I love motivational slogans. I love their pithiness, their optimism, their bite-size portability and their inevitably cheesy array of colourful, artistic backgrounds. I have a couple pinned up around my desk at work and in recent weeks I’ve been Googling them on a daily basis, saving my favourite ones with an enthusiasm somewhere between obsession and glee.
But honestly? My first instinct is that I’m a teeny bit embarrassed to admit it.
As much as personally, they spur me on and keep me going, it often appears that chilled nonchalance that the most well-adjusted, cool kids seem to affect without thinking, doesn’t chime too well with a cheesy slogan or five.
From where I’m standing, it often seems like you’re supposed to get the results you want – whether that’s (say) writing for a national publication, eating healthily or doing more exercise ‒ without breaking too much of a sweat, sacrificing any element of your social life, feeling sorry for yourself, or really kicking your own arse.
If you’re a real success, it often feels, you’ll do something because you love it, because it comes naturally, because you were born to do it.
Especially in my industry, journalism, where people chase a story with grit, or write a winning features piece, or craft a hilarious comment based on their own life, where everything has a neat story arc, a personal story, and all the ends finally dovetail in quite nicely, without too much hassle.
Granted, it’s better to be nonchalant than a desperate, arrogant arse.
But neither are you supposed to admit that actually, you live your life according to someone else’s one-sentence maxims.
The kind of thing a lot of people say if you talk about “following my dreams” and “positive thinking”.
The other thing they say is “BOLLOCKS”.
It seems far too naïve, too childish, too simple. As you get older, society seems to say, you’re supposed to get more cynical. More unshockable. More disappointed. More negative. More “realistic”, more hard-hitting, more focused. “Positive thinking” slogans? That’s all a bit too cheesy and contrived, thanks.
And although in some ways, I agree – for example, I love comedians who create hilarity out every day, mundane situations, and I’m a great advocate of the “gotta laugh or you’ll cry” maxim when things get tough.
But personally, adopting a totally cynical viewpoint – where cold, cruel “reality”, rather than bumper stickers, lead my mental state ‒ doesn’t lead to realism for me.
It leads to near-crippling depression, where the world stops being manageable and appealing, and becomes an overwhelming wall of negativity, pain, tragic events, bitchy comments, jealousy and insurmountable obstacles.