It is really true what philosophy tells us, that life must be understood backwards. But with this, one forgets the second proposition, that it must be lived forwards.
—Soren Kierkegaard (1813–55) Danish Philosopher, Theologian
The good old days were never that good, believe me. The good new days are today, and better days are coming tomorrow. Our greatest songs are still unsung.
—Hubert Humphrey (1911–78) American Head of State, Politician
Most people’s lives are a direct reflection of their peer groups.
—Tony Robbins (b.1960) American Self-Help Author, Entrepreneur
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In the first stage of life the mind is frivolous and easily distracted; it misses progress by failing in consecutiveness and persistence. This is the condition of children and barbarians.
—George Santayana (1863–1952) Spanish-American Poet, Philosopher
When you do The Work, you see who you are by seeing who you think other people are. Eventually you come to see that everything outside you is a reflection of your own thinking. You are the storyteller, the projector of all stories, and the world is the projected image of your thoughts.
—Byron Katie (b.1942) American Speaker, Author
One must be thrust out of a finished cycle in life, and that leap is the most difficult to make—to part with one’s faith, one’s love, when one would prefer to renew the faith and recreate the passion.
—Anais Nin (1903–77) French-American Essayist
The only use of a knowledge of the past is to equip us for the present. The present contains all that there is. It is holy ground; for it is the past, and it is the future.
—Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947) English Mathematician, Philosopher
True recollection has characteristics by which it can be easily recognized. It produces a certain effect which I do not know how to explain, but which is well understood by those who have experienced it… . It is true that recollection has several degrees, and that in the beginning these great effects are not felt, because it is not yet profound enough. But support the pain which you first feel in recollecting yourself, despise the rebellion of nature, overcome the resistance of the body, which loves a liberty which is its ruin, learn self-conquest, persevere thus for a time, and you will perceive very clearly the advantages which you gain from it. As soon as you apply yourself to orison, you will at once feel your senses gather themselves together: they seem like bees which return to the hive and there shut themselves up to work at the making of honey: and this will take place without effort or care on your part. God thus rewards the violence which your soul has been doing to itself; and gives to it such a domination over the senses that a sign is enough when it desires to recollect itself, for them to obey and so gather themselves together. At the first call of the will, they come back more and more quickly. At last, after countless exercises of this kind, God disposes them to a state of utter rest and of perfect contemplation.
—Teresa of Avila (1515–82) Spanish Carmelite Nun, Mystic
I look back on my life like a good day’s work; it is done and I am satisfied with it.
—Grandma Moses (1860–1961) American Painter, Artist
Say not thou, what is the cause that the former days were better than these, for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.
—The Holy Bible Scripture in the Christian Faith
A little reflection will enable any person to detect in himself that setness in trifles which is the result of the unwatched instinct of self-will and to establish over himself a jealous guardianship.
—Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–96) American Abolitionist, Author
No past is dead for us, but only sleeping, love.
—Helen Hunt Jackson (1830–85) American Novelist, Civil Rights Activist
The individual (no matter how well-meaning he might be, no matter how much strength he might have, if only he would use it) does not have the passion to rip himself away from either the coils of Reflection or the seductive ambiguities of Reflection; nor do the surroundings and times have any events or passions, but rather provide a negative setting of a habit of reflection, which plays with some illusory project only to betray him in the end with a way out: it shows him that the most clever thing to do is nothing at all.
—Soren Kierkegaard (1813–55) Danish Philosopher, Theologian
Whatever results you’re getting, be they rich or poor, good or bad, positive or negative, always remember that your outer world is simply a reflection of your inner world. If things aren’t going well in your outer life, it’s because things aren’t going well in your inner life. It’s that simple.
—T. Harv Eker (b.1954) American Motivational Speaker, Lecturer, Author
When I am anxious it is because I am living in the future. When I am depressed it is because I am living in the past.
The Past: Our cradle, not our prison; there s danger as well as appeal in its glamour. The past is for inspiration, not imitation, for continuation, not repetition.
—Israel Zangwill (1864–1926) English Playwright, Novelist, Zionist Activist
The ages of seven to eleven is a huge chunk of life, full of dulling and forgetting. It is fabled that we slowly lose the gift of speech with animals, that birds no longer visit our windowsills to converse. As our eyes grow accustomed to sight they armour themselves against wonder.
—Leonard Cohen (1934–2016) Canadian Singer, Songwriter, Poet, Novelist
No yesterdays are ever wasted for those who give themselves to today.
—Brendan Behan (1923–64) Irish Poet, Novelist, Playwright
Our ignorance of history makes us libel to our own times. People have always been like this.
—Gustave Flaubert (1821–80) French Novelist, Playwright, Short Story Writer
Yesterday I lived, today I suffer, tomorrow I die; but I still think fondly, today and tomorrow, of yesterday.
—Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–81) German Writer, Philosopher
Reflection makes men cowards.
—William Hazlitt (1778–1830) English Essayist
Oh, for boyhood’s painless play,
Sleep that wakes in laughing day,
Health that mocks the doctor’s rules,
Knowledge never learned of schools.
—John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–92) American Quaker Poet, Abolitionist
No matter what we have come through, or how many perils we have safely passed, or how many imperfect and jagged – in some places perhaps irreparably – our life has been, we cannot in our heart of hearts imagine how it could have been different. As we look back on it, it slips in behind us in orderly array, and, with all its mistakes, acquires a sort of eternal fitness, and even, at times, of poetic glamour.
—Randolph Bourne (1886–1918) American Writer, Scholar
I demolish my bridges behind me … then there is no choice but forward.
—Fridtjof Nansen (1861–1930) Norwegian Explorer, Biologist, Oceanographer
The past is a work of art, free of irrelevancies and loose ends.
—Max Beerbohm (1872–1956) British Essayist, Caricaturist, Novelist
I’m not convinced that the world is in any worse shape than it ever was. It’s just that in this age of almost instantaneous communication, we bear the weight of problems our forefathers only read about after they were solved.
—Burton Hillis (William E. Vaughan) (1915–77) American Columnist, Author
Each had his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart; and his friends could only read the title, James Spalding, or Charles Budgeon, and the passengers going the opposite way could read nothing at all—save “a man with a red moustache,” “a young man in gray smoking a pipe.”
—Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) English Novelist
The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
—Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) Irish Poet, Playwright
Deliberation. The act of examining one’s bread to determine which side it is buttered on.
—Ambrose Bierce (1842–1913) American Short-story Writer, Journalist
This time, like all times, is a very good one if we but know what to do with it.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) American Philosopher
The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
—Abraham Lincoln (1809–65) American Head of State
The biggest thing in today’s sorrow is the memory of yesterday’s joy.
—Kahlil Gibran (1883–1931) Lebanese-born American Philosopher, Poet, Painter, Theologian, Sculptor
Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.
—Satchel Paige (1906–82) American Baseball Player
Nor deem the irrevocable past
As wholly wasted, wholly vain,
If, rising on its wrecks, at last
To something nobler we attain.
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–82) American Poet, Educator, Academic
The past is the best prophet of the future.
—Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron) (1788–1824) English Romantic Poet
Old times never come back and I suppose it’s just as well. What comes back is a new morning every day in the year, and that’s better.
—George Edward Woodberry (1855–1930) American Literary Critic, Poet
A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that everyone of those darkly clustered houses encloses it’s own secret that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of it’s imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!
—Charles Dickens (1812–70) English Novelist
Only by much searching and mining are gold and diamonds obtained, and man can find every truth connected with his being if he will dig deep into the mine of his soul.
—James Allen (1864–1912) British Philosophical Writer
Fear not for the future, weep not for the past.
—Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822) English Poet, Dramatist, Essayist, Novelist
Sum up at night what thou hast done by day, and in the morning what thou hast to do.—Dress and undress thy soul; mark the decay and growth of it.—If with thy watch, that too be down, then wind up both; since we shall be most surely judged, make thine accounts agree.
—George Herbert (1593–1633) Welsh Anglican Poet, Orator, Clergyman
Enjoy yourself. These are the “good old days” you’re going to miss in the years ahead.
Many people dream of success. To me success can only be achieved through repeated failures and introspections. In fact, success represents 1% of your work that results from the 99% that is called failure.
—Soichiro Honda (1906–91) Japanese Inventor
How blessings brighten as they take their flight!
—Edward Young (1683–1765) English Poet
To disdain today is to prove that yesterday has been misunderstood.
—Maurice Maeterlinck (1862–1949) Belgian Poet, Playwright, Essayist
—Socrates (469BCE–399BCE) Ancient Greek Philosopher
They only babble who practise not reflection.—I shall think; and thought is silence.
—Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816) Irish-born British Playwright, Poet, Elected Rep
Retire into yourself as much as possible. Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those whom you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one. People learn as they teach.
—Seneca the Younger (Lucius Annaeus Seneca) (c.4 BCE–65 CE) Roman Stoic Philosopher, Statesman, Tragedian
Then is then. Now is now. We must grow to learn the difference.
The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post.
—Thomas L. Holdcroft
I must first know myself, as the Delphian inscription says; to be curious about that which is not my concern, while I am still in ignorance of my own self, would be ridiculous. And therefore I bid farewell to all this; the common opinion is enough for me. For, as I was saying, I want to know not about this, but about myself: am I a monster more complicated and swollen with passion than the serpent Typho, or a creature of a gentler and simpler sort, to whom Nature has given a diviner and lowlier destiny?
—Socrates (469BCE–399BCE) Ancient Greek Philosopher