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85 Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on living a great life

Want to transcend through time? Use these Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes to do it!

Norbert Juma
Published on March 6, 2020 6:10 AM EST
Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on living a great life

A man that is still an inspiration to countless people today, these Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes will inspire you to look past your struggles to see your greatness within. Emerson was plagued by tragedy throughout his life, but he was driven and determined to shine despite his struggles along the way.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was an incredible writer whose influence extends to the present day.

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on living a great life

His books and writings are constantly discussed in the modern age.

He was a brilliant man that spent his life trying to find answers to life’s greatest questions. Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes are full of timeless wisdom.

Who is Ralph Waldo Emerson?

Unfortunately, Emerson’s father passed away when Ralph was only eight years old. Ralph was raised by his mother whom he had a great relationship with until she too passed away.

Emerson showed incredible talent in school. He was so intelligent that he started attending Harvard at the young age of 14. During this time he took on jobs in order to pay his bills.

After graduating Emerson worked as a schoolmaster at his brother’s school for woman. Unfortunately, during this time two of his brothers died of tuberculosis.

Emerson married his wife Ellen, but tragically she died from tuberculosis a mere two years later. Her death and the death of his family members greatly affected Emerson.

The tragedy of these deaths and the fact that many Christians supported slavery led Emerson to question the validity of the church. He decided to take a tour of Europe, which resulted in his first book, English Traits which was based on his travels.

Traveling gave him time to think. As a result, he started to move away from religion and towards science. Emerson moved back to New York and started his career as a speaker.

Emerson married Lydia Jackson and had three children with her.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was quickly becoming an intellectual. He published his landmark essay Nature in 1836. He befriended other intellectuals including Henry David Thoreau who he mentored for years.

During this time he continued to lecture. One of his most famous lectures was The American Scholar in which he outlined his philosophies of viewing the world. It was controversial but well received.

Emerson went on to publish the book Essays which included his famous essay called “Self-Reliance”. Emerson published a huge volume of work including his 16 volume of journals that was published after his death.

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Scholars consider Ralph Waldo Emerson a transcendentalist. He is still regularly studied today and is widely regarded as one of America’s most important intellectuals.

He was ahead of his time. For instance, he was opposed to slavery, unlike most of his contemporaries. In addition, he opposed the oppressive rules of the church.

Emerson’s legacy will live on for many years to come. It’s not surprising that Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes are often referred to as sources of wisdom.

Remember to also read our collection of quotes by Nietzsche that will inspire you to think like the greats and tap into your Everyday Power. We also have a selection of Alan Watts quotes that will inspire you to search for your very own way to zen. Be sure to check that as well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes about life and writing

1. “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on leaving a trail

2. “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on taking action

3. “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on living in the sunshine

4. “When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on the stars

5. “Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on making your own bible

6. “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on purpose of life

7. “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on rising up after failure

8. “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on reading

9. “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on faith

10. “Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on going forward

Also check out these motivational writing quotes that will get you writing your story.

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes about self-reliance

11. “It is not the length of life, but the depth.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on progress

12. “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on destiny

13. “The earth laughs in flowers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on happiness

14. “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on positivity

15. “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on decisions

16. “Life is a journey, not a destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on the journey of life

17. “Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on ambition

18. “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on enthusiasm

19. “Make the most of yourself….for that is all there is of you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on making the most of yourself

20. “Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on honesty

Don’t forget to also read these inspirational William Blake quotes for the creative soul.

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes about friendship

21. “Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes to make you better

22. “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on kindness

23. “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on reading

24. “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on friendship

25. “A great man is always willing to be little.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on great men

26. “A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on heroes

27. “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on to inspire you

28. “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on to motivate

29. “Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes that will change the way you think

30. “Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes about peace

31. “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes about nature

32. “To be great is to be misunderstood.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

33. “People do not seem to realise that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

34. “Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

35. “When friendships are real, they are not glass threads or frost work, but the solidest things we can know.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

36. “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

37. “You become what you think about all day long.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo quotes to inspire success

38. “The good news is that the moment you decide that what you know is more important than what you have been taught to believe, you will have shifted gears in your quest for abundance. Success comes from within, not from without.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

39. “Character is higher than intellect… A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

40. “It is not length of life, but depth of life.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

41. “Big jobs usually go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

42. “Before we acquire great power we must acquire wisdom to use it well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

43. “What you are comes to you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

44. “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

45. “Self-trust is the first secret of success.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

46. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Inspirational Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes

