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Our 50 Most Inspiring Quotes

We all go through times when the future seems bleak, and in those moments, positive affirmations can help uplift and reassure us. Finding inspiration in the words of others is a great way to break free from the feelings of doubt, uncertainty, or fear that hold us back. We’re all capable of achieving greatness, but sometimes it takes the words of a wise individual to remind us of that.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an author experiencing writer’s block, a painter lacking a muse, or an injured athlete down on your luck. Whatever the situation may be, and however tempting it might be to give up, sometimes all it takes is a little inspiration to reset our perspective and propel us toward our goal.

Over the years, we here at Inspiring Quotes have gathered hundreds of … well, inspiring quotes from people of all walks of life. However, there are a few pieces of wisdom that have resonated especially strongly with our readers (and with us). Here are 50 quotes that never cease to inspire us.

Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.
J.M. Barrie

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The Scottish author and playwright Sir James Matthew Barrie may be less well known than his fictional character Peter Pan, but if J.M. Barrie could not fly — or stay forever the same age — he brought as much sunshine into the lives of children as did his well-known protagonist. Read more…

You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.
Thích Nhất Hạnh

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In his book True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart, the Vietnamese monk Thích Nhất Hạnh elaborated on the brahmavihārās, a series of four virtues and corresponding meditation practices made to cultivate them. Read more…

Adopt the pace of nature: Her secret is patience.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Ralph Waldo Emerson was an essayist and lecturer, a poet philosopher, and an activist abolitionist. He also led the transcendentalist movement — a philosophical movement that gained traction along the East Coast of the United States in the 1820s. Read more…

Make glorious, amazing mistakes.
Neil Gaiman

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Neil Gaiman — a British fiction writer, graphic novelist, comic creator, and the screenwriter behind iconic tales including Coraline, American Gods, and The Graveyard Book — is also a prolific diarist and blogger. Read more…

It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.
E.E. Cummings

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Born in 1894 in Massachusetts, E.E. Cummings always knew he wanted to be a poet. When the First World War started, he was deployed in France and, despite the circumstances, fell in love with Paris. Read more…

We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility.
Rabindranath Tagore

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Rabindranath Tagore was a Bengali writer gifted in many mediums, from short stories and essays to songs and plays. In 1913, he became the first non-European writer in history to be awarded a Nobel Prize for literature. Read more…

The art of life is not controlling what happens to us, but using what happens to us.
Gloria Steinem

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A key figure of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and ’70s, journalist and activist Gloria Steinem co-founded Ms. magazine (along with activist Dorothy Pitman Hughes), the first national feminist magazine in the U.S. Read more…

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

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Before he gained fame as a storyteller, Aesop was an enslaved worker in Greece in the sixth century BCE. After he was granted his freedom, legend has it the Greek fabulist traveled the land sharing narratives that would last through the ages, including “The Boy Who Cried Wolf" and “The Tortoise and the Hare.” Read more…

Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.
Albert Einstein

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The month after Albert Einstein’s death in April 1955, an interview with the famed scientist appeared in Life magazine. Read more…

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
Viktor Frankl

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Austrian psychologist Viktor Frankl is known for developing logotherapy, a psychological approach based on the idea that humans are motivated primarily by the search for purpose and meaning. Read more…

The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.

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Though Confucius lived more than 2,500 years ago, the Chinese philosopher is still famous today for his wise teachings. While Confucius’ political and cultural influence is hard to overstate, his beginnings were meager. Read more…

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
Mahatma Gandhi

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As a civil rights activist and independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi’s actions made an enormous impact on society. And to look at his remarkable life, it’s clear that those actions were in alignment with his beliefs and teachings. Read more…

You will either step forward into growth, or you will step backward into safety.
Abraham Maslow

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American psychologist Abraham Maslow is best known for his theory of the “Hierarchy of Needs,” which outlined the basic human needs that must be met before one can seek social or spiritual fulfillment. Read more…

We all have different gifts, so we all have different ways of saying to the world who we are.
Fred Rogers

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As the host and creator of the beloved children’s show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers tackled important topics such as friendship, expressing difficult emotions, and being part of a community. Read more…

Life is a collection of moments. Mindfulness is beautification of the moments.
Amit Ray

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Author and spiritual teacher Amit Ray often uses meditation as a technique to teach compassion and peace — within oneself and toward others. In this quote, Ray encourages living in the moment. Read more…

