March 15th, 2019
Yesterday my oldest daughter came home with a new book. Every spread was empty and reserved for friends to answer questions about themselves. What is your favorite hobby? What is your favorite dish? What is your favorite book? What is/was your favorite subject at school? And so on. And at the very start, the book tells you to write down your motto.
By definition, a motto is “a short sentence or phrase that expresses a belief or purpose” or “a short expression of a guiding principle”. It’s a link to your deepest values and goals. A personal motto can help you:
change your habits
stop destructive thoughts
serve as a reminder of who you are and what you stand for
teach character strengths
calm your mind
increase your productivity
In short, it can help you remember what’s most important when needed.
I’ve always struggled with life. I had trouble finding meaning. I thought the world was unfair and I looked down on myself. That’s why I’ve never been able to find a principle to live by and always had to make up something or lie when asked about it. Until now.
After taking up reading again a couple of years ago, and trying to improve myself, I’ve learned a lot. There is so much knowledge in books and quotes, from all kinds of people, from all centuries. Leonardo DaVinci is the one that inspires me the most with his curiosity for all things. And, according to Platon, the Greek philosopher Socrates is behind the saying that is now my motto:
I know that I know nothing
The most important aspect of this motto is that it will make me more humble. I, like most people, judge others on a daily basis and I am quick to point fingers at others faults and mistakes. The truth is that in most cases, I don’t know anything about the reason behind peoples choices. And I rarely bother to invest the time necessary to justify having a point of view. So who am I to judge? I am sure that my judgmentalism and uncertainty derives from jealousy and anger. Issues that I am working hard to resolve.
Besides making me more humble, I find this motto fitting for all other areas of life. It urges curiosity, openness, understanding, unselfishness, and learning. But it’s definitely a difficult motto to live by. At the same time, it is both liberating and motivating to finally have found a principle to guide me. One which I am proud of as well. It feels like I’ve taken the first step on the journey to create my identity, which has been missing my whole life.
Going from not daring to admit almost anything to admit that I don’t know much, is a great relief. It also, to an extent, removes the jealousy within me. Everyone is unique, and we can learn from everyone we meet, friend or foe.
“Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
And life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.
So with the help of books, quotes, and a brand new motto, I intend to transform myself into a better person. One who enjoys life stays curious and is kind and understanding. Because all I know is that I know nothing.
“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complaint - and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
Dale Carnegie - How to win friends and influence people.