Anaïs Nin’s Top 5 Words of Wisdom

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

“A leaf fluttered in through the window this morning, as if supported by the rays of the sun, a bird settled on the fire escape, joy in the task of coffee, joy accompanied me as I walked.”

“I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing.”

Back in the 20:th century there lived a writer in France and the US who had one of my favorite names of all time. Anaïs Nin was a writer of journals that spanned over many decades and presented her view of her personal life and relationships. She was also one of the most critically celebrated writers of erotica.

Anaïs Nin is the source of a few of my favorite quotes of all time. Today I would like to share those and a few more.

1. You are the lens.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

This was one of the biggest revelations I had when I first got into personal development.

I realized that the world was perhaps not fixed in some pattern. I realized that I was mistaking my view of the world with the world itself.

Because the world can be viewed from many different points. And it does change according to who is watching it.

An optimistic person will for example notice the opportunities, things to be grateful for and that even though things may be hard or bad right now they will change once again.

The pessimist will likely stay stuck in inaction, think that his or her world will not change and look down on the optimist as some gullible and naive fool and that way find a way to feel superior and good about himself/herself.

I have tried both ways in my life. I highly recommend going the optimistic route.

Here is an post that can help you with that.

This quote is also interesting because it helps you realize that what you see in your world can also say things about you.

  • If you find a lot of hostility and standoffishness towards you in your world then perhaps you are more like that than you would like to think too?
  • If something about people irritates you then perhaps it is because that quality is something you yourself have and it is something you do not like about yourself?

Think about your world and what it can tell you about yourself. Think about yourself and how you may be interpreting the world in ways that do not serve you very well.

Think about how you could become the change you want to see in your own world.

2. A new world is out there waiting.

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

This is a wonderful thing. If you are open then you can always learn new things from new people. And they can learn from you. And so ideas, new music and fashion, movies and books and recipes are floating between the two of you.

There are of course also other less tangible things that build the world between you such as acceptance, love, understanding and just listening. And these are things you can help each other to get better at too.

So seek out new friends. Friends that will help you. And seek out  friends that aren’t necessarily that much like you because it is there where the both of you can learn much.

3. The balance will tip.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

What is holding people back from really making a change in their lives?

I believe that one big reason is simply what Nin says above.

At some point you have had enough. You understand that this cannot stand anymore. The balance of risk and pain has tipped and you just must change.

Three tips that can help you:

  • Ride on the emotion but have a plan. Even though the emotion of having had enough and so on can propel you forward you also need a plan because that emotion can weaken. So plan. And write down that plan in steps. Keep the plan as simple as you can and focus on just taking one step until it is done and then focus on the next step.
  • Talk to people who have gone where you want to go. Find the information that can help you to grow in the way that you want. Talk to people and read what have been written in books and online. But be sure to only listen to people who have actually gone where you want to go. Life is too short to waste on the advice of people who just want to say something or are an armchair theorist.
  • Gather the support. Find the people who can support you in your change. This can be people but also influences from books, blogs, online forums, offline clubs and so on. Shape your environment so that you spend more time with people and influences that will support you (or at least are neutral). Do not let a few naysayers hold you back. But at the same time be careful about dismissing advice from concerned people.

4. Put in the work if you want the results.

“Good things happen to those who hustle.”

This year I have understood more than ever the value of hustling and putting in a lot of focused work. And so I have put together three books. This website is a lot more popular than ever before. The income I receive from this business has increased quite a bit.

I have understood that if I work smart I can do a lot more than I used to do. And if I work both smart and hard I will reap even more awesome results.

5. Creativity happens in everyday life.

“My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.”

When I talk about my blog with people in the regular offline world one of the most common questions I get is: Where do you get all the ideas from and don’t you run out of them?

My answer is that I don’t run out of ideas because they come from life. I talk to someone about something and an idea for an article springs to life. I see a billboard or the frontpage of a newspaper when I am out and about. I watch the winter snow outside my window while writing these words.

All these things can give me the seed that becomes an article later on.

The important thing is to keep your mind open. To not worry or fret about not having ideas when things are going slow because then you will block your own mind and creativity.

To always carry something to capture your ideas in – I have a cell phone and most often a pen and paper in my coat pocket – because otherwise they tend to fly away just as quickly as they popped into your mind.

It is also important to keep a list of some sort of all the ideas you get – they tend to come to you in small flocks – so that when you feel uninspired or lazy you can just take an idea from your collection and start creating anyway.

Because on those days inspiration tends to catch up to you after you have put in some work.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Wonderful. Yes we do see the world differently. If you talk to sibling there childhood always seems different. They never tell the story the same. Positive thinkers always sees his or her childhood as good or it wasn’t that bad. On the other hand a negative thinker will always find something wrong with there childhood. Next time you are with siblings or friends with siblings there ask them about there childhood and see how each of them see it differently.

    It is really interesting to hear the difference.
    Thanks Henrik, very interesting.

  • I am also a fan of Nin, and you give some great, practical interpretations of some brilliant quotes. I enjoyed this post, and I agree with number 5 particularly. Finding the flashes of inspiration in everyday life, and being prepared to capture them is key as a writer.

  • Loved it!!, yes You are the lens, many times I’ve found myself being bothered by someone that YES might have some traits that I don’t like about myself, but I think that the key is to be aware of that feeling, be present and concious and instead of getting upset or bothered, start making a CHANGE in yourself and you will organically see the change in others, just like Eckhart Tolle stated, OUTFLOW DETERMINES INFLOW. I actually wrote an article that you might find interesting.


    Hopefully you like it ;-)


  • Susan Liddy

    That very first line really speaks to me: “we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” So often we get caught up in our perspective of things… we can’t see the world beyond our noses.

    One of the greatest lessons that I have learned (am learning) in life is to let go… to allow. To step out from beneath my version of things and allow for them to be different. This helps to not take everything personally. And, this helps to really SEE people I am relating with.

    So much to be taught within our relationships. Makes life more rich and meaningful.

  • I love the part about what your interpretation of the world says about you. That’s something that I began to realize in my late twenties. It is amazing that we all seem to live in the same world, but we all experience this world so differently. We all experience life through our own lens, and it has more to do with who we are than how the world truly is.

  • Thank you for your thoughtful comments! :)

  • Great article. Love number 4. Along those same lines would be the harder you work the luckier you get. It’s a mantra that many people either forget or choose to ignore.

  • Mao

    “The pessimist will likely stay stuck in inaction, think that his or her world will not change and look down on the optimist as some gullible and naïve fool and that way find a way to feel superior and good about himself/herself.”

    Very true. Thanks for this Henrik! It’s weird, whenever I propose a positive notion about a situation, my friends would immediately give a counter argument about it and mention how naive I am for thinking about it that way. Often, they’d also compare my accomplishments with theirs, and would project negative comments at me instead of being happy for me..They would say it’s because my life is better than theirs, so I won’t understand their struggles. I guess they have no idea how much work and struggles I had to go through to get to where I am right now.

    It really makes me want to surround myself with positive thinkers. Not because I want them to agree with me, but rather to see things from a different perspective. I’ve struggled to get out of this circle of negativity for sometime, because it’s getting to a point where the negativity is getting to me. But it’s hard to do since I’ve been friends with them for so long.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say this article was a very encouraging and uplifting for me to read. thanks. :)