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10 Quotes From Jane Austen’s Emma That Can Teach Us About Life

10 Quotes From Jane Austen’s Emma That Can Teach Us About Life

For much of this year, bookworms worldwide have been celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Emma, first published in December 1815. Possibly one of the most beloved of Austen’s six novels next to Pride and Prejudice, Emma is a wonderfully witty comedy of manners in which the fun-loving, slightly spoiled, but ultimately kind-hearted Emma Woodhouse sets herself up as a matchmaker for her friends and acquaintances while, perhaps predictably, failing to listen to the yearnings of her own heart until it’s almost too late. The novel has spawned numerous retellings and adaptations, and its hero, Mr. Knightley, stands second only to Mr. Darcy in the eyes of Austenites. In honor of the novel’s bicentennial, here are 10 quotes from Emma that can teach us how to love, how to laugh, and how to live happily ever after.

1. “I may have lost my heart, but not my self-control.”- Emma Woodhouse

After discovering that Frank Churchill has been secretly engaged to Jane Fairfax while blatantly flirting with Emma, Emma smiles, brushes herself off, and maintains as much dignity and self-composure as she can. The takeaway here is simple: sometimes you’re going to have your heart broken and your emotions toyed with. It’s not unnatural to feel wounded, but be sensible about it and don’t wallow.

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2. “I always deserve the best treatment, because I never put up with any other.”- Emma Woodhouse

Again, our heroine puts it succinctly; never settle for anything less than the best you feel you deserve in life, whether in your friendships, your workplace relationships, or your romantic partnerships.

3. “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”- Mr. Knightley

Not altogether unlike Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley is a man of actions, not words, when it comes to expressing love. Anyone with eyes in their head—anyone except Emma, of course—can see how tenderly he loves her and holds her in high regard, even if he never says quite as much until the last possible moment. The kindest of words can sometimes be the most insincere if not accompanied by an action meant from the heart. (Frank Churchill, anyone?)

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4. “Men of sense, whatever you may choose to say, do not want silly wives.”- Mr. Knightley

Though Mr. Knightley offers these words to Emma as a caveat against puffing her friend Harriet Smith up above her station in life as the illegitimate daughter of, well, someone or other, his words here nonetheless encapsulate what we love most about Austen heroes: that they love and cherish women of good sense whom they can value as their equals rather than as playthings.

5. “I lay it down as a general rule, Harriet, that if a woman doubts as to whether she should accept a man or not, she certainly ought to refuse him.”- Emma Woodhouse

While Emma offers this advice to Harriet simply because she thinks the gentleman farmer Robert Martin beneath Harriet’s notice, Emma raises a fair point here; if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, and the truth is that if Harriet—young and impressionable as she is—can’t make up her own mind about her feelings without consulting Emma, she isn’t quite ready to commit herself yet. Removed from Emma’s influence, she eventually comes, on her own, to discover that she still loves Mr. Martin and takes her happiness into her own hands. The salient point here, then, is quite simply, to look before you leap. If anything gives you pause, trust your instinct.

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6. “If things are going untowardly one month, they are sure to mend the next.”- Mr. Weston

Ah, good old Mr. Weston, ever-cheerful, ever-hopeful, always sure that Frank will come to visit, even when he doesn’t. Nothing dampens his spirits, and however exhausting we might sometimes find his relentless good humor, it reminds us that however bad things seem, they do eventually get better.

7. “Never could I expect to be so truly beloved and important; so always first and always right in any man’s eyes as I am in my father’s.”- Emma Woodhouse

Emma might be spoiled; she might be her father’s pet, but, say what you will, she devotes herself to his care and is rewarded with the highest regard, and until she recognizes a deeper love in Mr. Knightley, she need be content with nothing else. Sometimes we would do well to remember that no one can love us as our parents do, with all of our flaws.

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8. “How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!”- Frank Churchill

Frank might be impetuous and a bit of a rake, but sometimes, we need to grab our pleasures where and when we find them and live in the moment because no one wants to live with the regret of having squandered an opportunity.