You got a chance to go up and say something? Don’t be shy. No matter how it comes out, just let it come out.
Fiona Apple

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With this quote, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Fiona Apple — whose lyrics, including those on her universally acclaimed 2020 LP Fetch the Bolt Cutters, often express dark and deep emotional truths — encourages us to let go of our fears and simply speak from the heart. Read more…

Joy is that kind of happiness that does not depend on what happens.
David Steindl-Rast

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David Steindl-Rast is a Benedictine monk and co-founder of an interfaith organization called the Center for Spiritual Studies. In 1974, he was awarded the Martin Buber Award for his work in building dialogues between religions. Read more…

To have become a deeper man is the privilege of those who have suffered.
Oscar Wilde

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When Irish author and playwright Oscar Wilde wrote that suffering was a “privilege,” he did so from experience. Read more…

Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play.
Jane Goodall

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For more than 60 years, Jane Goodall studied the social and family life of chimpanzees, and today she is considered the world’s leading expert on these particular primates. But her path wasn’t easy. Read more…

The simple act of paying attention can take you a long way.
Keanu Reeves

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Keanu Reeves was catapulted to fame through his starring roles in action movie franchises such as The Matrix and John Wick, but it’s his gentle public persona that has earned him a beloved following among fans. Read more…

Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult.
George Eliot

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George Eliot, born Mary Ann Evans in 1819, chose to write under a male pen name for two reasons: She wanted to avoid the stereotype of women’s writing of her day, and sought to protect herself from the scandal of being an unmarried woman living with a married man. Read more…

My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.
Michael J. Fox

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Michael J. Fox first grabbed the attention of America with his portrayal of Alex P. Keaton on the 1980s sitcom Family Ties, and he went on to star in such popular films as Back to the Future and Teen Wolf. Read more…

The gratification comes in the doing, not in the results.
James Dean

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An emblem of Hollywood’s golden age, actor James Dean found critical and commercial success in a career cut short by his accidental death at age 24 in 1955. Read more…

As one goes through life, one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.
Katharine Hepburn

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Katharine Hepburn made her Broadway debut in 1928, the same year she graduated from Bryn Mawr College. After a four-year rise to stardom on the stage, she was invited to Hollywood to work with the RKO Radio Pictures movie studio. Read more…

At the end of the day, you are enough exactly as you are.
Meghan Markle

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Former actress Meghan Markle is now best known as the Duchess of Sussex, the wife of British royal Prince Harry, and in this role she has spoken out on behalf of women all over the world. But her fight for gender equality and equal access to education dates back to when she was 11 years old. Read more…

We are stronger when we listen, and smarter when we share.
Rania Al-Abdullah

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Rania Al-Abdullah, the wife of King Abdullah II, has served as the queen of Jordan for more than 20 years, and in that time she has been a champion for her people as well as several humanitarian causes around the world. Read more…

The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life is the source from which self-respect springs.
Joan Didion

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In her 1961 essay "On Self-Respect," writer and cultural icon Joan Didion laid out one of the most essential truths about self-love. Read more…

You can't shake hands with a clenched fist.
Indira Gandhi

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Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi was the third prime minister of India, as well as the first — and so far, only — woman to hold the position. She served four terms, stepping in and out of the role during the tumultuous period of the mid-20th century. Read more…

It's only possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis.
Margaret Wander Bonanno

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With this simple but poignant observation, science-fiction writer Margaret Bonnano — best known for writing a series of "Star Trek" novels between 1985 and 2010 —  muses that life is not an abstract concept, but the aggregate of how we spend each of our days. Read more…

Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it.
Gilda Radner

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When it came time for comic performer Gilda Radner to title her candid 1989 autobiography, the Emmy winner decided on one of her famous catchphrases (as Roseanne Roseannadanna) from Saturday Night Live: “It’s always something.” Read more…

Freedom lies in being bold.
Robert Frost

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In the early years of his life, Robert Frost worked as a teacher, cobbler, editor, and farmer, but it is poetry for which he will always be remembered. Read more…

Learning never exhausts the mind.
Leonardo da Vinci

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Italian painter and polymath Leonardo da Vinci was a luminary of the Renaissance era — he not only painted such famed works as the “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper;” he was also an architect, inventor, and military engineer. Read more…

To see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.
Georgia O’Keeffe

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Famous for her abstract, close-up paintings of flowers, modernist artist Georgia O’Keeffe was a master of perception and vision. Read more…

