50 PEOPLE on the most LIBERATING thought they’ve EVER HAD
Your life unfolds in a succession of revelations.
It’s when you set down the book and stare ahead and repeat the sentence in your mind again and again, apply it to every little thing you twist to make applicable. You answer questions you didn’t know you were asking, tie ends you left off years ago.
The key to a completely liberating thought is that it’s self-evident. It’s proven itself in your experience. It doesn’t have to solve the problem; it has to help you understand why you had it in the first place.
Every conscious thought you have either circles you back into the mental cycle you’re in, or it liberates you from it.
Some cycles are healthy; some are not. Some you want to maintain; some you don’t. Some you want to change and you know you want to change them. Some you want to change and you don’t know you want to change them. Some you need to change and you don’t know how.
I think your life improves in direct proportion to how often you are put in situations in which you have no choice but to seek a greater truth. That is something I think. People who are comfortable don’t have to keep reading, or searching, or seeking. They don’t grow because they don’t have to. (A sad but important thing to know about humans is that they don’t change until not changing is the less comfortable option.)
I know that my success has been directly proportionate to my suffering. That is something I know. That is the experience to which I have arrived at the aforementioned theory.
At this point, the most liberating thought I have ever had is that I would not change a thing. Everything in my life served a purpose, the darkest and shittiest and terrible and most self-destructive among them. They all brought me here.
I was never crazy. I was the product of my circumstances. (That one took a long time to completely acknowledge.) But it’s true: I responded and reacted and behaved the way any normal, healthy, functioning person would and should.
I wasn’t supposed to be happy. Had I responded well or complacently, I would have ended up where I was headed. I would have lived the life other people imposed on me. I would have actually constituted for being mentally ill.
It was crucial that I didn’t have it together or consistently feel good.
I grew out of my suffering by being able to perceive what was wrong and uncomfortable, really without knowing any differently. How incredible is that? That we can know when something is wrong even if we aren’t entirely sure what the opposite would be?
There’s not a good thing in the world that was not built of a thousand tiny revolutions, and people are no exception. I wanted to compile a series of not only the most liberating thoughts—the revelations that have changed and shaped and created me—but also other people’s. Here, 49 strangers shared theirs (one is mine), in hopes that maybe some of them can be yours as well.
01. “I get to choose what I think about.”
02. “I don’t owe anybody an apology for disagreeing with them.”
03. “You can have everything you want, just not at the same time, and if you think that’s unfortunate, consider that if you had everything at once, you wouldn’t really experience or enjoy it completely.”
04. “You can choose your family. You can choose your religion. You can choose who you are every day and it doesn’t have to be the same person you were yesterday. You do not have to become only what other people are comfortable with or can understand.”
05. “My life does not define me, I define my life. This moment is not my life, this is a moment in my life.”
06. “Everything I perceive is a projection of who I am. If I want to change my life, I change myself.”
07. “I don’t have to accept anything. I don’t have to change everything.”
08. “Freedom is a state of mind.”
09. “There is nothing you can have forever, but there are many things you’ll miss experiencing if you’re too busy trying to keep them rather than love them while you have them.”
10. “There are so many kinds of love worth pursuing, other than romantic love. There are so many experiences to have, other than just happiness. Anything other than ideal is not failure. It’s life. It’s what we’re made for and meant for.”
11. “I am a person of value. I deserve happiness. I deserve to be kind to myself. I deserve love.”
12. “I will get over what I am struggling with in the very same way I got over the other things I thought I never could. That’s the most comforting thought, in my opinion: comparing what you’re going through to what you’ve been through, and knowing you have what it takes to get through it.”
13. “You don’t remember years, you remember moments.”
14. “I’m not supposed to be anything other than what I am.”
15. “Nothing is permanent, not even the worst feelings.”
16. “I can change my experience just by deciding to see things differently. I may not be in control of what happens around and toward me, but I am always in control of how I see it, how I respond, and how I react. At the end of the day, that is all I am responsible for.”
17. “Nobody cries at a funeral because the world will be missing out on another pretty face. They cry because the world is missing another heart, another soul, another person. Don’t wait until it’s too late to focus on what will actually matter: creating something that lasts far beyond your body.”
18. “People do not love you based on a flowchart on which they compare you to other people. People who are the prettiest and thinnest and best-off financially are not the most loved! They do not live the best lives! I have to remind myself that every time I start worrying more about what I look like than what I am.”
