Live Laugh Love: The Origin Story Behind the Popular Saying

live love laugh

We’ve all strolled through a department store and stumbled upon a decorative throw pillow or wall hanging with the infamous phrase “Live Laugh Love.” It’s a phrase ingrained in our social verbiage, but do you actually know where the popular phrase first came from?

Let’s take a look at its interesting origins and how it became a staple in early 2000s decor and still perseveres in some homes today.

The Origins of Live Laugh Love

The phrase Live Laugh Love actually comes from a thoughtful poem by author Bessie Anderson Stanley named Success. The poem details the life of someone who achieved “success,” and it explains what the word means from the author’s perspective. Success, to the subject, was not riches or fame, but the company of good people and knowing that they made the world a better place.

He has achieved success
who has lived well,
laughed often, and loved much;
who has enjoyed the trust of
pure women,
the respect of intelligent men and
the love of little children;
who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
who has left the world better than he found it
whether by an improved poppy,
a perfect poem or a rescued soul;
who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty
or failed to express it;
who has always looked for the best in others and
given them the best he had;
whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.

While you might associate the phrase more as something to fill space on a kitchen wall, it’s origins are that of a contemplative funeral poem.

To further ingrain the phrase as something fit for a funeral, there’s a similar quote by James Joyce published in 1939 – “They lived and laughed and loved and left” – that also uses Live Laugh Love in the context of death. Despite its popularity as a simple, lighthearted phrase, you can still purchase coffins with the phrase inside.

The poem was published in 1904, so Stanley never saw the phenomenon her words inspired about a century later.

After the poem’s publication, the phrase was plucked from the poem and popularized by newspapers such as Ann Landers and Dear Abby columns. The quote was misattributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and he still occasionally gets credit for the phrase to this day.

Using Live Laugh Love as a Mantra Today

As the phrase has moved on from its funeral origins to become the subject of home decor and throw pillows, how can you use the popular phrase to inspire yourself today?

Ironically, the way to find depth in the phrase that has become casual and almost flippant is to return to its origins.

The poem it comes from says the subject achieved success by enjoying the company of quality friends, making the world a better place, appreciating the beauty of nature, and giving the world their best.

Suddenly the phrase no longer seems as shallow.

What would our lives be like if we decided that we defined our success not by the job we had or how much money we made but by whether or not we are truly happy and made a difference?

Let’s take a look at each of the words and see how you can choose to better your life by focusing on the phrase as a three part mantra.

Live

  • See each day as a gift.
  • Live each day with gratitude.
  • Think “I get to” instead of “I have to.”
  • See your life as something you can control. If you don’t like the way things are, you have the power to change your direction.
  • Go on adventures and don’t take a single day for granted.

Laugh

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Give yourself a reason to smile every day.
  • Take a break to do something fun.
  • Try your best to bring joy to other people’s lives.
  • Find hobbies you genuinely enjoy.

Love

  • Live compassionately.
  • Invest in your relationships with others.
  • Spend time with those you love.
  • Be available when people ask for help.
  • Always say “I love you” in words and actions.

The Future of Live Laugh Love

As with all things, trends come and go. For years, we adorned our homes with wall decals of “Keep Calm and Carry On,” so who’s to say what will replace Live Laugh Love in the future? The phrase certainly has a hold on the current middle-aged home decor culture, but it’s only a matter of time before it’s phased out for something new.

Will Live Laugh Love enter the counterculture and become something seen among the boho decor of aging millennials? No one can say for sure. The only way you can keep your house beautiful is by choosing the decor that makes you happy. Who cares if decor is in vogue or not as long as seeing it on your wall brings you a bit of joy?

Sarah Margaret Henry
Latest posts by Sarah Margaret Henry (see all)
Published in Featured Articles, Life

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