If the risk is fully aligned with your purpose and mission, then it’s worth considering.
Peter Diamandis

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Having started more than 20 companies, entrepreneur Peter Diamandis is intimately familiar with risk-taking. A veteran of Silicon Valley, Diamandis’ initiatives, including starting the XPRIZE Foundation, center around futuristic concepts such as AI, space tourism, and human longevity. Read more…

Let us temper our criticism with kindness. None of us comes fully equipped.
Carl Sagan

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Few scientists of the past half-century are as popular as Carl Sagan. As an astronomer and planetary scientist, he’s perhaps best known for his research on extraterrestrial life. Read more…

Above all, don't fear difficult moments. The best comes from them.
Rita Levi-Montalcini

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Italian neurologist and Nobel Laureate Rita Levi-Montalcini is known for her groundbreaking contributions to the field of neuroscience, including the discovery of the nerve growth factor (NGF), which plays a critical role in the growth and survival of nerve cells. Read more…

You don't always have to be doing something. You can just be, and that's plenty.
Alice Walker

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Since writing her first poetry book in 1968, Alice Walker has gone on to publish more than 30 literary works, including her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Color Purple," and has spent decades advocating for women’s rights and civil rights. Read more…

What good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?
John Steinbeck

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John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, where he spent the summers of his youth working on nearby ranches — the setting for much of his literary work, including "Of Mice and Men" and "East of Eden." Read more…

Your path is at your feet whether you realize it or not.
Agnes Martin

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Painter Agnes Martin’s path zigzagged between the three places that most inspired her work: her native Saskatchewan, the New Mexico desert, and New York City. She made her first pieces near Taos, inspired both by the desert and the Canadian prairies of her home. Read more…

It is impossible for you to go on as you were before, so you must go on as you never have.
Cheryl Strayed

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Cheryl Strayed’s memoir "Wild" was a runaway hit in more ways than one. It was so tremendously popular that it ended up being made into a film starring Reese Witherspoon. Read more…

I would rather walk with a friend in the dark than walk alone in the light.
Helen Keller

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Helen Keller, born in 1880, was only 19 months old when she lost both her sight and her hearing. She likened her early years to being “at sea in a dense fog,” but everything changed on March 5, 1887, when Anne Sullivan arrived at her door. Read more…

The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.
Carl Jung

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The son of a pastor, with clergy on both sides of his family, Carl Jung seemed destined to become a minister — until, in his teens, he began studying philosophy. His reading inspired him to pursue a career in medicine and become a psychiatrist. Read more…

It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive.
Maya Angelou

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The poet Maya Angelou was 8 years old when she suffered a trauma that left her ashamed of her own voice, and caused her to go mute for nearly five years. “I thought I would never speak again,” she recalled years later. Read more…

True friendship withstands time, distance, and silence.
Isabel Allende

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Chilean author Isabel Allende is one of the most widely read Spanish-language authors in the world, with a style that combines magical realism, personal experience, and historic events. Read more…

The highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.
John F. Kennedy

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John F. Kennedy was one of the most influential Presidents in United States history, and his leadership and vision shaped the country during a time of incredible transformation. Read more…

One must go on working silently, trusting the result to the future.
Vincent van Gogh

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Though the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh is now considered a master, he was essentially unknown in his own time. Of the more than 1,500 pieces of art he made over the course of his life, he sold only one piece. Read more…

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.
Dalai Lama

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His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was born into a peasant family in Tibet. At the age of two, he was recognized as the reincarnation of his predecessor, and in 1950, at age 16, he stepped into his role as Tibet’s head of state. Read more…

Right actions for the future are the best apologies for wrong ones in the past.
Tryon Edwards

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American theologian and writer Tryon Edwards was a prominent religious figure, serving as a pastor and professor of theology. Read more…

Some things are best mended by a break.
Edith Wharton

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Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton’s ninth novel, “The Custom of the Country,” was published in 1913, the same year her 28-year marriage ended in divorce. Read more…

Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.
Bruce Lee

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Bruce Lee is widely regarded as one of the most influential martial artists of all time and is credited with helping to popularize martial arts in the Western world. Read more…

Featured image credit: ismagilov/ iStock via Getty Images Plus

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About the Author
Bennett Kleinman
Bennett is a staff writer at Optimism as well as a freelance comedy writer. He's based in New York City.
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