The 40 best quotes of all time

Words have a way with us. From the ancient wisdom of Socrates and Confucius (“It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop”) to 17th century philosophical propositions (“I think, therefore I am”) through to needlepoint proverbs (“When one door closes another one opens”), quips from entrepreneurial business minds (“Screw it, let’s do it”) and the tiny-square-sized pep talks of today (YOLO!), certain turns of phrase have long tickled our aspirational natures.

Ready for a hearty helping of motivation? We’ve rounded up the 40 best quotes of all time, from progressive thinkers across the ages, to uplift and inspire you in all areas of life.

Quotes on success

Balloons, 40 best quotes of all time

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We all want to succeed, but doing so is as much about defining success as it is achieving it. These clever folk see success (and its pursuit) as a mindset—one that we can all master.

1. “Success isn’t about how your life looks to others. It’s about how it feels to you.” Michelle Obama

2. “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford

3. “What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.” Bob Dylan

4. “I never dreamed of success. I worked for it.” Estee Lauder

5. “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” Zig Ziglar

Quotes on creativity

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There’s nothing like some well-worded inspiration to shift creative blocks and get ideas flowing—and who better to provide it than a few famed creators?

6. “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Albert Einstein

7. “Always keep your eyes open. Keep watching. Because whatever you see can inspire you.” Grace Coddington

8. “The Earth without art is just eh.” Anonymous

9. “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” Pablo Picasso

10. “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” John Steinbeck

Quotes on adversity

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When the going gets tough, snatches of wisdom from those who have been there, done that (got the t-shirt) can change our perspective and turn negative thinking around.

11. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Frederick Douglass

12. “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill

13. “If things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew, just go right along and you’ll start happening too.” Dr. Seuss

14. “You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” Brené Brown

15. “Once all struggle is grasped, miracles are possible.” Mao Zedong

Quotes on style

Style, 40 best quotes of all time

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Research shows our mood can be affected by what we’re wearing – so personal style is not something to brush off as skin deep. Just ask these fashionable forward-thinkers.

16. “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” Yves Saint Laurent

17. “One is never over-dressed or under-dressed with a little black dress.” Karl Lagerfeld

18. “I firmly believe that with the right footwear one can rule the world.” Bette Midler

19. “You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” Edith Head

20. “Fashion you can buy, but style you possess. The key to style is learning who you are, which takes years. There's no how-to roadmap to style. It’s about self expression and, above all, attitude.” Iris Apfel

Quotes on love

Love on card, 40 best quotes of all time

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Many a word has been written in the name of love—but as any Agony Aunt will tell you, when it comes to matters of the heart we need all the guidance we can get.

21. “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Maya Angelou

22. “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” Oscar Wilde

23. “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

24. “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi

25. “You know it’s love when all you want is that person to be happy, even if you’re not part of their happiness.” Julia Roberts

Quotes on power

Chess pieces, 40 best quotes of all time

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Power is not reserved for big names. Don’t believe us? As the Dalai Lama pointed out: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

26. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt

27. “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Alice Walker

28. “Knowledge is power.” Francis Bacon

29. “Do the thing and you will have the power.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

30. “If you haven’t the strength to impose your own terms upon life, then you must accept the terms it offers you.” T.S. Eliot

Quotes on failure

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Mistakes. Missteps. Stuff-ups. Blunders. Breakdowns. You can look at these things as failures or you can see them like these influential leaders do—as springboards to success.

31. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison

32. “Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” Dalai Lama

33. “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan

34. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.” John Maxwell

35. “Failing is another stepping-stone to greatness.” Oprah Winfrey

Quotes on happiness

Happy girl, 40 best quotes of all time

Perhaps it is the very point of our existence on this little blue planet, but being happy isn’t a straightforward task. Leave it to these trusty soul searchers to bring the smiles.

36. “I’m choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I’m making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.” Elizabeth Gilbert

37. “When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy”. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” John Lennon

38. “When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.” Helen Keller

39. “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.” Thich Nhat Hanh

40. “Be happy with what you have. Be excited about what you want.” Alan Cohen

There you have it – 40 of the finest quotes you can find. And now that we’ve got you all good and inspired, why not capture your own words of wisdom in a Pinterest graphic or Instagram post? Happy wordsmithing!


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