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Origin and Meaning of 'Don't Rest on Your Laurels'

Do you know what it means to 'rest on your laurels'?

By Margaret MinnicksPublished 6 months ago 3 min read
A laurel wreath/Photo

Perhaps you have heard the expression, "Don't rest on your laurels"? Maybe you don't know exactly what it means. However, the warning is a valid one.

What Are Laurels?

In order to understand the meaning of the warning, a person must know what laurels are.

A laurel is a type of circular wreath made from leaves and branches as shown in the above photo. A laurel referred to in the expression is a wreath worn on the head, usually as a symbol of victory.

Julius Caesar is often seen in photos with a laurel on his head as a symbol of his military victories and status as a triumphant general.

By Ilona Frey on Unsplash

In ancient Rome, the wreath was made from the leaves of the bay laurel tree, which was sacred to Apollo, the god of poetry, music, and prophecy.

Origin of "Don't Rest on Your Laurels"

The origin of the phrase is a very interesting one, especially if someone is fond of Greek mythology. In ancient Greece, laurel wreaths were symbols of victory and status.

The image of Apollo is seen wearing a laurel wreath on a 2nd-century BC coin based on the myth of Apollo's love for the nymph Daphne. Apollo, the Greek god, is said to have turned into a Bay tree just as he approached Daphne. He wore a wreath and declared the plant sacred. The Greeks began to present laurel wreaths to winners in the Pythian Games, which were held in honor of Apollo every four years from the 6th century BC.

The bay laurel tree was considered sacred. Its leaves were believed to have prophetic powers and were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to make wreaths for their leaders and heroes. The tree's strong and pleasant fragrance also made it a popular choice for use in religious ceremonies and offerings to the gods.

The bay laurel was also associated with victory and achievement. In ancient Greece and Rome, victors in athletic competitions and military campaigns were often crowned with wreaths made from the leaves of the bay laurel tree, which symbolized their success and honor.

Meaning of "Don't Rest on Your Laurels"

Now that you have learned about laurels, let's explore the meaning of the expression, "Don't rest on your laurels." If you win and become victorious after an event or task, people might not give you tree leaves, but they might give you comments, flowers, prizes, trophies, or awards to mark your success.

When you rest on your laurels, you're happy with previous successes but you don't continue succeeding because you have become complacent. You might believe that one success was enough and you might not do much to accomplish more. However, the expression is a warning not to stop succeeding but to continue doing great things because there is so much more that you can do.

"Resting on your laurels" could also mean that you are too busy basking in the memories of former glories that you aren't motivated to do more to achieve more.

What would the public have missed if Michael Jordan had quit after winning one basketball game, if John Grisham had stopped after writing one bestseller, or if Steven Spielberg had made only one film?

"Don't Rest on Your Laurels"

"Don't rest on your laurels" is not only a warning, but it is also good advice for anyone and not just for famous people. It is for everyone because everyone should continue doing great things for themselves and for the people who are counting on them.

When you rest on your laurels, you do not improve upon what you could eventually do because the more you do a thing, the better you will be at doing it. Instead of resting on your laurels, compete against yourself and aim for your next assignment to be an improvement of your last one.

Get in the habit of moving up and beyond what you could do if you continue doing it. That's what successful people do. Instead of resting on their laurels, they keep going and doing marvelous things.

You can be like other longtime successful people if you heed the warning and do not "rest on your laurels."


About the Creator

Margaret Minnicks

Margaret Minnicks shares articles with readers all over the world. Topics include celebrities, royal family, movies, television, foods, drinks, health issues, and other interesting things. Thanks in advance for TIPS that are sent my way.

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  • Mariann Carroll6 months ago

    This a great advice as very informative, thank you ❤️🏆

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