Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. She is sarcastic and witty and has a biting remark for pretty much any situation. This speaks to my soul.
She also has quite a bit of wisdom that could be applied to our lives. While she made fun of moral philosophers at times in her stories (see Mary in “Pride and Prejudice”), there is actually philosophy, morality, and wisdom sprinkled throughout her work in very interesting ways.
So what does Jane Austen have to say to us today?
Our Actions Are What Make Us
What we do with what we have is more important than any great idea or plan you could have. If you aren’t willing to put in the work to execute an idea or plan, it will never become anything else.
“It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.”
We can talk pretty all day, telling people of our grand schemes, or telling people how kind we are. We can say all kinds of things, and we can even believe those things. Until we show proof with our actions though, they are not true.
The things we do speak more loudly than the words we say. Our actions are what the world judges us on.
“The distance is nothing when one has a motive.”
If you really want to make something happen, it won’t matter what obstacles are in the way, you will find a way to make it happen. When you truly want something, you will go out of your way to find the resources, to find the time, to put it into action.
Plus, so often those obstacles we see before us are really fear holding us back. Fear can be crippling and can create barriers. Don’t let fear be your obstacle, find a way to overcome it. Find your motive to make things happen.
“If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.”
Opportunities, generally, are not just going to come fall in our lap. If we want something, we have to go out and find it. We have to create those opportunities, or at least seek them out.
Don’t just sit around moaning about how you wish something would happen, make it happen. If you can’t find the opportunity you want where you are now, go out and find it. Don’t wait for someone or something else.
“What is right to be done cannot be done too soon.”
So often, we put things off, telling ourselves I’ll do that later. We sit around waiting for the perfect circumstances to align to get us started. The longer we wait though, the less likely we will get started.
If you know there is a need, don’t sit around waiting for someone to take care of that need for you. Get up and take care of the problem yourself. Waiting is a game, doing is where we live life.
“I am not at all in a humor for writing; I must write on till I am.”
Sometimes we are going to be in a funk, we are going to be reluctant to do what we know we need to do. These are the times when we need to buckle down and push through.
It could be fear, it could be a bad day, it could be that things are going on in other areas of your life. These things don’t matter. You have to show up every day and put the work in, no matter how much you’re “not feeling it” that day.
We Must Have the Right Mindset
Success in our goals is more than just doing. You have to come at all your goals with the right mindset to see it through.
If we just go out there and do without understanding why we do, or understanding what is most important to us, we will just be spinning our wheels for nothing.
“Every impulse of feeling should be guided by reason; and, in my opinion, exertion should always be in proportion to what is required.”
If you find that your day slips away, and you don’t have a lot to show for it, chances are you were wasting your time and resources on things that weren’t that important. It is easy to get caught up and turn minor things into top priority items on our to-do lists.
Always make sure you are spending your time, energy, and resources on those things that are most important to your success. Don’t let the little unimportant things eat up your day.
“Till this moment I never knew myself.”
The best way to learn who we are and what is important to us is to get out there and do something with our ideas. If we spend our days collecting ideas but never put them into action, we will never grow, and we will never truly learn.
Do you want to know who you are? Do you want to know what you stand for? Get out and do something with the ideas you have collected. Make something happen and find out what is important to you.
“I may have lost my heart, but not my self-control.”
Doing is important, but the doing must be in a rational way. Having a passion and a desire for something is great, just make sure you don’t lose yourself too fully in that. Acquire the knowledge that is needed, create a plan, and get out there and execute that plan.
Don’t get so lost in the idea that you forget everything else. Don’t let something else control you but rather, be in control of your situation and ideas.
“Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience- or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.”
Everything worth doing requires work. This is a long process, and nothing worth having is going to happen overnight.
Don’t expect to just have everything the moment you want it. Be willing to put the work in, to learn and grow, and to wait for the work to prove itself.
Every “overnight success” reached that success after long hours of work, and seeking, and waiting. Keep going, keep working, keep learning, and be willing to wait for the reward.
