11 old adages that will actually make a difference in your life

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People say all sorts of things, don’t they?

Some of those phrases are clever enough to get passed down the generations, and before you know it, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” has become canon.

But as bizarre as some old adages are, there’s actually a lot of truth to them. In fact, some are as inspiring as listening to amazing TED Talks – which means very.

Let’s have a look at the 11 old adages that will actually make a difference in your life!

1) A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what a ship is for

Starting off with my favorite one, this adage is a beautiful and poetic metaphor that can give you a lot of courage in times of need.

You were born as a human, which means you’re meant to explore the world around you.

Just like toddlers that always try to push the boundaries of their surroundings, testing out what they can and can’t do, you’re also supposed to keep trying, keep pushing, keep growing.

Sure, it might be comfortable to stay in the harbor, locked up and safe from the dangers of the world. But what kind of life is that? Do you get to truly live? Truly experience what it’s like to be alive and thriving?

Take that step outside your comfort zone. And when you’re scared, remind yourself that a ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what a ship is for.

2) Better late than never

Following up on a similar note, “better late than never” speaks for itself.

You might tell yourself you’re too old to try something new, but that’s simply not true. You’re still here, aren’t you?

As long as you’re on planet Earth, you can always get out of your comfort zone and grow as a person.

Learn a musical instrument. Write a book. Travel the world. Adopt nine cats. Better late than never.

3) A goose quill is more dangerous than a lion’s claw

This adage might be a bit more obscure, but that doesn’t make it any less impactful.

“A goose quill is more dangerous than a lion’s claw” means that your words can be just as hurtful as a physical attack.

This one’s for those who say things in anger, only to go back on their word when they’ve calmed down. “Come on, I didn’t mean that. I was mad.”

You said it, though. Heated emotions aren’t an excuse – they’re something you should be able to handle, either by walking away from the conversation for five minutes or by thinking through your next words very carefully.

What you say matters. Your words can create wounds that take years to heal. Use them wisely.

4) Actions speak louder than words

If there’s one thing that’s even more impactful than words, it’s actions.

This proverb is important to remember when you make promises you don’t intend to keep or when your partner says one thing and does another.

Words can carry a lot of emotional charge when used to wound, but they can also pass through one’s lips with no substance attached. They flow on air, empty.

As DaShanne Stokes once said, “If your actions don’t live up to your words, you have nothing to say.”

Better stay quiet than to make promises that lead nowhere.

5) A leopard doesn’t change its spots

This one comes in handy when you’ve tried to repair your relationship with someone who never seems to change.

Yes, many people are capable of personal transformation. But it takes an insane amount of willpower and dedication to make that happen, and what’s more, it must always come from within.

If you’re trying to fix or save someone but end up disappointed time and again, maybe it’s time to recognize that a leopard doesn’t change its spots.

They won’t change, no matter how hard you push. There’s nothing you can do. Leave the leopard be. Find yourself someone who brings a smile to your face instead.

6) Don’t cross the bridge till you come to it

Ah, another favorite! I remind myself of this adage when I’m stuck in loops of worrying and catastrophizing.

See that bridge in the distance? That’s the problem you’re worrying about.

See where you are now? Miles away! There’s nothing you can do but keep walking, your focus turned toward the things that truly matter – those you meet along the way.

When I worry, I ask myself one question: “Can I do something about this problem right now?”

If the answer is yes, there’s no cause for worry because I can take the necessary steps to solve my problem.

If the answer is no, there’s no cause for worry because it’s pointless. Pass the responsibility onto your future self. Focus on what’s around you now.

You can’t cross the bridge till you come to it.

7) The best things in life are free

Let’s stay with our bridge metaphor for a bit.

So, you’re walking toward the bridge. There’s no point in worrying about it till you’ve reached it, so your best course of action is to turn your attention toward all the things around you.

Look at the way the sun lights up the world. Feel the grass beneath your feet, the breeze in your hair, and the regular beating of your heart.

Pluck an apple from a tree and let its taste overwhelm you as you relax in the shade.

These are the best things in life. The small things that come with existing on planet Earth – water, food, sunlight, engaging all your five senses, and staying in the present moment.

And they’re free! You don’t need a jacuzzi on a yacht to be happy. Your primary purpose in life is to experience. Staying with that experience fully, letting it engulf you, is the easiest way to find happiness.

8) Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

When you start noticing the beauty in the world, you realize that it’s everywhere.

It’s in the way the seagull is coursing through the sky, in the way a stranger on the street bursts out laughing, or in the way your partner holds you.

But everyone experiences beauty differently. That’s the magic of it. You can put five people on the same street, and each person will notice something else.

The same goes for people’s appearance. Everyone is beautiful in their own way, and it’s fully up to the beholder – not the person they’re looking at – to either recognize it or not.

If someone’s not attracted to you, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Maybe you’re just not their type. Maybe their beauty sensor is tuned differently.

And that’s okay! There are other beholders out there who’ll see the beauty emanating from you.

9) Don’t judge a book by its cover

This list wouldn’t be complete without one of the most famous adages, would it?

Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a popular one, and for a good reason. It speaks of the power of first impressions and of looking beyond the surface.

Sometimes, people deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt. The first impression might not have been great, but maybe they were having an extraordinarily bad day or maybe it takes a while for them to open up.

Some books truly do have rubbish covers, but that says nothing about the story that hides beneath. Give each book a chance. The story might surprise you just yet.

10) A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

How I love inspirational proverbs!

This one is worth pinning up on your bedroom wall because there will always be situations when it comes in handy.

Let’s say you’re standing in front of a huge challenge. You might be trying to write a book, you might be starting at a new workplace, you might be about to do a Ph.D. – everything goes.

It’s overwhelming, isn’t it? Months or years are ahead of you, and you have no clue what’s coming.

Take a deep breath. Okay, now tell yourself this one simple sentence: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

All you have to do is take that step. That’s all. One step, and you’re on your way.

11) Every cloud has a silver lining

Finally, this adage is not only inspirational but also has some beautiful imagery in it.

Life isn’t perfect. There will be times when you struggle, when you don’t see a way out, when it feels like you’ve reached the absolute bottom.

But it won’t be bad forever. Things will get better. That’s the cycle of life. Just look at the clouds, at the way the sun is shining from behind, painting them in a silver lining.

If there’s one certainty in life, it’s that eventually…everything will be okay.

Denisa Cerna

Hi! I’m a fiction author and a non-fiction freelance writer with a passion for personal development, mental health, and all things psychology. I have a graduate degree in Comparative Literature MA and I spend most of my time reading, travelling, and – shocker – writing. I’m always on a quest to better understand the inner workings of the human mind and I love sharing my insights with the world. If any of my articles change your life for the better… mission accomplished.
Get in touch at denisacerna.writing@gmail.com or find me on LinkedIn.

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