I often reach for words that comfort or inspire me when I’m starting over or facing something new, and I know I’m not alone. New beginnings happen for a variety of reasons--sometimes we want a change and sometimes we need it. Other beginnings happen because life is hard and time marches on. Regardless of the reason for the change, an inspirational or meaningful quote can help us walk in a new direction with confidence.
When I watched the coverage of the fire at Notre Dame, the idea of new beginnings was certainly not top of mind. Disbelief, horror, sadness...yes. But a new beginning? No way.
Like most everyone else, I scrolled through images and comments online as people around the world from every walk of life reacted to the devastation when the famed spire fell.
One comment caught my attention because the perspective was so different from the rest. President Obama tweeted:
His words were a reminder that sometimes new beginnings follow difficult losses.
When I read or hear something that seems to perfectly put into words something that I experience or wonder about or believe, I want to capture it. I’m drawn to inspirational quotes or words of wisdom.
Dr. Adam Grant, psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, explains why we love motivational quotes (also called aphorisms) so much: “They give meaning and direction. They spur new thoughts or new actions—or remind us to revisit old ones.” Sociologist Murray Davis describes aphorisms as “the finest thoughts in the fewest words.”
(As I searched for quotes to fit with each of our categories below, I wanted to have a wide representation of people. If you have a favorite quote that I missed or an author you wish would have been included, I would love to hear from you in the comments!)
A New Beginning Because You Want It
Of the four types of new beginnings, this one is my favorite. I admit, I love change. I honestly don’t know why...maybe it’s the thought of a challenge and conquering something new for the achiever in me? (Achiever is my top strength and it’s the name of my Enneagram personality type--Three--so it’s impossible for me to ignore.) I’ve been teaching a college course for almost 10 years, and I still tweak it every summer. It drives my husband crazy.
I realize not everyone is as enthusiastic about change as I am, but there are definitely times when people look forward to something new because it’s exciting or compelling:
- Getting a new job, moving to another city or state, buying a home, starting a business, pursuing a new hobby, traveling internationally, adopting or fostering children, following a dream
My husband and I got married right after college, and in the 21 years since, we have
moved 11 times between 2 states and multiple cities: 2 residence halls (more about living with college students here), 2 apartments, 2 rental houses, 2 condos (lived in one of them twice), and 2 homes
- been members of 6 churches
- attended 3 universities for 3 degrees
- worked at 9 colleges, had 17 different jobs, and started 2 businesses
That looks a little insane now that it’s in black and white! But we’ve grown and learned and taken advantage of every opportunity that came our way. It hasn’t always been easy—I was terrified to start a graduate program at the largest university in the country, I was doubtful about navigating and funding an adoption, I was lonely with a toddler and newborn in a new town far away from family. When we start a new beginning because we want it, it can lead to some pretty amazing adventures!
Never allow waiting to become a habit. Live your dreams and take risks. Life is happening now. ~ Paulo Coelho
You can't be that kid standing at the top of the water slide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute. ~ Tina Fey
You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do. ~Henry Ford
The visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper, and re-imagines the world. ~ Malcolm Gladwell
Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
A New Beginning Because You Need It
Sometimes we start something new because we know we need a change. Self-awareness can make this pretty obvious, but it takes work to really be in tune with ourselves and our circumstances. Being intentional about reflection is one of the best ways to assess our lives and make adjustments in a positive direction. If we’re really unhappy about an area of our life, then we should figure out a way to change it. And if we can’t change it, we can commit to a new attitude about it.
I’ll be honest here. I don’t have a whole lot of patience with my kids when they are unhappy about something that’s in their power to change. I struggle in conversations with my students or other adults who feel like life happens to them and there’s nothing they can do about it. We always have a choice about how we respond and whether we stay where we are or move forward toward something better, even if it’s hard to get started:
Exercising more often, removing ourselves from toxic friendships, establishing healthy boundaries with our family and friends, taking care of our mental health, eating healthier food, making rest and sleep a priority, choosing gratitude and optimism, finding community, losing weight, conquering addiction, facing our fears, going back to work after staying home with kids, changing careers
When my marriage hit its lowest point and I wasn’t sure we’d make it, Ken and I eventually decided that it was worth fighting for. It was a new beginning that I wasn’t sure I wanted, but knew we needed. (I wrote about our struggle and what we’ve learned about successful marriage since then.)
I’ve also gone through seasons of life when I was so busy I couldn’t keep track of everything, let alone take care of myself. I knew that I needed to slow down, so I learned to say no more often. This has become a lesson I apparently need to learn over and over again--as soon as I say no and life has more balance, I think I have plenty of time to say yes. Thank goodness it’s always possible to start over again!
