Molly Pennington, PhDUpdated: Mar. 16, 2022
Need some inspiration? These insightful quotes will give you the wisdom and encouragement to help you live your best life.
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On changing your life
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” —Maya Angelou
Author and activist Maya Angelou’s wise quotes often speak to finding hope while openly facing some very harsh realities. This inspirational line, from her poem “On the Pulse of Morning,” offers the reminder that while we can’t change our past, we can learn from it and, as a result, change our future. She read these optimistic words at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. These 15 stories prove that it’s never too late to change your life.
On standing up for what is right
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
In this quote from his book Strength to Love, Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us not to be complacent or to shy away from the hard things in life. A person’s true character is revealed when he or she does the right thing, even when it’s controversial or uncomfortable. Don’t miss these 20 inspirational quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. that will restore your faith in humanity.
On perseverance and success
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.” —Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln wrote these wise words in 1855 in a letter to a young man studying to be a lawyer. Lincoln himself had little formal schooling in his early life and was a self-taught lawyer before becoming president, so he knew full well that success comes from sheer will and perseverance as much as from individual circumstances or other outside factors.
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On living your best life
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” —Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi, who promoted the concept of nonviolent civil disobedience, inspired Martin Luther King, Jr. and many other leaders seeking racial justice through peace and pacifism. This wise quote, however, reminds us all not to take life for granted—and to try to better ourselves each and every day. Don’t miss these 18 wise quotes about peace from world leaders.
On figuring out what you truly want
“Alone time is when I distance myself from the voices of the world so I can hear my own.” —Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Magazine‘s “What I Know for Sure” column contains wise quotes on life and success from the iconic queen of inspiration herself. Here, she writes about the value of taking a step back and distancing ourselves from other people’s opinions so that we can figure out what we truly want and need. Inside each of us, there’s a core, a north star, a guide. We just need to find some silence to hear it—and to be mindful enough to listen to it.
On dealing with a tough situation
“The best way out is always through.” —Robert Frost
This wise quote comes from Robert Frost’s 1915 book North of Boston, in a poem titled “A Servant to Servants.” The poem’s speaker is an overworked woman who suffers from mental illness and reveals her thoughts to a stranger she meets. Through her words, Frost conveys the difficult but courageous urge to keep going, despite the often harsh loneliness of life.
On helping those in need
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” —Franklin D. Roosevelt
The 32nd president, FDR, served four terms shepherding the nation through the Great Depression and World War II. This wise quote came from his Inaugural Address on January 20, 1937, and in it, he urges citizens to consider those who are less fortunate than they are. His social programs and New Deal plan reflected this sentiment, as they offered economic relief to Americans who were struggling. If you’re looking for a way to make a difference, check out these 9 powerful ways to give to charity without breaking the bank.
On living life to the fullest
“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
This famous quote comes from the transcendental philosopher’s essay collection, The Conduct of Life, first published in 1860. These wise words appear in a poem included in the preface that encourages people to live fully and joyfully. Emerson also offers this other nugget of wisdom: Of all the “wits” we possess, living well is the best of all.
“Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you get.” —George Bernard Shaw
The playwright George Bernard Shaw, known for his scathing wit and interest in social reform, often commented on the nature of life and provide us with a number of wise quotes. In this one, from his 1903 play Man and Superman, Shaw muses on the conundrum at the root of happiness—and advises people to make sure they’re getting what they truly want when it comes to life and love. Here are 49 quotes that perfectly capture what it’s like to fall in love.
On getting through life’s hardest challenges
“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” —Friedrich Nietzsche
You’ve probably said this quote more than once, without realizing where it came from. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote this wise saying in The Twilight of the Idols, published in 1899. And it’s actually part of a longer quote: “From the military school of life: What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” The “military school” in this aphorism refers to life itself, an often hard-knock adventure in which everyone ends up wounded in one way or another. According to Nietzsche, the hard stuff is the good stuff because it makes you who you are—and after you go through it, you’re a lot tougher than you would have been otherwise.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
Just one of many of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s wise quotes, these poignant words point to the idea of self-confidence and the true power that we all have within us. No matter what the circumstances, it’s our choice to believe what we’re told, to ignore it, or to rebel against it. Self-confidence comes from within. For more inspiration from trailblazing pioneers, check out these 30 women who changed the world.
On calming your anxiety
“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying. It’s the worrying that gets you, not the loss of sleep.” —Dale Carnegie
Insomniacs, take heart: You don’t have to toss and turn all night, according to Dale Carnegie. The author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, he knew a thing or two about creating your own success—and that included not driving yourself crazy with worry until the wee hours of the morning. Instead, as he suggests, a little distraction can go a long way.
On living in the moment
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” —Lao Tzu
This ancient Chinese philosopher founded Taoism, the practice of living in harmony with the “Tao,” a force that flows through all things. In this wise quote, Lao Tzu suggests that living in the present moment is the key to inner peace and overall happiness. To help you achieve a greater level of contentment, check out these 18 wise quotes about forgiveness to help you finally move on.
“When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.” —Paulo Coelho
In this quote from Paulo Coelho’s best-selling novel The Alchemist, he suggests that individual will is what truly propels a person toward success. In other words, if you acknowledge what you want and put out the right vibes, magic can happen. The universe is working with you, not against you, as everything seems to fall into place and you turn your dreams into realities. To help the universe along just a little bit, try these 10 things wildly successful people do every day.
Originally Published: October 02, 2019
Molly Pennington, PhD
Molly is a writer and collage artist with a PhD in film and cultural studies from the University of Pittsburgh. Her professional astrology services and artwork are available at Baroque Moon Astrology. She covers the zodiac, books, movies, TV and culture for Reader’s Digest, and loves to talk about all the ways we make meaning.