I love colorful motivational daily desk calendars. I love how the publishers place quotations over photos of ocean sunsets, palm trees or people doing the tree pose. My favorite is when they combine all four: the quote on top of someone doing the tree pose silhouetted before an ocean sunset with palm trees to left and right. Wow! It just makes me want to seize the day and scream Cowabunga!
Much motivational calendar wisdom touts the importance of being authentic. Be yourself. Live out your true self. Show your innermost being. Common calendar quotes (mis)used to propagate this ethos of authenticity:
- To thine own self be true. – Shakespeare
- Become such as you are, having learned what that is. – Pindar
- We are constantly invited to be what we are. – Thoreau
Calendar quotes are motivational because they are easily digestible and the attribution to a brainy person gives them credence. Often, however, when examined in context their motivational appeal flags.
The Shakespeare quote is from Hamlet. Polonius, the chief consul to Claudius (Hamlet’s evil uncle) is giving advice to his son and is essentially saying look out for number one. The Pindar quote is taken from a long winded account of a chariot race. Accurately translated and in context it reads: Come and greet the gracious offering of the seven-toned lyre. Learn and become who you are. To children, you know, an ape is pretty, always pretty. It just doesn’t have the same ring to it. And Thoreau, he took his invitation to become a guy who was careless with matches and nearly burned down Concord Massachusetts.
The calendar mantra of “just be yourself”, however, is also problematic from a philosophical viewpoint. Let’s allow ourselves some unorthodox (potentially dangerous?) thoughts.
Suppose you have a free will. If so, then you don’t possess a nature which determines your personality, rather you (can) create yourself anew in every moment. Flip the argument around. Assume you don’t have a free will but rather a fixed personality. In this case, your actions, emotions, and thoughts, are deterministic.
In either case, it is futile to urge you to behave authentically. Either you are in a constant state of flux, possessing nothing definite on which to base your authenticity, or you cannot avoid being authentic at every moment.
What are your favorite tidbits of motivational calendar advice? Leave a comment.