Frank, a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, publishes on topics in psychology, health, behavioral science and social science among others

Quotes can give you insight and provide inspiration
Quotes can give you insight and provide inspiration

When life become stressful, many people turn to inspirational quotes for encouragement and to help provide a direction for moving forward. Quotes seem to work by providing a shorthand way of describing a more comprehensive way of thinking about something. Words have power and when we want to think differently about something, expressing it succinctly in a phrase or saying we can easily remember that reminds us that things can change helps us do that. This article presents quotes from positive psychology experts, well known psychologists and other influential people from around the world that will inspire you to think differently about stressful life events.


Our moods are contagious. When those we care about are unhappy, we often become unhappy as well. Similarly when we are happy that mood is contagious. We can literally infect those around us with our well-being and have an enormous impact on not just them but everyone up to at least 3 degrees of separation from us. Research actually shows that those we influence, influence others and those others influence still others.

So your happiness may not only affect your spouse or sibling, but you may also influence the well-being of complete strangers you never even meet. If you are happy this morning, your child may become happier, their teacher may become happier, and their teacher’s hairdresser who they have an appointment with that night may become happier.

Of course, trying to maintain a positive outlook and happy disposition isn’t always easy. It takes work, energy and dedication. Ultimately, it’s clear when you substitute unhappiness into the equation and examine the outcomes, that it is happiness that is truly selfless and unhappiness that is selfish.

Further Reading

Coviello, L., Sohn, Y., Kramer, A. D., Marlow, C., Franceschetti, M., Christakis, N. A., & Fowler, J. H. (2014). Detecting emotional contagion in massive social networks. PloS one, 9(3), e90315.


There are many ways to view a single situation and how we view it determines how we feel. If we focus on the negative aspects we may come to perceive only what we believe to be negative about a situation and fail to see the good. Likewise if we focus on the positive within a situation we will train ourselves to look for the good and that is what we will see.

Take for example, someone who goes to a party and everyone greets them, is happy to see them and wants to talk with them except for one person who walks past scowling without responding to their greeting. This person can focus on all the people who were glad they were there and the positive interactions that happened. Or they can focus only on the one person who didn’t respond positively to them, assuming it was due to something bad about them.

What we choose to attend to can affect not just our thinking but also our memory. When we create a pattern of thinking about things this can affect what we actually remember about a situation. So in the previous example the person who attends to the positive will remember those parts of the experience while the other person will remember only the one negative part and none of the positive. Being wrapped in negativity leads to misery while being enveloped in the positive leads to happiness. Choose to pay attention to the good as opposed to the bad and this will strongly influence your happiness.

Further Reading:

Tamir, M., & Robinson, M. D. (2007). The happy spotlight: Positive mood and selective attention to rewarding information. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33(8), 1124-1136.


Our emotions are often the most powerful influences on our decisions. Sometimes we feel like we just can’t take it anymore and act to relieve this feeling. Often our feelings and our thoughts get bound up together and the way we interpret, think about and react to our feelings strongly affects what we decide to do. When we feel a strong emotion we try to determine the reason for it. This takes thought. We attribute the feeling to certain things and although the feeling may be transient instead of letting it resolve we act prematurely in response.

So if we fail in a job for example, we will likely feel down in the dumps, upset, depressed, angry or a combination of these things. We may have thoughts about trust, the unfairness of the situation or perhaps how this just proves that we aren’t capable of doing something. This can cause us to decide to forego a certain career path, not trust those in our immediate environments or send a scathing letter to a former boss to even the score.

However, we’ve all likely done something when our emotions were out of control that we wish we could have taken back. Unfortunately, sometimes these decisions and actions can’t be reversed. Remember that feelings and thoughts don’t always reflect reality. Have someone you can check in with when you are feeling emotional who can help you determine if a decision should wait a while until you have your emotions more under control.

Further Reading:

George, J. M., & Dane, E. (2016). Affect, emotion, and decision making. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 136, 47-55.


Human beings are social creatures. The quality of our social relationships, and the support we provide to and receive from those in our social realm affect our psychological and physical health and general sense of well being. In order for us to live a fulfilling, satisfying life characterized by mental and physical wellness, we need to commit time and energy to cultivating meaningful relationships. To truly have a positive outlook on life, something that is strongly tied to our physical health, feeling secure, accepted and as if we belong are all required.

Humans don’t do well in social isolation. When things aren’t going well, don’t convince yourself it’s better not to bother anyone or that people will just get annoyed with your problems. We all need others, and we need the support others can provide for us even more when life is stressful. Reach out and connect with friends and relatives not just in times of hardship but in good times as well.