19. “The moment is all that exists. The cliché that tells you to live in it is overdone, but there’s no other option, really. It’s whether or not you’re paying attention that’s the problem.”
20. “The way to get through anything is to embrace the fact that whatever comes, comes with reason, whatever stays, stays with reason, whatever hurts, hurts with reason. Ignoring or fighting the effect will not fix the cause.”
21. “What you focus on expands.”
22. “This, too, shall pass.”
23. “I’ve always been compelled to act when I was meant to. I never had to think too hard about the things that were meant to be. I only had to be open to them.”
24. “What I went through made me who I am; what I’m going through will make me what I will be. What I choose to put my energy toward now will create that person. I decide. My circumstances don’t.”
25. “Never forget that you are not in the world; the world is in you. When anything happens to you, take the experience inward. Creation is set up to bring you constant hints and clues about your role as co-creator. Your soul is metabolizing experience as surely as your body is metabolizing food. (This is a quote from Deepak Chopra.)”
26. “There is always a way…even when it least feels like it. There is always a way. There are different jobs, new ideas, apartments opening up across the country, flights leaving in the next hour to the places I’ve always wanted to go. There is a way to find the money, get the gig, find the love…there is always a way! I am never stuck, I am only in the mindset that I am.”
27. “There is no grand moment in life. You don’t wake up and say, ‘Aha! I’ve made it!’ Happiness is all in details, the joy is all in the journey. Always has been, always will be.”
28. “The purpose of being here is growth. Growth means being able to experience and see more because you are aware of it. The purpose of being here, then, is expanding awareness.”
29. “The worst things to happen to me were the things that had to teach me what nothing else could, to prepare me for things so wonderful, I couldn’t imagine them, let alone know I had to get ready for them.”
30. “You haven’t failed until you’ve stopped trying.”
31. “I do not have to adopt other people’s problems as my own to help them.”
32. “You do not have to be loved by everybody to be worthy of love.”
33. “The present is the only time. If you don’t start living in it, you don't really live at all.”
34. “You teach people how to treat you. You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.”
35. “My only regret, in my entire life, is just that I didn’t enjoy it more.”
36. “The things I’m meant to have will simply come to me. All I am responsible for is making sure I’m ready.”
37. “Don’t take anything too seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.”
38. “I cannot change those around me. Real change happens one by one, each person doing the only thing they can: seeing where they can stand to improve as opposed to pointing fingers at the injustices they see in others.”
39. “Wisdom is knowing that you don’t and will never really know anything. We used to believe the Earth was flat. A discovery changed that. You don’t know that we won’t discover we’re all robots in some matrix simulation, or I don’t know…the point is, wisdom is just being, not making sense of.”
40. “I once bought a train ticket for myself, and was on a trip that I completely funded, and realized that I can support myself, and I don’t have to answer or please anybody else. I work hard so I can live the way I want.”
41. “I am infinite. People always say: What would you do if you could live forever? Well, I’m here to say: If you believe your soul is eternal, you can…what are you doing with it now?”
42. “Even if you abandon faith, hope, and love, they don’t leave you.”
43. “I am made of love and light. That is who I essentially am. Everything else is simply a disconnect. I am not one thing that has to be transformed into another…I am love and light, and I choose whether or not I remember that, or I decide to be blocked out of fear.”
44. “When you step into a library, all the knowledge in the world is before you. When you wake up each day, all the possibility in the world is, too. You choose whether or not you just see books. You choose whether or not you just see another day.”
45. “I am always one choice away from changing everything.”
46. “If I choose not to be upset, not to spend time feeling a certain way, then I do not feel upset. If I do not feel upset, then I have not been harmed. Marcus Aurelius said something similar, but I prefer it in my own words.”
47. “There is immeasurable joy in the small things. In a great book, fresh vegetables, a warm bed, the arms of someone you love. These things, in our twisted world, are rarely valued, but in the end, they’re probably the most joy we’re going to have.”
48. “We take our lives way too seriously…in a few hundred years, most people will be completely forgotten about. That’s not depressing, that is liberating. Do what you can and make it hella good. Give love and do what you most genuinely want to. It won’t matter anyway, so make it matter now.”
49. “I do not have to be what other people see me as. I do not have to assume they know best.”
50. “You’re going to be okay. Not because I said so, but because ‘okay’ is where we all end up, even if we fuck up entirely along the way.” (This is a Cheryl Strayed quote.)