37 Inspirational Quotes for Work as Self-Expression
As one of my most profound mentors put it, “work is the ultimate form of self-expression.”
We need to do the work that makes us come alive, that helps us operate at a higher level, and that makes our soul sing.
His advice was to think of work and life in an Arête way:
Like a garden in full bloom on a warm Summer’s day.
If you want to do more great work, then treat work like a chance, not a chore.
Change Your WHY or Change Your HOW
Long ago I learned an important lesson about work:
If you don’t like the work you do, then change your WHY or change your HOW.
WHY are you doing your work? If it’s just to pay the bills you’re missing the chance to use it as a platform for your growth and greatness, or the chance to be a leader in your field, or the chance to provide great service to others.
HOW are you doing your work? If you are just slogging your way through or just going through the motions to try and get it done, you’re missing the chance to master your craft, sharpen your excellence, or even make a game of it. A game of skill.
Work is a Way to Live Your Legend
Your work is how you leave your mark and your legacy is a by-product. It’s a by-product of how you show up, how you respond to challenges, and how you inspire changes.
If you want to live your legend, then express yourself through great work in the service of others.
Inspirational Quotes to Unleash What You’re Capable Of
With that in mind, here are a handful of select quotes to help you breathe new life into your work and inspire others as you blaze your trail and reveal to yourself, and to the world, what lies within you:
"A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened."
— Albert Camus
"Are you bored with life? Then throw yourself into some work you believe in with all you heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness that you had thought could never be yours.”
— Dale Carnegie
"By the work one knows the workman."
— Jean de La Fontaine
"By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day."
— Robert Frost
“Do your own thing on your own terms and get what you came here for.”
— Oliver James
"Each natural agent works but to this end,– To render that it works on like itself."
— George Chapman
"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
— Benjamin Franklin
"Every man loves what he is good at."
— Thomas Shadwell
"Every man’s work, whether it be literature, or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself."
— Samuel Butler
"Everyone enjoys doing the kind of work for which he is best suited.”
— Napoleon Hill
"Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart."
"Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all."
— Sam Ewing
"I believe you are your work. Don’t trade the stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars. That’s a rotten bargain.”
-– Rita Mae Brown
"I get to do those big projects if I step out to the edge of myself and summon my courage to take the first step into the unknown. I get to do those Great Work projects if I have the resilience to keep going when I lose the path, run into resistance and the doubt of others."
— Michael Bungay Stanier
“I want freedom for the full expression of my personality.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
"It is never too late to be what you might have been."
— George Eliot
"It is only when I am doing my work that I feel truly alive."
— Federico Fellini
"It is the first of all problems for a man to find out what kind of work he is to do in this universe."
— Thomas Carlyle
"My mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general, if you become a monk you’ll end up as the pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”
— Pablo Picasso
"People forget how fast you did a job – but they remember how well you did it."
— Howard Newton
"Properly speaking, such work is never finished; one must declare it so when, according to time and circumstances, one has done one’s best."
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
"Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will be judged by only one thing – the result."
— Vince Lombardi
"The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why."
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
— Martha Graham
"To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given a chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy."
— Bette Davis
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
— Henry Stanley Haskins
“What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan.”
— Jason Fried, Founder & CEO at Basecamp (formerly known as 37signals)
"When a work lifts your spirits and inspires bold and noble thoughts in you, do not look for any other standard to judge by: the work is good, the product of a master craftsman."
– Jean de la Bruyere
"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be."
— Lao Tzu
"Without work, all life goes rotten. But when work is soulless, life stifles and dies."
– Albert Camus
"Work while you have the light. You are responsible for the talent that has been entrusted to you."
— Henri-Frédéric Amiel
“You are so busy being YOU that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.”
— John Green
“You are what you do. If you do boring, stupid, monotonous work, chances are you’ll end up boring, stupid, and monotonous.”
— Bob Black
"You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour."
— Jim Rohn
"Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life."
— Steve Jobs
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
— Steve Jobs
"Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.”
As as Steven Pressfield would say, “Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”
With these words of wisdom under your belt, may they inspire you to transform your work, and along the way, your life.
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Image by Sabine Mondestin.