7 Lessons From the World’s Greatest Minds

photo by karlequin

Have you ever wished you could go back in time and have a conversation with one of the greatest minds in history? Well, you can’t sorry, they’re dead. Unless of course you’re clairaudient, be my guest. But for the rest of us, we can still refer to the words they left behind.

Even though these great teachers have passed on, their words still live, and in them their wisdom. I’ve made a list of seven what I believe are some of the greatest teachings by the world’s greatest minds.

1. Realizing Your Dreams

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
- Lawrence J. Peter

In order for us to achieve our dreams, we must have a vision of our goals. Writing down our dreams and creating a list of actions helps us stick to our plan. As it’s said “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. When we turn our goals into measurable actions, we gain clarity and are able to see the necessary steps we must take in order to achieve them.

Action: Visualize a life of your wildest dreams. What did you dream of doing when you were a child? What would you do if you had a million dollars? Create a vision for your goals and start breaking them down into small actions that you can take on a day by day basis.

2. Overcoming Fear

“It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, “Always do what you are afraid to do.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

The best way to learn something is to dive right in to it. When we overcome our fear of failure, we learn that only those who are asleep make no mistakes. Fear is the only thing keeping us from experiencing a life of love and fulfillment. If we make a commitment to an uncompromisable quest for truth, we will realize that as we grow more into the truth, our fears start to disappear.

Action: You must define your fears in order to conquer them. Create a list of everything you’re afraid of and start facing them one at a time. Make a commitment to yourself now to not let fear rule your life.

3. Intention and Desire

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.”- Guatama Buddha

Our thoughts determine our reality. When we stop thinking about what we don’t and begin thinking about what we do want, our lives begin to transform. Instead of working against our desires and intentions, we move into alignment with them.

Action: Create a list of your intentions and desires. Wherever you go, take this list with you. Read it when you wake up and before you go to sleep.

4. Happiness

“Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances.”
- Benjamin Franklin

Happiness comes from an inner peace, understanding and acceptance of life; a perspective of truth that opens your eyes to the beauty of life all around us. Happiness cannot be achieved by external status, it must be an internal state that we realize when we see our innate perfection.

Action: Realize that happiness is a choice. In every decision you make ask yourself “how can I respond to make myself happy and fulfilled?”

5. Self Acceptance

“If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” – Jesus

When we stop trying to be what we are not, we realize our authenticity. Before we had knowledge, we were completely authentic. We learn to use knowledge to measure and judge, which is a powerful tool we have as humans. However we create an image of perfection in our mind of what we should be, but are not. We confuse knowledge for nature. We believe in the lie of our imperfection. When we realize this we can reclaim the truth of our perfection and live in love and acceptance.

Action: Make a commitment to never go against yourself. Practice non-judgment and realize that the same part of your mind that condemns you is the same voice that caused you to take the action in the first place. We don’t even have to believe what we say to ourselves.

6. Appreciation and Gratitude

“So much has been given to me, I have not time to ponder over that which has been denied.”
- Helen Keller

How many times do we count our misfortunes rather than our blessings? When we take time to open our eyes to the miracle of life we can see the many gifts that have been given to us. Remembering all the beautiful aspects of life and all the reasons you are blessed can immediately shift our mood. We can move from sorrow and despair to appreciation and hope.

Action: Each time you find yourself complaining about something, re-direct your focus to something you are grateful for. Make a habit of transforming your awareness of troubles into an awareness of abundance.

7. The Art of Simplicity

“I made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it short.”
- Blaise Pascal

Perfection is not when there is nothing to add, but when there is nothing more to take away. As Bruce Lee once said “the height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.” True mastery of our lives is realizing the simple joys of life, removing distractions and clutter from our lives.

Action: The art of simplicity is knowing what to take away. Practice recognizing when you’re spending your time on unimportant tasks and re-focus on the important.

This list is by no means exhaustive. There are other many great teachings that I did not include here because I felt like they were already expounded on thoroughly elsewhere, such as Einstein and Gandhi’s timeless classics. There are also great teachings to be found from our parents or friends.

If you have any lessons to add, I encourage you to share them with us in the comments below. Also, I want to give a special thanks to Manu for inspiring me with his “10 Golden Lessons from Albert Einstein”.

For more powerful lessons from great minds, subscribe to Illuminated Mind.


