When I hear the phrase “words to live by” I think of Facebook memes and quotes at the end of writing exercises. But they are more than that. Often they’re a shorthand for someone’s philosophy toward a particular thing or life in general (Don’t sweat the small stuff), or an emotion. Speaking of which, I am not sure where “Bless her heart” became a “fuck you”. That is not how it’s used in the South, rumors to the contrary.
I can think of three phrases I use often and the reasons behind all of them. I fall back on “everything happens for a reason” to help cope with minor disappointment. An example would be the events of one evening when we had tickets for a concert two hours away. First my partner had an appointment she had to keep so I was to meet her. Being pathologically early, I left home in plenty of time. Along the way I realized I had forgotten the tickets and had to return home. I’d never taken this exit before, ended up wandering around the back streets of a city and being totally lost. (This was before GPS). When I did finally get back on the road I ran into traffic that was literally stopped. Basically I was in a parking lot for nearly an hour. When I picked up my partner we decided that something was telling us not to make this trip so we went home, convinced that we would have been in an accident or something had we continued.
“I can do anything for 15 minutes” is another I use often to make myself start something I don't want to do. It isn’t always true of course, but it does usually urge me to action. I try to use it when scheduling big tasks, and setting goals I am resistant to, even though I know I must (for instance, physical therapy exercises).
One I remind myself of (although sometimes don’t listen to myself), is “don’t love anything that doesn’t love your back”. This includes jobs, possessions, and toxic people. Sometimes that even includes a story that won’t let itself be written and causes too much stress.
My favorite is “life is short”. Sometimes I’m so busy working on one thing to another that I forget to stop and enjoy my life. Then I remember another favorite, “Life isn’t a rehearsal”. These words to live by remind me how to live.