47. “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

48. “The ancestor of every action is a thought. ” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

49. “Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

50. “The secret in education lies in respecting the student.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

51. “The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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52. “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

53. “People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

54. “The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

55. “How much of human life is lost in waiting.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes to expand your mindset

56. “Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

57. “We must be our own before we can be another’s.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

58. “Happy will the house be in which the relationships are formed from character.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

59. “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

60. “People destined to meet will do so, apparently by chance, at precisely the right moment.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

61. “Imagination is a very high sort of seeing.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

62. “Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief, in denying them.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

63. “Throw a stone into the stream and the ripples that propagate themselves are the beautiful type of all influence.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

64. “We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

65. “Little minds have little worries, big minds have no time for worries.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

66. “One of the most beautiful compensations in life is that no person can help another without helping themselves.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes to elevate your perspective

67. “We are always getting ready to live but never living.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

68. “Nature is reckless of the individual. When she has points to carry, she carries them.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

69. “I do not wish more external goods, — neither possessions, nor honors, nor powers, nor persons. The gain is apparent; the tax is certain.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

70. “Knowledge is the antidote to fear.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

71. “What your heart thinks is great, is great. The soul’s emphasis is always right.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

72. “Economy does not consist in saving the coal, but in using the time while it burns.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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73. “Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting some on yourself.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

74. “A man’s years should not be counted until he has something else to count.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

75. “The real and lasting victories are those of peace and not of war.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

76. “No great man ever complains of want of opportunity.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

More Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes to inspire you

77. “All the good of nature is the soul’s, and may be had, if paid for in nature’s lawful coin, that is, by labor which the heart and the head allow.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

78. “The last change in our point of view gives the whole world a pictorial air.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

79. “He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

80. “The sum of wisdom is that time is never lost that is devoted to work.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

81. “He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

82. “Concentration is the secret of strength in politics, in war, in trade, in short in all management of human affairs.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

83. “Without a rich heart, wealth is an ugly beggar.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

84. “We cannot overstate our debt to the past, but the moment has the supreme claim.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

85. “The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

86. “Wise men put their trust in ideas and not in circumstances.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Which are your favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes?

Ralph Waldo Emerson left a lasting legacy. His work continues to influence thinkers and writers around the world to the present day.

Even though his views may have been considered radical at the time, he opposed slavery and the oppressive rules of the church. Hopefully, you’ve gained some valuable wisdom from these Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes.

Did you enjoy these quotes? What other Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes would you add to the list? Tell us in the comment section below. We would love to hear all about it.

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  1. Avatar

    Kim Kowalski

    August 6, 2020 at 2:48 PM

    “Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.”

  2. Avatar


    August 20, 2019 at 6:41 AM

    I once read a quote he wrote about truthfulness, it went something along the lines of you can deal with truth and you can deal with lies but the most difficult to deal with is a part truth. Can anyone help with this one?

  3. Avatar

    Willadean B McRae

    June 19, 2019 at 11:18 AM

    I am looking for Ralph Waldo Emerson’s full quote that starts out like this:
    He bends to the order of the seasons, the weather, the soils and crops…He represents continuous hard labor, year in, year out, and shall ??

  4. Avatar

    Anthony J Stratton

    May 4, 2019 at 11:44 AM

    Its worse not be; than to be.

  5. Avatar

    Jonathan W. Pullen

    April 1, 2019 at 1:55 AM

    Nothing great was achieved without enthusiasm.

  6. Avatar


    February 18, 2019 at 9:47 PM

    I carried in my wallet a quote that helped my entire life by keeping me grounded. I haven’t found the original quote (lost my copy 20 yrs ago)& would like to find it. The short version is make today the best you can because yesterday is gone & tomorrow hasn’t arrived.

  7. Avatar


    January 6, 2019 at 12:34 PM

    I’m looking for a saying that he would use as a greeting to someone he knew. “ What has become apparent to you since our last meeting?” Anyone?

  8. Avatar

    Bill Sutherland

    December 8, 2018 at 2:51 PM

    These quotes have inspired me to read his published works. I was going to say that he was ahead of his time, but, no, that is wrong. He is a man for all time.

    Bill Sutherland

  9. Avatar

    Prof Patrick O. Yalokwu

    June 13, 2018 at 5:57 PM

    The Ralph Emerson quotes are indelible prints on the sand of time. May Go bless the author and the publishers.

    • Avatar


      August 15, 2018 at 5:59 PM

      He left for us the marvelous trail.

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