9. “A woman is not to marry a man merely because she is asked, or because he is attached to her, and can write a tolerable letter.”- Emma Woodhouse

This, like so much of Austen’s advice, is shot straight from the hip. The women of Austen’s world had perhaps fewer choices than women in the 21st century do, but she still recognized a key point in exercising agency in one’s own life; seizing an opportunity simply because someone places it in front of you isn’t choosing. It’s settling. Women in the 21st century do have choices, and marriage is just one of those choices. Societal pressure, or the fear of dying alone and being eaten by wild dogs or stray cats should never force your hand into something you don’t want.

10. “Miss Bates had never boasted either beauty or cleverness. Her youth had passed without distinction, and her middle of life was devoted to the care of a failing mother, and the endeavor to make a small income go as far as possible. And yet she was a happy woman, and a woman whom no one named without good will.”- The Narrator

This description of the good-natured, exhaustively chatty spinster Miss Bates at once amuses and inspires. Relentlessly cheerful despite her reduced circumstances, Miss Bates counts herself supremely blessed with the good fortune of kind friends and neighbors who love her and see to her comfort, and this, in truth, is what we ought to value most in life.

Featured photo credit: Emma by Jane Austen via amazon.com

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Last Updated on November 4, 2020

15 Simple Ways To Make Self Improvement That Will Change Your Life

15 Simple Ways To Make Self Improvement That Will Change Your Life

Self-improvement doesn’t have to be big mind-blowing changes; it can actually be simple steps to improve upon what you already have to get you where you want to be.  However, what you will need is consistency, determination and wiliness to try some things that will stretch and challenge you.

Rather than setting your sights way off into the future, which leaves you feeling like you’ll never make it, you can start following these simple and effective self-improvement steps today.  So if you want to make an immediate impact on your life and are willing to take action, then keep reading— you’ll going to love these!

1. Be willing to work hard.

As with anything in life, if you want something, you’ve got to work hard to get it.  This doesn’t mean you burn the candle at both ends, leaving you exhausted and leaving your personal life in ruins.  It merely means that when you want something badly enough, you’ll put in the time to get there.  Action is what’s important here and the more ‘inspired’ the action is, the better the results in the end.

2. Make sure you have friends who you can talk to.

Sharing the load is important as with any self-improvement. If you can communicate with others and get feedback on how you are doing then that’s great.  We all need ‘cheerleaders’ in our corner to keep us going when times get hard, but you also need to have people who will tell you how it is even when you don’t want to hear it.  So make sure you have a good support network around you, especially those people whose opinions you respect.

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3. Adapt to your circumstances rather than over-thinking them.

Sometimes, we can hit a hard period. Perhaps you’ve lost your job or your partner has left you.  Instead of over analyzing the situation, learn to adapt to your circumstances and accept them as they are.  It’s not about making your circumstances into some kind of a drama; remember, what you focus on expands which means you’ll get more of it.  You then don’t become your problems and you’ll feel a lot less burdened by them.

4. Ensure that you use your time wisely.

Time is of the essence, some might say; whilst others will say that time is an illusion.  One thing we do know is that you have one life on this planet, so how you use that time is of the utmost importance.  So how can you use your time wisely? Only you know how to do that, but look at how you currently spend your days: do you sit working all day, get home, eat and then sit slumped in front of the TV for the rest of the evening?  Your time on this earth is precious, so isn’t it time to make use of the time you have left? Try something new, go for a walk, learn a new language or meditate but make sure it’s something you absolutely love.

5. Always be consistent.

A wonderful way to self-improvement is to make changes to how you do things.  For example, with your friends, are you always the unreliable one who bows out of an arrangement just before it happens? Or are you someone who starts a new exercise routine and then stops doing it 3 weeks into it?  Whatever it is and whatever you do, always be consistent. When you make a commitment, stick to it. It will improve your life immeasurably you’ll feel more confident and happier with yourself, especially because you’ll know that whatever you tackle, you’ll be able to consistently do it!

