Lead with Your Heart; the Rest of You Will Follow

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Like most of the other girls on the third floor of Treudley Hall, I plastered the walls of my freshman-year dorm room with prints of famous works of art, pictures from home and quotations, lots of quotations.

Song lyrics, tidbits from favorite books and words of wisdom gleaned from movies, my roommate and I wrote in flowery script on colored notecards with a rainbow of markers. Stuck to the wall with blue bits of sticky tack, those notecards were like stars in the sky for me. I'd lie in my top bunk, gaze at them and think about those words.

The overwhelming theme: Unrequited love and its accompanying desolation, concepts that at 18, we felt we knew well. It was, after all, the era of Jane Austen movies, Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo and Juliet" and "Titanic."

As the years passed by, quotations took on a different meaning. As a journalism major, I relied on quotes from sources to make a story. And as a French major, I peppered my papers with them, analyzing them until their meaning had been sucked dry.

Once upon a time, I had a romance in France. His name was Francois, and it was a lovely chapter in my life, one I can look back upon with great joy. During a long walk through the Jardin des Tuileries on an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon in March, we flitted between French and English as we talked about the future.

We started discussing our philosophies in life.

Then 21, my affinity for depressing, romantic quotes hadn’t waned:

"Un seul être vous manque et tout est dépeuplé," from the poem "L'Isolement" by Alphonse de Lamartine.

"Only one person is missing, and the entire world can seem depopulated."

His: "The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware," by Henry Miller.

Today, his quotation speaks more to me than mine. An empty world seemed romantic then. Awareness seemed to be redundant.

A couple of years later, I went through a quarter-life crisis, brought on by situational depression. After picking myself up and putting myself back together after what felt like another rock-bottom moment, I looked myself in the mirror and told the swollen, tear-stained face in the mirror: "You're better than this." I repeated those words again and again as a reminder that who I was then was not who I would be forever. It was time I chose my own words, carved out my own niche, expressed my own emotions in exactly the words I needed.

Eventually, the window shade that had been drawn across my life lifted. I outgrew my personal watchword. I was better than that. A replacement, I knew, would take an organic route and arrive in my life.

The words and themes that guide my life today are more deeply rooted, and I've learned from experience that words can inflict pain and ease a soul that's been stung. I choose my words more carefully.

In the last year, I've kept returning to a singular theme: making kindness, love and compassion the utmost priority in my life.

  • Letting go of some of the sarcasm, most of the insincerity, all the judgment.

  • Forgiving and forgetting, letting go of grudges, erasing mental scorecards.

  • Loving myself and others, cutting myself some slack, realizing that I don't have to figure out my entire life all at once.

  • Allowing myself to just be.

  • Knowing that as hard as I try, I will not always succeed in this or any endeavor.

    My new mantra came to me, and like the yoga practice that inspired it, it evolved and became more fine-tuned in time.

    "Lead with your heart; the rest of you will follow."

    Today, this rules my life. The words are mine, though the idea is not.

    It's on a post-it note on my dashboard, to remind me to breathe when I'm in traffic and not let rush hour and tailgaters upset me.

    It's a phrase I utter in yoga class, to encourage my students to both physically and spiritually let their hearts lead them.

    And it's a thought I return to when I need a moment to think before speaking, to tell myself I don't always need the final word.

    This all-important phrase isn't plastered on the walls of my office or home, but it's engrained in my mind. And there it will stick, until the next chapter of my life begins.

    Do you have a motto, slogan, mantra, or watchword? How did it evolve? When do you evoke it?

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    Thank you. Mine is just "live simply". Report
    Beautiful story Stepf; thanks for sharing!

    My mantra comes from Lance Armstrong and it's at the bottom of my posts. It's gotten me through some pretty tough events.
    Here it is "Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever."
    Never give up on YOU! Report
    Through Committed Action...Anything is Possible Report
    thank you for sharing Report
    Not certain where I heard it or who to give credit to but this motto definitely sticks in my mind "Change what you believe, and it will change what you can achieve."
    Thanks for your inspiring blog! Report
    Thank you so much for sharing this! :) Report
    I love this blog, it really makes you think. My brother used to say ' The past is gone, the future not here yet but today is a gift, that's why we call it the present'

    Though I don't remember where I found it, the motto that I've lived by for the past ten years is, "There are no impossibilities. Only limited thoughts." Report
    Life Motto:

    Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But, pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Report
    Thank you for that :) Report
    Thank you! Report
    My favorite guiding quote: "True spirituality never advertises itself" ~ Dion Fortune

    This quote always reminds me to watch for the most spiritual people and things in the most easily overlooked places. The most inspiring experiences of my life came from things that would have been missed, had I not been attentive. Report
    Very, very good--thank you. Now if I only would stop, listen and understand what my heart is telling me! Report
    Great job enjoyed this very much Report
    Oh My God, what a wonderful blog and all these nice comments are so inspiring !
    I am thrilled, thank you all for your support ! Report
    I really appreciated this blog, what we should all strive to live by. I am always in search of good quotes and have them written down in a book and refer to them often. Report
    My favorite: God grant me the serenity to accept thethings I cannot change
    The courage to change the things I can
    And the wisdom to know the difference Report
    Wow this hit home. Been there done that. It was like you were writting for me.
    thank you for bringing me back to today Report

    Part of one of the chapters of the Tao Te Ching reads like this: Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the right action arises by itself.