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Comment & Add Your Voice

LifeTweak March 9, 2008 at 6:28 pm

Jonathan,

Thanks for your encouraging words :) We are the ones who should be thankful to you for providing fantastic articles such as these! I loved reading it! Jonathanmead.com is going to make it big someday :) I feel good whenever I read something from your little blog :)

Manu.

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4mind4life March 9, 2008 at 11:51 pm

Hey Johnathan. Thanks for sharing such a motivating and inspirational post. Great job here and keep up the awesome posts ;)

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Stephen Martile March 10, 2008 at 5:55 pm

Love the quote,

“I made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it short.”
- Blaise Pascal

I can totally relate.

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@Stephen | Productivity in Context March 11, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Great quotes, I love them.
I also agree with Stephen Martile about the quote from Pascal. It is easy to ramble on and on, it takes some work to be concise!

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amibenya March 11, 2008 at 5:57 pm

There are only 6 ! Where is the 7th ?

Jonathan:

Thanks for pointing that out. The last one was marked 6 (it was really the 7th) and I thought I changed it back. Fixed. =)

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Alex Blackwell March 12, 2008 at 1:45 am

Great offering of these important lessons Jonathan. I especially like #3 – we do become what we think!

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Goal Setting College March 12, 2008 at 3:49 am

Hey Jon, dropping by to say thank you for the nice comment you left on my blog. And boy, was I impressed with your writing!

I particularly loved Buddha’s saying that “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.” It seems simple but the profoundity behind it is something we’ll only be able to relish if we actualize it. Thanks for the wonderful reminder!

Keep in touch!

Cheers,
Ellesse

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Tom Volkar / Delightful Work March 13, 2008 at 11:34 pm

Another vote for number 7. I love this. “As Bruce Lee once said “the height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.” True mastery of our lives is realizing the simple joys of life, removing distractions and clutter from our lives.”

As I age more and more I’m impressed with brevity, in conversation and in writing. Perhaps what I’m really seeking is a simpler life. Thank you.

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JEMi | Tips for Life, Love, You March 18, 2008 at 6:12 am

This post feels like some kind of affirmation to me. I’m this bright eyed young twenty something who is just now discovering the pleasure and depth life can present me on a daily basis with the discovery of each and everything listed here.

Excellent.

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Charlie Gilkey March 23, 2008 at 2:29 pm

Great post, Jonathan. I posted last week on 12 Ways to Practice Courage that may complement your second point about overcoming fear. It can be found here: http://www.academicppd.com/12-ways-to-practice-courage/. Keep up the great work. Subscribed, SU’d, and Dugg.

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Pat March 23, 2008 at 7:47 pm

Overcoming Fear-As I have learn this valuable lesson, it has allowed me to grow and to take on new adventures

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Vitaliy March 27, 2008 at 6:32 am

Great post, thanks for the uplifting experience.
I think now more then ever, we hear these quotes and sayings and it goes in one ear and out the other.

Let’s stop and smell the roses.

Vitaliy

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Denver Web Design May 5, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Inspirational stuff. Some people think there are secrets to being happy… but there have been tried and true methods that have been around for ages.

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Inspiration for Change May 15, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Fantastic post that compiles words of wisdom from the great thinkers of all time.

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Paige June 11, 2008 at 2:55 pm

I listened to a podcast on fear that was one of the best I have heard!
http://www.transworldynamics.com/content/view/48/30/

Thank you for sharing this article. I have passed it along to friends.

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Evelyn Lim June 20, 2008 at 9:40 pm

Another vote for pt 3. I never realised how Buddhist teachings can be so powerful. A lot of them center around the mind and our life sufferings.

Stumbled and dugg!

Evelyn

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Daniel Richard | WE June 21, 2008 at 7:51 am

“If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

This is one that I could use for this period. :)

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Robert Taylor June 25, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Great post. I really agree with it

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paresh July 3, 2008 at 4:00 am

nice useful stuff.

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Brett July 9, 2008 at 4:02 pm

I just wanted to let you know that I linked to your article from my page.

If it doesnt meet your expectations please let me know and I will take it down.

I thoroughly enjoy your articles and happily recommend that my readers visit your page often.

Thank you

Brett

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Juliusf July 12, 2008 at 7:26 am

I think you took the Helen Keller quote way out of context. Yes, it does work like this. But, I believe she was referring to our government not giving the general population what they deserve. She was a huge backer of the communist party here in the United States in her time. Do some research, I feel like she was showing her distaste for the US government, not trying to inspire people.