Further Reading:

Robins, S. P. (2010). Awakening to the Concept of" Interbeing". Interbeing, 4(2), 39.

According to James, life isn’t about always taking the easy road. When you always do only what is easiest for you and avoid what you don’t like you will limit your options and possibilities. The longer you go avoiding what is difficult, the harder it will be to face life’s difficulties in the future. You are reinforcing your avoidance of what is unpleasant by eliminating the discomfort or anxiety you feel when anticipating doing something you don’t want to do. Yet sometimes the greatest learning experiences and opportunities to achieve happiness come about through adversity and challenge. It is during these times that you learn the most about yourself especially about your strengths, and how they can be used to bolster your weaknesses.

Turning back to the last quote, it’s also important to remember you don’t need to face the tough things alone. Ask for help and let others rely on you when they face something difficult. It is through this process that we build stronger bonds to each other and find the confidence to meet the challenges life gives us.

It doesn’t only have to be the big things in life to which we apply this quote. Challenge yourself to try something new or tackle something you may feel you aren’t great at doing. Even if you aren’t entirely successful at the activity you will learn new skills and knowledge from the experience. Try taking a class, beginning a workout routine or starting a blog. You never know what will come of it. You may surprise yourself by learning you are good at something you thought you weren’t or that you enjoy an activity you were certain you wouldn’t.


Buckingham added to this quote, saying: "To know whether you should be turning from the path you're on, you have to be alert to the signs you see along the way. The practice of looking for the strong moments in your everyday experience and tipping your life toward them will serve you immeasurably."

In other words if you have determined a path to travel in, yet you become so set on following it no matter what you won’t see the warning signs that quicksand is ahead or the turnoff for a much better path. People who slog ahead without considering if they should continue on the path they are on or perhaps choose another one often miss out on opportunities to better themselves and their life.

Sometimes we do this because we are afraid of change or of failing. We tell ourselves we have spent a lot of time and money on education to get on this path and that it is irresponsible to decide we would be happier on another one. We may settle for mediocre convinced disappointment is part of being an adult instead of take a chance with the possibility of experiencing something extraordinary. No matter how convinced you are that the path you are on is the right one for you, never stop looking at the road signs along the way to see what else is out there.


It's easy to blame the way we feel on others. It lets us take the pressure of responsibility off are shoulders. It also makes it unnecessary for us to make an effort to respond in ways that address the problem, either directly or by moving past it. Directly, we can confront the person making the statements, talk with them, determine what might be useful in helping the situation. Of course, this may not always correct anything, either their perceptions or their desire to continue talking down to us and about us. At this point, we can find the strength to move past it and change our focus from trying to change someone else’s behavior and perceptions to living life in the best way we can without worrying about those who need to belittle us.

The way to do this is to realize that we have a choice in how we perceive and think about what is happening in our lives. When we understand we have a choice in the explanation we come up with for what happens in our life and the meaning we give them, we will also realize we have a choice in how we feel and how we respond.

The next time someone says something that leads to you feeling inferior, depressed, upset or distressed, consider the way you are thinking about it. Are you acting as if they are right? Are you assuming they have the right to say things to hurt you and giving them the power to do so? Do you believe that since others are listening to and believing them there must be validity to their assertions? Do you feel they are better than you and more deserving of respect or decent treatment?Sometimes assumptions and beliefs that we have about ourselves and others are not even conscious. Dig deep and try to figure out why this person has the ability to hurt you. What gives them them that kind of control over your emotions and actions?

Once you determine the answer to these questions make up more positive and empowering assumptions, beliefs and meaning for what is happening and own it. You might try telling yourself that someone who needs to hurt others has their problems with self esteem such that tearing others down is the only way they know of building themselves up. Remind yourself that someone like this is worthy of pity not respect or admiration.

These types of thoughts alone may not completely alleviate your negative emotions. However, they might take the edge off enough to allow you to make different decisions about how you choose to respond which also can affect how you feel. Choosing to do something different and letting go of attempts to change minds that don’t want to be changed are two first steps to refusing to let others make us feel small.


© 2018 Natalie Frank

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    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      6 weeks ago from Chicago, IL

      Thanks for the comment, Katharine. I'm so glad you enjoyed the article. There really are numerous quotations out there that can speak to us. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Sparrowlet profile image

      Katharine L Sparrow 

      2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Great idea for an article and great quotations that you chose. I like the fact that you quoted from different walks of life, not just psychology professionals. There are so many great quotations out there, aren't there? To quote from a wide variety of past and present great thinkers makes for an enjoyable read.

