Helen Keller is one of those people that embodied the concept of “I can do anything if I try”. Born in 1880 in Alabama (USA) she because both blind and deaf after she got sick when she was a little over a year old. From then on out, she did not have an easy upbringing. These weren’t the same times as now where options were available to help people overcome their disabilities. And while we still have a long way to go today, it’s still leaps and bounds what Helen had available growing up. Helen Keller quotes are remembered worldwide for their ability to help people quote with life’s difficulties.
What stands out from the way Helen chose to live her life is that she didn’t let that become a negative thing. Which would have been understandable given how difficult life must have been to navigate with those restrictions. Instead, she became a disability rights advocate, prolific author, lecturer, and political activist.
We could all do well in taking some lessons in perseverance from Helen, which is why we collected 10 of our favorite quotes of hers to share with you.
1. On how if you don’t take action, someone else will
Do you know what prevents most people from starting the journey towards achieving what they want? Fear. And lack of self-confidence. Most people will spend countless days and months imagining and thinking of what it would look like to finally hold in their hands that goal they’ve been dreaming of. And then back out immediately because of how hard the process seems, and their idea that it simply can’t be accomplished if it’s that difficult. In the meantime, those that didn’t share the same thought went out and took action.
2. On learning that good requires the existence of bad
Helen Keller quotes like this remind us that adversity is the key to growth. Many cultures have their own version of the concept of good and light, yin and yang, happy and sad. One truly can’t exist without the other, since you need to know what bad looks and feels like in order to understand and appreciate when you’re faced with good things or feelings. From that same idea comes the concept of needing to experience fear and unhappiness in order to learn that courage and happiness exist parallel to that.
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3. On always seeing the positive side of things
Helen Keller quotes like this remind us to focus on the positive. Now, this idea is much easier said than done. Dating back to humanity’s cavemen days, our ability to only see the bad and not the good was a means to survival when leaving your home could mean encountering a wild animal at every turn. The problem is that while society developed around us, the basic aspect of our minds has been taking a bit longer to catch up. While there’s little chance today that we’ll be mauled by a bear when we go out for dinner, we’re still wired to see the bad first. If you can find a way to train your mind to appreciate the good first then you’ll find yourself living a much happier life.
4. On how the end doesn’t mean something is gone forever
This is a beautiful way to convey how magical it is that we’re made up from the sum of all the things we’ve touched and have touched us. That book you read about adventuring in the Amazonian jungle gave you a new love for discovering different places. Your friend from elementary school left a drawing at your house you still have hiding in your drawers to this day. And that first love you had in college with who it never worked out is the one who taught you how to make the best nachos ever. Everything you’ve loved becomes a part of you in the end. So in a sense, it never really leaves you.
5. On appreciating what you have, not what you’re missing
This quote is particularly powerful if we keep in mind the differences Helen had while growing up, and the challenges she no doubt had to overcome. If you can focus your energy on appreciating all the things you have (a home, people in your life that enjoy your company, food on your table), then you’ll be so busy doing that that you won’t even realize the things you might not have.
6. On how perseverance can triumph overall
Do you want to know the secret to getting to do anything you want in life? Practice and patience. Even the person you look up to and admire the most stuck it out for a long, long time to get to where they are today. Those renowned sports players? They likely practice harder than you can even imagine. That millionaire that came from nothing? They weren’t an overnight success. You’re looking at years of consistency, hard work, and determination. So – if they could do it, why couldn’t you?
7. On her version of the secret to life
Helen Keller quotes like this remind us that experience is the ultimate teacher. Every great thinker or figure in history will have their own version of the secret to life. While we can probably find an underlying trend among all of them (stay in the present, learn to be content will small things), it’s still interesting to dive into each version. For Helen, the secret to life consisted in understanding that we’re on this earth to learn. From how to be patient to how to love another human. Countless lessons that will make us happier and better people. And, once we’re able to truly understand that living these lessons is the only way to really get them, then we’ve unlocked the true reason for our existence.
8. On why you should start with the hard task first
Ever heard the phrase “leave the best for last”? Helen Keller obviously did. While everyone’s approach to difficult things will be different, this one seems to be one that works for a lot of people. Start by figuring out what your tasks at hand are. Then assign them a level of difficulty from 1 to 5. Once you have that done, start with the hardest ones first. You’ll be fresh and ready to tackle things when you just sit down, so use that energy for the things you like least. By the time those are done all that’s left are the things you like to do.
9. On learning that you can always keep going
This reminds us of another phrase we love: “It’s never the end. And if it is, well it’s the end anyway – so why would it matter?”. There’s always more you can do, or more paths to walk along. Taking time to rest, recover, and calm your mind after a setback in your journey is important. But, never stop moving forward if it’s something you really want. There’s nothing wrong with deciding suddenly that the goal is no longer for you, but if it is don’t let hardship stop you.
10. On how those we allow to enter into our life can shape it
While the best-known part of Helen’s quote is the one above, the second (lesser-known) part of what she said is just as beautiful. “My friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges“. When you’re surrounded by people that love you for who you truly are then those things you might find as limitations end up being a privilege to have.