I sincerely wish war was a pleasanter and easier business than it is, but it does not admit of holidays.
—Abraham Lincoln (1809–65) American Head of State
To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life, and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.
—Flannery O’Connor (1925–1964) American Novelist
Life is so constructed that an event does not, cannot, will not, match the expectation.
—Charlotte Bronte (1816–1855) English Novelist, Poet
I have done what I could do in life, and if I could not do better, I did not deserve it. In vain have I tried to step beyond what bound me. Despite my years, I am still trying.
—Maurice Maeterlinck (1862–1949) Belgian Poet, Playwright, Essayist
It is only fools who keep straining at high C all their lives.
—Charles Dudley Warner (1829–1900) American Essayist, Novelist
To dream too much of the person you would like to be is to waste the person you are.
When I decided to go into politics I weighted the costs. I would get criticism. But I went ahead. So when virulent criticism came I wasn’t surprised. I was better able to handle it.
—Herbert Hoover (1874–1964) 31st American President
When one’s expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have.
—Stephen Hawking (1942–2018) English Theoretical Physicist, Cosmologist, Academic
We set up harsh and unkind rules against ourselves. No one is born without faults. That man is best who has fewest.
—Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus) (65–8 BCE) Roman Poet
Half the unhappiness in the world is due to the failure of plans which were never reasonable, and often impossible.
—E. W. Howe (1853–1937) American Novelist, Editor
Happy the man who early learns the wide chasm that lies between his wishes and his powers.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) German Poet
Good is not good, when better is expected.
—Thomas Fuller (1608–61) English Cleric, Historian
No one is expected to achieve the impossible.
We expect more of ourselves than we have any right to, in virtue of our endowments
—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809–94) American Physician, Essayist
The chief duty I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.
—Helen Keller (1880–1968) American Author
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.
—Henry David Thoreau (1817–62) American Philosopher
People don’t ever seem to relate that doing what’s right is no guarantee against misfortune.
—William McFee (1881–1966) English Writer
Prospect is often better than possession.
—Thomas Fuller (1608–61) English Cleric, Historian
He that will have a perfect brother must resign himself to remain brotherless.
I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
—Edward Everett Hale (1822–1909) American Unitarian Clergyman, Writer
I can’t write a book commensurate with Shakespeare, but I can write a book by me.
—Walter Raleigh (1552–1618) English Courtier, Navigator, Poet
Nature is what you may do. There is much you may not do.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) American Philosopher
To expect life to be tailored to our specifications it to invite frustration.
To wish to act like angels while we are still in this world is nothing but folly.
—Teresa of Avila (1515–82) Spanish Carmelite Nun, Mystic
There is a proper balance between not asking enough of oneself and asking or expecting too much.
—May Sarton (1912–95) American Children’s Books Writer, Poet, Novelist
We cannot all be masters,
nor all masters cannot he truly followed.
—William Shakespeare (1564–1616) British Playwright
Learn to … be what you are, and learn to resign with a good grace all that you are not.
—Henri Frederic Amiel (1821–81) Swiss Moral Philosopher, Poet, Critic
No one has ever loved anyone the way everyone wants to be loved.
—Mignon McLaughlin (1913–83) American Journalist, Author
Real life is, to most men … a perpetual compromise between the ideal and the possible.
—Bertrand A. Russell (1872–1970) British Philosopher, Mathematician, Social Critic
Life to the great majority is only a constant struggle for mere existence, with the certainty of losing it at last.
—Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) German Philosopher
Marriage is not just spiritual communion and passionate embraces; marriage is also three meals a day, sharing the workload and remembering to carry out the trash.
—Joyce Brothers (1927–2013) American Psychologist, Advice Columnist
If you expect perfection from people your whole life is a series of disappointments, grumblings and complaints. If, on the contrary, you pitch your expectations low, taking folks as the inefficient creatures which they are, you are frequently surprised by having them perform better than you had hoped.
—Bruce Fairchild Barton (1886–1967) American Author, Advertising Executive, Politician
It has been a thousand times observed, and I must observe it once more, that the hours we pass with happy prospects in view are more pleasing than those crowned with fruition.
—Oliver Goldsmith (1730–74) Irish Novelist, Playwright, Poet
I hope to work, support my children and die quietly without pain.
—Sean Connery (1930–2020) Scottish Actor, Film Producer
We do not write as we want, but as we can.
—W. Somerset Maugham (1874–1965) British Novelist, Short-Story Writer, Playwright
If you aspire to the highest place, it is no disgrace to stop at the second, or even the third, place.
—Cicero (106BCE–43BCE) Roman Philosopher, Orator, Politician, Lawyer
Life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.
—O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) (1862–1910) American Writer of Short Stories
Knowledge of what is possible is the beginning of happiness.
—George Santayana (1863–1952) Spanish-American Poet, Philosopher
Nobody’s problem is ideal. Nobody has things just as he would like them. The thing to do is to make a success with what material I have. It is a sheer waste of time and soul-power to imagine what I would do if things were different. They are not different.
—Frank Hall Crane (1873–1948) American Stage and Film Actor, Director
Hope for a miracle, but don’t depend on one.
—The Talmud Sacred Text of the Jewish Faith
Vex not thy spirit at the course of things; they heed not thy vexation. How ludicrous and outlandish is astonishment at anything that may happen in life.
—Marcus Aurelius (121–180) Emperor of Rome, Stoic Philosopher
Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps, for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be.
—William Hazlitt (1778–1830) English Essayist
If you want a place in the sun, you’ve got to put up with a few blisters.
—Pauline Phillips (Abigail van Buren) (b.1918) American Columnist
We would have to settle for the elegant goal of becoming ourselves.
—William Styron (1925–2006) American Novelist, Essayist, Writer
It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.
—Seneca the Younger (Lucius Annaeus Seneca) (c.4 BCE–65 CE) Roman Stoic Philosopher, Statesman, Tragedian
People are lucky and unlucky … according to the ratio between what they get and what they have been led to expect.
No one is happy all his life long.
—Euripides (480–406 BCE) Ancient Greek Dramatist
Nothing is so good as it seems beforehand.
—George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) (1819–80) English Novelist
No man can climb out beyond the limitations of his own character.
—John Morley, 1st Viscount Morley of Blackburn (1838–1923) British Political Leader, Writer, Editor, Journalist
There is no such thing as pure pleasure; some anxiety always goes with it.
—Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso) (c.43 BCE–c.18 CE) Roman Poet