    This helps me to cultivate patience in my life, especially when I'm trying to make a decision about something. Sometimes I just have to become quiet enough and still enough to see what makes the most sense.
    My mom has always impressed upon my sister and me that every day when you wake up, you have been given your first blessing. What will you do with the rest of your day. I also always repeat to myself my favorite Proverb from the bible. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding , in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will guide your path. Report
    My mother always told us-"It could be worse!" and "Tomorrow will be better!" I have always tried to live by this and it is especially popping in my head now since she passed away one month ago. Great article! Report
    This blog was exactly what I needed at this moment: a reminder of what I'm trying to change. I feel like most of my problems and regrets are because of the time I spend planning for the future rather than living in the present. Because of that, one of my favorite quotes is a little poem that I think of whenever I'm feeling unappreciative of the current place I am in life:
    "Exhaust the little moment.
    Soon it dies.
    And be it gash or gold it will not come
    Again in this disguise." (Gwendolyn Brooks) Report
    Thanks for the inspiration! Report
    I enjoyed this blog entry very much. As sad as it is to say, I'm a simple person and there only two quotes that I can honestly say that I live by one is "do unto other as you would have them do unto you", which seems as relevant today as when this little bit of wisdom was first uttered and two from my father "You have to respect yourself before anyone else will respect you" and, "respect isn't given, it is earned." I've always thought my dad was a wise man. Report
    Thanks for the inspirational quotes. Report
    This was beautifully written! Thank you for the inspiring messages! Report
    i actually have a book that i have written all my fave quotes in, anything that i see or hear that inspires me or just makes me think. if i get down or need something to make me feel better i have a read through it and i always find something that i connect with, originally i did this for myself now i do it for my daughter, incase anything ever happens to me she has a book that will help her through life. i can't think of just one quote that inspires me more than anything else. but i can tell you that my last addition was something i heard sugar ray leonard say, that was do everything with POWER- Prepare Overcome Win Every Round Report
    2010 Mottos


    what a lovely blog! and beautiful quotes; I remember having quotes taped all over the dorm walls, doors, bulletin board years ago, too. Now I have a few on my desk..the most important for me is simply, BREATHE; so I sit back and take deep breaths which calm me down when I'm about to go ballistic and hyperventilate over not enough time or writer's block in regard to finishing some project, or being filled with chaotic frustration upon hearing certain news items on the radio or via a phone call from someone.
    I have a few favorites, but one I really believe in is:

    Every day above ground is a good one.

    Of course, I also like:

    Always in motion is the future. -- Yoda

    Sometimes I resort to "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can."
    Loved this blog and the quotes. Thank you. Report
    I just mad a mantrato get through this year with : "I may mess up, I may stumble, and I may even fail from time to time, its not the end of the world when I do. These are just learning experiences to grow from and move forward. "

    what a lovely blog, and so true. Report
    I LOVED your post and try to do the same. I have to say you worded it much better than I could, however. Cheers to you!! Well Said! Report
    What a wonderful and inspiring blog--thank you--sometimes I repeat the word "patience" under my breath--and sometimes "Give me strength" They are as much a sarcastic use as a plea. I like yours better and will adopt it until I find my own. Report
    Be true to yourself. Report
    The romantic side of me truly enjoyed the blog; however, it's the (true) practical side of me that has chosen, and uses my mantra: la, la, la, la, la life goes on, which is a tweak of the Beatles song, Ob La Di, Ob La Da. Report
    "Remember, God did not put us on this earth to be miserable. If there is anything you can do to change your life, do it. God will take you through. He will go before you and He will be your rear guard."

    I've used this several times throughout my life - it's given me the strength to take that next step. Report
    Beautifully written! We all deserve to live joyously! :) Report
    Gracias por la vida, que me ha dado tanto - Violeta Parra

    "Give thanks to life, which has given me so much" Report
    I have a board full at work. A few of my favorites are: "Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but doesn't get you anywhere" Anonymous, "View every problem as an opportunity", Joseph Sugarman and "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice." a church billboard Report
    I have two: the main one is "This Too Shall Pass" reminding me that no matter how dire the situation seems, it WILL pass.

    And when facing an unfamiliar task or one I am not skilled at: "Do It Scared" Report
    I too collect quotes. I think my favorite two at the moment are:

    Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.
    - Will Rogers.
    “A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.”
    -William Shedd Report
    Thank You for your generous writing... Some of my most often used quotes are "Everyone is good for what they are good for." and from Terry Cole Whittiker "What you think of me is none of my business." and from Vietamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, "You must water the seeds of your happiness daily..." Report
    I love this. I am printed out the mantras and putting them on my wall at work. Report
    Thank you for sharing, Stepfanie!! It's nice to know that others are walking the same journines in life that you are - some of the things you mentioned in your blog struck a cord with me and my life....and I love that new mantra that you've come up with for your life, too! Report
    Thanks for such a thought provoking blog. To share one of my motivating quotes:
    "Forever is composed of nows." Emily Dickenson Report
    I received a birthday gift from a dear friend with this saying: "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose." Dr. Seuss Report
    "Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. And dance asif no one is watching you". Thank you for your blog.--Cindy Report
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