Be True to Yourself
People will tell you that the key to success is X, or that you should be doing this over here instead of what you are pursuing. People, most with good intentions, will try to get you to conform to their ideas.
While listening to advice can be helpful, don’t forget who you are. The best way to find success is to seek it in your way, in the way that is true to who you are.
“Sometimes one is guided by what they say of themselves, and very frequently by what other people say of them, without giving oneself time to deliberate and judge.”
Just because someone thinks they know who you are doesn’t mean you have to adopt their ideas of you. People are judging you from snippets of information.
Your family will judge you based on how you were as a child, old friends will judge you based on who you were when they first met you, other people will judge you based on specific interactions.
These people aren’t looking at how you’ve changed or who you are overall. They are seeing glimpses of you, not the whole picture. Don’t let these glimpses define you as a whole person.
Continue to grow and make decisions that are true to you and not just what others think of you.
“I must keep my own style and go on in my own way; and though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other.”
If you try to remake yourself in the image of someone else instead of doing things in the way that works best for you, you will approach life awkwardly. Just because something works for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you.
We all come from different circumstances and we all have different ways of viewing the world. We need to use our own circumstances and experiences to tackle new things, not someone else’s.
“We have all a better guide in ourselves if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”
We know who we are better than anyone else can. We know what is right and wrong, we know how we think, how we approach life and only we can determine the best way to approach life for ourselves.
Waiting for someone else to tell you what to do will leave you stagnant and unsure of what should be obvious.
“I wish as well as everybody else, to be perfectly happy; but, like everybody else, it must be in my own way.”
If you are trying to approach life from the viewpoint of someone other than yourself, you will not find satisfaction in your endeavors. When we are unwilling to embrace who we are, and instead try to fit into the crowd, we are not seeking our happiness but rather the happiness of someone else.
Everyone is different, this is good, this is as it should be. Don’t try to be someone else, be yourself.
“One man’s way may be as good as another’s, but we all like our own best.”
While there are some absolute rights and wrongs in the world, there aren’t as many as we try to make out. You don’t have to do things one way because someone else did it that way.
Explore, learn, and find the ways that work best for you. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
Be Stubborn When Necessary
From an early age we learn that stubbornness is frowned on, but should it be? There are some areas where you should be willing to bend, but when it comes to our ideals and goals we should come at those with a stubbornness that won’t be easily swayed.
Yes, we should be willing to listen and learn from new information, but we shouldn’t be too willing to give up on what we believe in because we don’t want to be unaccommodating.
“I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”
How many times do we let people who are not really connected to us sway our ideas and opinions?
Want a good example of this? Go look on social media. You will see people willing to apologize for their beliefs because some person they don’t even know called them out on it.
This is going to be blunt, but don’t let people who have no real connection to your life tell you how you must act, think, and believe. Quit worrying about what these people, who are unimportant to your life and happiness, think about you.
“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
Sometimes people try to scare you out of doing things with good intentions. Sometimes people are threatened by the possibility of your success. And sometimes people are just jerks. Whatever the reason people are trying to frighten you out of doing something, don’t let them.
Is it important to you? If it is, it’s worth any risk that might be associated with it. Don’t be intimidated by people who don’t have the same vision as you.
“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”
Let’s face it, life is hard. While we don’t want to go through trials just for the sake of going through trials, sometimes difficulties are a good thing.
When you really want something, don’t be afraid of the difficulties. Embrace challenges as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to get better, and to find new solutions.
If you are always in calm waters or easy circumstances, you are not challenging yourself and you are not learning anything. This is the best way to become stagnant and mediocre. Don’t accept mediocre, meet challenges head on and find your solution.
Read, Learn, and Grow
If you are not learning and perfecting your craft, you are not being the best you can be. It is important to always learn, to always seek new and better ways of understanding and doing things.
Read good novels because you can learn a lot about life and human nature from these, read books about your craft because you get a new idea, watch videos, take in what you can and then go use this new knowledge to make yourself better.
“It is only a novel… or in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humor, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.”
Many people like to discredit novels as a means to knowledge, but what better way to get a glimpse of different types of people and how those types may react to different situations?