6. Go and find your happy place.

No, I’m not saying “place” as in popping to your local bar or restaurant and gorging yourself on your favorite drinks or food. What I’m saying is to find out what you love to do, what makes you happy and go there.  Your happy place is a place where you find peace, where you lose yourself and feel contented.  Meditation is a great way to find your happy place; it brings you back to you and ensures that you are always living in the present moment.

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7. Make sure you embrace all your emotions.

In life you are going to find that it throws you some difficult challenges, sometimes it will bring out your fears and lead you into uncertainty, and other times it will be joyful.  It’s important to embrace all emotions that come up in your life, embrace them wholeheartedly and understand why they are there and then let them go.  Try not to dismiss or resist them because remember “what you resist, persists,” so embrace them each and every time.

8. Always be prepared to step out of your comfort zone.

The idea of stepping out of your comfort zone for some people can leave you paralyzed with fear; however for any changing in your life, your comfort zone will always have to be stepped out of.  It doesn’t have to be something big, like doing a sky-dive or something just as crazy. However, it’s worthwhile to change something that you’d once have feared, like going to the cinema on your own or eating at a sushi restaurant when the thought of trying raw fish which would normally mean you running for the hills.

So try something new—it doesn’t have to be wacky, but it has to challenge you!

9. Be on hand to help others.

Whether it’s helping a stranger on the street or a family member or a friend helping someone else either in their time of need, lending a helping hand is a wonderful and simple self-improvement to make.  Giving to others is not only beneficial to those you are helping but also to yourself; it can give you a sense of purpose, of contribution and also takes your mind of your own troubles and worries.

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10. Live in the present moment.

A wonderful self-improvement tool is to live in the present moment, to live in the now.  It is within this moment that you’ll appreciate all that you have and see the beauty in the simplest of things.  Being mindful of your current circumstances and bringing your mind back to where it belongs will bring about a happier way of life instead of constant worry or stressing about the past or future—both of which do not exist. Only the present moment exists. When you get used to living that way, you’ll never want to go back!

11. Learn something new.

There is nothing so liberating as learning something new; it can lift both your confidence and self-esteem and give you a great reason to meet new people.  If you continually top up your brain activity by learning something new all the time, you’ll feel on top of your game and want to share the knowledge you have learned. There is nothing quite so empowering as learning a new tool in life that can either improve your circle of friends or raise confidence levels—or both!

Reading is also a great way to help you learn something new:

12. Exercise daily.

This seems an obvious one, but exercise is so important not only to your health but also to your spirit.  We all know that after exercise, the world can feel a brighter and more positive place, so why don’t we do it more often?  Exercise isn’t about getting the perfect body or losing weight; it’s more about feeling good inside and out!  With a healthy body comes a healthy mind—so start something today. Even if it’s just a daily walk, it’s better than staying on that couch, again.

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13. Go to new places, travel a bit.

I’m not saying go fly off to some far away distant forgotten land—although you can if you so wish. It’s more about going to new places and experiencing life outside of your own back yard.  Too many of us stay in one place too often. We only see the same people, the same streets and do the same things each and every day.  If you want to improve your life, get out there and see the world and what it can offer.  You can start by going to a town or city you’ve never been to in your own country and checking out the architecture, the landscapes and the people.  Anything new is good, so get out there!

14. Listen to uplifting music and dance.

If there’s one thing that can really improve your life and get you excited about it, it’s listening to great uplifting music and dancing.  When was the last time you really let go?  Let it all hang loose and got into a piece of music and let yourself go?  Dancing, like exercise, makes you feel great. It releases all kinds of emotions and can make you feel unbelievably good.  Self-improvement isn’t all about the serious stuff; it can be something as simple as finding new music, music that inspires you and makes you dance and have fun!

15. Get up earlier than normal.

This is the last one, and it’s last because it’s one of those self-improvement tips that we all know is a good thing, yet we seem to avoid it at all costs!  If you think about it, the earliest part of the day is when your brain is most active because it’s been turned off for the last 7 hours or so.  So don’t you think it’s best to get all those things above done in the morning?  Things like exercise, meditation and dancing, which can all be done in the first part of the day.  Take it from me: this early morning stuff can really get your day started with a bang!

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Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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