No, really. It's okay if you're not feeling 100 percent today. Nobody feels like they can conquer the Orcs of life or Tom Brady their career to the end goal all the time. But you know what's not okay? Wallowing. You have to get back up. You have to try. People depend on you, whether they're your kids, your team members or your old neighbor who always needs help carrying her groceries. (You depend on you, too, by the way.) So how can you get your mojo back and stand face into the wind? Maybe you don't have time to read all those great inspirational books everybody keeps recommending to you. But you have five minutes to read a poem. These are the top 6 sets of verses to create mental armor with, in ascending order of pure greatness.
6. Character of the Happy Warrior (William Wordsworth)
Modeled after Lord Nelson, one of the great leaders of the Napoleonic Wars, Character of the Happy Warrior describes the ideal fighter. Wordsworth weaves together the traits all successful leaders should aspire to build in themselves, such as generosity, tenderness, diligent learning, self-knowledge, faithfulness, humility and honor. Taken metaphorically, the poem is a reminder of who you can become, painting a clear portrait of what types of behavior ultimately conquer evil and lead to happiness.
5. Desiderata ("Desired Things") (Max Ehrman)
Ever denied your dreams or ignored your gut? Judged too harshly or felt out of place? In Desiderata, Ehrman encourages you to be loving and peaceful not just to others, but also to yourself. It notes that everyone has struggles, that you belong and that the world is still beautiful.
4. How Did You Die? (Edmund Vance Cooke)
In the words of Braveheart, "Every man dies. Not every man really lives." That's the sentiment in How Did You Die, which maintains that your attitude and perseverance in the face of adversity is everything. More broadly, the poem is a call not to give up and give it everything you've got. Even if you lose, the fight counts.
3. If (Rudyard Kipling)
Kipling wrote If as advice to his son, but it's good advice for you, too. It summarizes how a person has to behave in specific, challenging circumstances before they can be considered mature or adult. Highlighting virtues like patience, self-confidence and calm in the face of panic, the theme essentially is "When you can conquer this, you're ready."
2. Don't Quit (Edgar A. Guest)
This poem admits that life is unpredictable. But Don't Quit also points out that, very often, it's when things look bleakest that we're close to a breakthrough. So you have to keep going, because you could be just steps away from success and not even know it.
1. Invictus ("Unconquered") (William Ernest Henley)
There are going to be people who tell you that you can't. There will be times when you feel like you've gotten run over by a fleet of trucks. But ultimately, it's you who is "the master of [your] soul". You have a choice about how to behave, what to do and who to become. No one can take that from you. For the recognition of and thankfulness for a warrior spirit, and for the staunch emphasis on both personal responsibility and courage, Invictus consistently ranks as the most inspirational poem of all time.