Mary realized she needed a new beginning in her career when she found herself daydreaming about having more flexibility and time with her kids--she was sick of seeing pictures of her sitter taking them to do fun things while she sat in meetings that felt increasingly fruitless. She always wanted to work, and she still wanted a job that was challenging and fulfilling. She just didn’t want a long daily commute and an 8-5. She knew there were opportunities to do work she loved that would stretch her, but would also give her time for family or travel or hobbies. (Lucky for me, she chose higher education! That new beginning 10 years ago led to SALT effect!)
What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain. ~ Maya Angelou
I am learning to love the sound of my feet walking away from things not meant for me. ~ A. G.
It always seems impossible until it's done. ~ Nelson Mandela
The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are. ~ J.P. Morgan
The life you have led doesn't need to be the only life you have. ~ Anna Quindlen
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. ~ Ephesians 4:22-24
A New Beginning Because Life is Hard
These new beginnings are the hardest. Sometimes we just don’t see them coming or they’re forced upon us. We can’t avoid them and we certainly didn’t choose them. But life is hard and crisis will touch us all:
- Losing a job, the death of a loved one, a divorce or breakup, losing a close friend after an argument or misunderstanding, saying goodbye to friends or family because of a move, financial difficulty, physical or emotional struggles after an accident, losing someone to suicide, dealing with the heartbreak of a miscarriage, struggling with infertility, learning to live with a disability, dealing with cancer or other serious illness
Until I was in middle school, my dad’s parents lived with us, in a downstairs apartment that had been built just for them. When I was 13, my grandpa died of cancer, my dad left for a few years, and my grandma remarried and moved out of state. My younger brother and I grew up with 4 adults in our home, and within a year 3 of them were gone. I have vivid recollections of that new beginning because it was something I resisted with everything I had. Thankfully, I had incredibly strong and faithful women who prayed me through that time and taught me to be resilient, something I am trying to build into my own kids.
When my parents divorced after 45 years of marriage, I was in my late 30s and had no idea how much it would affect me. My mom and dad faced a new beginning and their responses couldn’t have been more different--I’m so proud of my mom for choosing to serve full-time with Brethren Volunteer Services for 3 years when she would have had every right to wallow in grief.
When Mary’s oldest son was three months old, her husband, Jon, was laid off unexpectedly--about three weeks before Christmas. They had good friends at his company, so they were sad and scared about what it might mean financially. He kept an amazing attitude about it and within a couple months, he found a position that paid more and has been a better long-term fit. He looks back now and appreciates having those couple months home with their son, but in the moment, it was hard to understand what felt like really bad timing.
The only way around is through. ~ Robert Frost
You are far more than your worst day, your worst experience, your worst season, dear one. You are more than the sorriest decision you ever made. You are more than the darkest sorrow you’ve endured. Your name is not Ruined. It is not Helpless. It is not Victim. It is not Irresponsible. History is replete with overcomers who stood up after impossible circumstances and walked in freedom. You are not an anemic victim destined to a life of regret. Not only are you capable, you have full permission to move forward in strength and health. ~ Jen Hatmaker
There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind. ~ C.S. Lewis
Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go. They merely determine where you start. ~ Nido Qubein
If all you can do is crawl, start crawling. ~ Rumi
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. ~ Isaiah 43:18-19
A New Beginning Because Time Marches On
As I get older, I’ve become much more aware of the passing of time. It doesn’t really matter if I’m ready for a new season...it comes and goes because time keeps moving. If I’m not paying close attention, I end up in a different season of life and struggle to adjust because I don’t even know it’s happening. These new beginnings sometimes creep up on us, even though we know they’re coming eventually:
- Getting married, having children, parenting through every stage (babies, toddlers, school-age kids, tweens, teens, young adults), navigating a midlife crisis, adjusting to an empty nest, adding family members through marriage and grandchildren, retiring, aging
I feel like I’m in the middle of some significant life changes right now that I wasn’t quite ready for. Within the last year and a half, we’ve had a lot of pretty major things happen and although it’s pretty normal for people in their 40s, I don’t always like to admit that’s where I am. My husband and I have had serious conversations about careers and he made a job change that was largely a quality of life decision when we realized that our boys are only home for 8-10 more years. (Here’s a post about how and why we made that decision). My dad was diagnosed with dementia and I suddenly realized what it meant to be part of the sandwich generation--raising my kids and figuring out how to care for an aging parent who was rapidly declining. We’re also now parenting tweens, which brings new excitement, challenges and concerns. I have friends who are sending kids off to college and others whose children are getting married and having babies.
Life keeps moving, whether we’re ready or not.
19-24. You may delay, but time will not. ~ Benjamin Franklin
When it's time to die, go ahead and die, and when it's time to live, live. Don't sort-of-maybe live, but live like you're going all out, like you're not afraid. ~ Sue Monk Kidd
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. ~ Seneca
There are no happy endings. Endings are the saddest part, so just give me a happy middle and a very happy start. ~ Shel Silverstein
Every moment is a new beginning. ~ Elie Wiesel
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." ~ Lamentations 3:22-24