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      2 months ago from Chicago, IL

      Glad you found the article helpful, Alexis. I also like the one by Eleanor Roosevelt. It's easy to fall back on blaming others for our difficulties or not achieving what we want to. When we realize that these things are in our own hands however, it can be empowering. Thanks for reading this and for your comment.

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      2 months ago from Chicago, IL

      Centfie - glad you enjoyed to quotes and the explanations. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Alexis Kenyatta profile image

      Alexis Kenyatta Ellis 

      2 months ago from Lexington, MS

      I really enjoyed your article because I struggle with my emotions and making decisions all the time. I also think it is important to slow down and think things through. My favorite quote was by Eleanor Roosevelt because I often say others stop me from achieving goals, but it is me that stops my progress not other people.

    • centfie profile image

      Centfie 

      2 months ago from Kenya

      Wonderful article. Inspirational quotes and well-explained advice.

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      2 months ago from Chicago, IL

      Glad you enjoyed the article, John. I also like the "Give a man a fish" saying. Too often forgotten. Thanks for the comment and for stopping by.

    • profile image

      John A, Jaksich 

      2 months ago

      Nicely stated. My go to mantra has been -- Give a man a fish, feed him for the Day; Teach a man how to fish, feed him for a lifetime....

      Most of us need to hear the words from your article from time to time. Love it....

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      2 months ago from Chicago, IL

      You are welcome, Sanjay. Thanks for stopping by and for taking the time to comment.

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      2 months ago from Chicago, IL

      Yes, Pamela, I agree. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we are going through and how it is affecting us we don't stop to think about how it may be affecting those around us. I like this quote because it points out that our moods may not just affect those we are in direct contact with but through them others as well. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      2 months ago from Chicago, IL

      You are welcome, Dora. I like the second and fourth quotes also. Thanks for stopping by and for the comment.

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      2 months ago from Chicago, IL

      Thanks for your response, Glenn. These are some of my favorite quotes that I've come across in the past year or so. I appreciate your comments. Thanks for stopping by and for taking the time to reflect upon what you read.

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      3 months ago from Chicago, IL

      Glad you enjoyed it, Mostafa. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      3 months ago from Chicago, IL

      Glad you found the quotes thought provoking, Linda. The ones I chose were the ones that spoke to me and I provided my added perspective, for what it's worth. Thanks for stopping by and for the comment.

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      3 months ago from Chicago, IL

      You are welcome. Glad they helped, Bill. Thanks for letting me know!

    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

      Sanjay Sharma 

      3 months ago from Mandi (HP) India

      Thanks for sharing the inspirational quotes.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      3 months ago from Sunny Florida

      Very thoughtful quotes that can be applied to daily life. I liked the one that discussed hoe your mood can affect your child, their teacher, etc. It is interesting to think a outside the box.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 months ago from The Caribbean

      The second and fourth quotes are my favorite, but they are all very meaningful. Thank you for sharing.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      3 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Truly inspirational quotes Natalie, and I especially like your explanation of each one.

      You have a knack for bringing out the important issues that people tend to overlook. A good example is how you explained the last quote, about how the way we view a situation. You brought up an important point, how it can affect the way we feel about it. And more importantly, also our memory of it.

      That is an insightful thought. Our memory lingers — and if all we focus on is the negative, it can cause us to overlook good things in the future.

      Recognizing that, I try to seek out the positive things among the negative. It’s not always so easy, and I’ve made the mistake of not doing that many times in my life.

    • mostafa mamdouh profile image

      Mostafa 

      3 months ago from egypt

      Nice

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting article. I especially like the William James quote and the additional suggestions that you provide. Thanks for sharing the information, Natalie. It's thought provoking.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I actually needed these this morning, Natalie! Thank you!

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      3 months ago from Chicago, IL

      I agree, Flourish. It's a balancing act. Feedback that is, in fact, constructive feedback provided to somehow help the person is useful. 'Feedback' that is couched as constructive but is only there to belittle is not and you have to wonder about the actual purpose. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      3 months ago from Chicago, IL

      Thanks for stopping by Heidi. Glad you found them insigtful. Have a great weekend.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      3 months ago from USA

      Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote is one of my favorites. Although it’s great to be open to feedback, one must also consider it just one data point. Someone who is truly self-aware isn’t undone by feedback that’s inessenc an outlier.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      3 months ago from Chicago Area

      Classics! Thanks for sharing and the additional insight. Happy Weekend!

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