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novy July 18, 2008 at 9:08 pm

You are right – we should overcome our fear. Fear hinders our growth and stops us from living the life we want. “Everything we want is always out of our comfort zone”.

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Personal Trainer July 19, 2008 at 3:23 pm

Tremendous list which I will use for my clients!

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Mango August 28, 2008 at 8:39 am

Lovin’ the site Johnathan! I have been trying to relay the lesson in #5 so many times to so many different people, and I think your definition does the best thus far. I’ve noticed more and more throughout daily life the ‘templates’ that people feel that they must fit, and I’m sure many people can relate. If everyone would simply be true to themselves, instead of trying to fit this perfect template that each person feels they must (think back to High School when everyone was trying to fit into a ‘click’, well, everyone’s still trying to do it, just on a much grader scale). And, in feeling that they must fit the template they know that they will be judged on how well they fit. Judgment for many people, if not all, is a HUGE issue. I know people, people I love, who are afraid to be themselves because of their fear of being judged. Life is judgment, the object is to be happy with yourself. WE are all our OWN most severe judge, if we can accept ourselves for who we are, then the rest of the world will just fall into place.

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Raz October 26, 2008 at 8:58 am

Hi Jonathan,
I cant express how i feel but, will put these 7 lessons in my life.

Keep up the good work..:)

Raz

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Coral November 13, 2008 at 2:32 pm

I linked to this article also, for the benefit of my readers (well, if I had any!). I think it’s brilliant.
Please let me know you’re not happy with the link.

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Clemens December 27, 2008 at 3:50 pm

Elegant writing. Fuel for change.

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Mehreen January 3, 2009 at 10:02 am

Great post! :)
loveded the second, third and sixth point :)

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AJ Kumar January 27, 2009 at 12:50 am

Hey Jon,
great post! If you don’t know where your going, you’ll end up somewhere else…something that speaks very powerfully to me. :)

AJ Kumar

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MackyCan December 2, 2009 at 2:33 am

this is a great post…i felt like someone just knocked me on my head saying “hello macky, wake up!”…:)

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queen December 22, 2009 at 4:14 pm

its interesting that these great minds left some words of encouragement as a foot print,meaning they still want to teach more even after death and am happy to be one of their scholars

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loveneverfails March 17, 2010 at 12:53 am

i love your post. so inspirational :)

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Rob April 17, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Thanks for the post, I like the actions you list after the principles so I can apply them in real life. Many times I read some of the timeless classics and have a hard time relating to my world – this post helps with that.

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jackie August 28, 2010 at 6:45 am

Thanks for this gift. I’m giving it to my daughter…

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jackie August 28, 2010 at 6:46 am

Thanks for this gift

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Documentaries October 6, 2010 at 4:47 am

Hi , great article you have posted . Can u mail me back and tell me if i can post it on my website ? and what are the terms ?thx

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Mara January 21, 2011 at 7:12 am

lovely post! thank you :)

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Mitchell March 21, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Really one of the best posts I’ve read in a while that wraps “it” all up in one concise piece.

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K April 1, 2011 at 12:56 pm

These are awesome! I’m going to post some of them on my office wall, in a highly visible place. Especially:

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.”- Guatama Buddha

Our minds are everything, and most of us are only starting to figure that out.

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Dean April 10, 2011 at 10:39 pm

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…” the simplest and most important way to live

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talha April 21, 2011 at 8:19 am

best work dude keep it up

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Tameika Raso May 22, 2011 at 7:59 am

Aw, this was a very nice post. In concept I wish to put in writing like this additionally – taking time and actual effort to make a very good article… however what can I say… I procrastinate alot and certainly not appear to get one thing done.

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sams February 4, 2012 at 12:07 am

battle of the mind! jim rohn, good luck to all insearch of greatness!

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3245gty March 15, 2012 at 3:32 am

cool
 

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friday November 27, 2012 at 1:14 am

great quote!

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human February 11, 2013 at 6:02 pm

I’m surprised that of all the comments no one found these ‘lessons’ just a touch trite. I was hoping for more, something… inspiring in its originality and/or clever interpretation, and am left with my hopes deflated. Great intention though, that must surely be commended.

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