Just because a novel is not considered educational doesn’t mean you can’t learn anything from them.
Pick up a good novel and explore the different glimpses into human nature and human experience. Explore new ways of looking at the world and see what it can teach you to make you better.
“A fondness for reading, properly directed, must be an education in itself.”
I’m going to say something controversial here, but you really don’t need a fancy education to learn and grow.
There are so many books out there on so many topics. There are also videos and presentations and all sorts of ways to learn new things.
You can learn a lot on your own if you choose the right sources. Learning is an important part of life, and there are so many options to help us do so.
“And to all this she must add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”
Reading can change a person. When we read, we get to take in a new perspective, we get to explore new ideas, we get to experience something we may not have been able to experience for ourselves.
Reading helps us grow and reading improves our understanding of the world.
Plus, reading can sometimes help us clarify our own ideas by allowing us to see them placed before us in a better way than we have ever been able to form them.
“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”
I will admit, I just added this one because I think it is a great example of that biting way about Jane Austen.
While I think reading is beneficial to everyone, I know there are some people who don’t prefer novels. I don’t understand them, but I know they exist.
Don’t worry, you can still learn something even if you prefer non-fiction to fiction.
Be Truthful and Wise in Communication
So often, people want to talk just to be saying something. Or they may want to misdirect people or just try to hurt people. We see and hear so much chatter around us daily, and if you pay attention, most of it is unimportant, mean or unnecessary.
If you want to make a lasting impression of good, make sure your communication maintains truth and integrity. As much as I like words, sometimes words are best left unsaid or unwritten.
Don’t just put words out there to have something to say, make sure they have meaning and value.
“Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised or a little mistaken.”
This becomes more and more true as social media becomes more popular. How many people are willing to share something they haven’t checked out for themselves? How many times have you seen false information making its rounds on the internet?
With division and bias becoming more widely accepted, you also see instances where people twist the truth to make it say what they want. This is disingenuous and hurtful.
Do you want people to take you seriously? Make sure the words that come from you are honest and that you make sure you know what you are talking about.
“Better be without sense than misapply it as you do.”
When we say someone does not have common sense, sometimes this is not true. Many times, when common sense isn’t used, it’s not from a lack but from refusing to make use of it properly.
When we get so caught up in proving that we’re right that we won’t apply basic reasoning to our arguments, we are misapplying our sense.
Intelligent people, when they don’t want to be proven wrong, can fall into the trap of ignoring reasoning to maintain their stance. This doesn’t do any good for anyone though.
Is it really better to be right than it is to have full understanding of a situation?
“I was quiet, but I was not blind.”
Sometimes we just know saying something will do absolutely zero good. This doesn’t mean you just ignore what is in front of you though. Remember those things, make note of them, increase your understanding of people, but know when it is best to be silent on matters.
If you know someone is not going to listen to reason, why waste your breath.
The Bible tells us not to deal with fools, but too often we are ready to take an argument to them. Don’t do this, it’s not worth your time. Remember the foolishness so you don’t make that mistake and so you don’t mistake them, but don’t waste your breath.
“There is a monstrous deal of stupid quizzing and commonplace nonsense talked, but scarcely any wit.”
This goes back to the fact that people love the sound of their own voices. People want to talk without necessarily having anything to say.
We want to be noticed, so we throw a lot of stuff out into the world and hope some of it sticks.
The thing is, with so much chatter and nonsense all around us, it makes it harder to find the stuff worth listening to. Don’t be the person that adds to the chatter and nonsense. If you don’t have anything worth saying, don’t say anything. It’s that simple.
Add value when you can and keep the rest to yourself.
And for an extra one:
Some people aren’t worth arguing with
“Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.”
Seriously, engaging with people who are clearly foolish and nonsensical is a waste of your time. People who ignore reason do not deserve the compliment of your reasoning.
Let foolish people be foolish in their own little vacuum. Don’t engage them, don’t give them that importance.
Did I miss any of your favorite Jane Austen gems? Let me know in the comments.