Inspirations for Today and Tomorrow: Embarking on a New Decade

For many years, I have sought out writings and proverbs that inspire, motivate, and provide wisdom in the midst of managing multiple priorities, particularly my daily work routines. Creating space to clear my mind is not a matter simply of closing my eyes; getting centered and re-centered must be intentional. To this end, I have found many inspirational writings that relate to women’s leadership, managing change, being optimistic, and finding common understanding in cross cultural relationships.

Historic and contemporary voices particularly of individuals who have transcended adversity and multiple life challenges, such as Nelson Mandela, serve to temper what I might consider to be a tough day I might have had. In this first 2020 commentary, I will share inspirations for today and tomorrow in the form of proverbs, philosophical thoughts, and reflections from a range of individuals. I hope these will be useful to you as you embark on a new decade.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in 1962 and served time in three different prisons until his release in February 1990. For many years I wore the bracelet with 46664, Mandela’s prison number and the date of his imprisonment in 1964 at Robben Island. Biographies and videos relate the hardships he endured and his continuing idealism and hope for a free South Africa.  Miraculously it seems, Mandela was elected the first black president of South Africa in 1994. Many of his quotes are about education and optimism and I share those here.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

Native American Proverbs

In 365 Days of Walking the Red Road (Jean, 2003), I find uplifting statements and ideas embodied in the worldview of Native Americans. Written by tribal leaders, primarily men, they express beliefs, values, and ideals that supported them and their people in times of adversity. Other proverbs are about how the Native Americans see the world—their relationships with nature, people, and animals. In 365 Days of Walking the Red Road there is a reading and proverb per day, these come from individuals with different tribal affiliations and from different historical eras. Here are a few examples.

  • January 1

    What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.

    – Crowfoot, Blackfoot Warrior and Orator, 1826-1890

  • September 14

    When you see a new trail or a footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing.

    – Uncheedah, Sante Sioux

  • October 13

    We may misunderstand, but we do not misexperience.

    – Vine Deloria, Jr., Lakota, Standing Rock Sioux

Women’s Inspirational Quotes

For women’s leadership seminars, I have often invited participants to identify a woman they admire and to share quotes by women that are a source of inspiration. These quotes make a head and a heart connection, communicate a sense of empowerment, and affirm ideals and values in support of others. Herein are a few voices.

Valuing Self, Valuing Others


Anzaldúa, G. (1987). The borderlands/entre fronteras. San Francisco: Spinster/Aunt Lute. 

Jean, T. (2003). 365 days of walking the red road. Avon, MA: Adams Media.

Mandela, N. (1994). Long walk to freedom. Boston: Little Brown & Co.

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  • Scott Mesh January 7, 2020   Reply →

    I love the quotes. Thank you for these.

  • Melba Vasquez January 7, 2020   Reply →

    Wonderful to remind us to seek inspiration, and great sources, thank you!

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