Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes


"In the concentration camp every circumstance conspires to make the prisoner lose his hold. All the familiar goals in life are snatched away. What alone remains is "the last of human freedoms" - the ability to "choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances."" - Gordon Willard Allport

"You know what makes leadership? It is the ability to get men to do what they don’t want to do and like it." - Harry S. Truman

"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor... To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts." - Henry David Thoreau, born David Henry Thoreau

"We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor... To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour." - Henry David Thoreau, born David Henry Thoreau

"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor." - Henry David Thoreau, born David Henry Thoreau

"Change does not necessarily assure progress, but progress implacably requires change. Education is essential to change, for education creates both new wants and the ability to satisfy them." - Henry Steele Commager

"The unique ability of humans to imagine gives enormous power to idealism, an imagining of a better state of things not yet in existence. That power has been misused to send young men to war. But the power of idealism can also be used to attain justice, to end the massive violence of war." - Howard Zinn

"No matter how brilliant our attempts to inform, it is our ability to inspire that will turn the tides." - Jan Phillips

"The ability to delude yourself may be an important survival tool." - Jane Wagner

"The true measure of spirituality lies not in having visions of angels, but in the ability to make that unpleasant phone call." - Joan Borysenko

"You have to take chances for peace, just as you must take chances in war. Some say that we were brought to the verge of war. Of course we were brought to the verge of war. The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art... If you try to run away from it, if you are scared to go to the brink, you are lost. We've had to look it square in the face... We walked to the brink and we looked it in the face. We took strong action." - John Foster Dulles

"The ability to get to the verge without getting into war is the necessary art. If you cannot master it, you inevitably get into war. If you try to run away from it, if you are scared to go to the brink, you are lost." - John Foster Dulles

"The urge to consume is fathered by the value system which emphasizes the ability of society to produce." - John Kenneth Galbraith, aka "Ken"

"Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there." - John Wooden, fully John Robert Wooden

"Love and kindness are here all the time, somewhere, in fact, everywhere. Usually our ability to touch them and be touched by them lies buried below our own fears and hurts, below our greed and our hatreds, below our desperate clinging to the illusion that we are truly separate and alone." - Jon Kabat-Zinn

"Nine-tenths of that which is attributed to sexuality is the works of our magnificent ability to imagine, which is no longer an instinct, but exactly the opposite: a creation." - José Ortega y Gasset

"Transcendence is a movement into the unknown, the ability to rise and go beyond limitation and restraint… it is our biological birthright, built into us genetically and blocked by our enculturation." - Joseph Chilton Pearce, aka Joe

"Consider the postage stamp my son: Its usefulness consists in its ability to stick to one thing until it gets there" - Josh Billings, pen name for Henry Wheeler Shaw, aka Uncle Esek

"Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it." - Lou Holtz, fully Louis Leo "Lou" Holtz

"The best decision makers are those who are willing to suffer the most over their decisions but still retain the ability to be decisive." - M. Scott Peck, fully Morgan Scott Peck

"The most learned men have told us that only the wise man is free. What is freedom but the ability to live as one will? The man who lives as he wills is none other than the one who strives for the right, who does his duty, who plans his life with forethought, and who obeys the laws because he knows it is good for him, and not out of fear. Everything he says, does, or thinks is spontaneous and free. His tasks and conduct begin and end in himself, because nothing has so much influence over him as his own counsel and decision. Even the supreme power of fortune is submissive to him. The wise poet has reminded us that fortune is molded for each man by the manner of his life. Only the wise man does nothing against his will, or with regret and by compulsion. Thought this truth deserves to be discussed at greater length, it is nevertheless proverbial that no one is free except the wise. Evil men are nothing but slaves." - Cicero, fully Marcus Tullius Cicero, anglicized as Tully NULL

"Natural ability without education has more often attained to glory and virtue than education without natural ability." - Cicero, fully Marcus Tullius Cicero, anglicized as Tully NULL

"The capacity for friendship usually goes with highly developed civilizations. The ability to cultivate people differs by culture and class; but on the whole, educated people have more ways to make friends." - Margaret Mead

"Man's most human characteristic is not his ability to learn, which he shares with many other species, but his ability to teach and store what others have developed and taught him." - Margaret Mead

"Real faith… means holding ourselves open to the unconditional mystery which we encounter in every sphere of our life and which cannot be compromised in any formula… Real faith means the ability to endure life in the face of this mystery." - Martin Buber

"The sign of an intelligent people is their ability to control emotions by the application of reason." -

"Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility... in the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have... is the ability to take on responsibility." - Michael Korda

"The moral challenge is to carry out our pursuits with character, to treat ethics as a ground rule, not an option, even when the standards of ethics impede our ability to get what we want." - Michael S. Josephson

"Of all the virtues we can learn no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge." - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, native form is Csíkszentmihályi Mihály

"There are two opposite tendencies in evolution: changes that lead toward harmony (i.e., the ability to obtain energy through cooperation, and through the utilization of unused or wasted energy); and those that lead toward entropy (or ways of obtaining energy for one’s purposes through exploiting other organisms, thereby causing conflict and disorder.)" - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, native form is Csíkszentmihályi Mihály

"Your ability to use the principle of autosuggestion will depend, very largely, upon your capacity to concentrate upon a given desire until that desire becomes a burning obsession." - Napoleon Hill

"Genius is the ability to act wisely without precedent - power to do the right thing the first time." - Nathaniel Hawthorne

"The yen to become wanderers among the stars involves more than the need to satisfy a cosmic curiosity. Basically, it flows out of an instinctive need to evolve. We belong to an unfinished species. We have limitless capacities for growth; indeed, our uniqueness lies in our ability to steer our own evolution. The destination becomes visible through an enlarged perspective. The greatest adventure within the reach of a sentient species is seeing itself in an expanding relationship." - Norman Cousins

"The best teacher is not necessarily the one who possesses the most knowledge but the one who most effectively enables his students to believe in their ability to learn." - Norman Cousins

"Anybody can do just about anything with himself that he really wants to and makes up his mind to do. We are capable of greater things than we realize. How much one actually achieves depends largely on: 1. Desire. 2. Faith. 3. Persistent Effort. 4. Ability. But if you are lacking the first three factors, your ability will not balance out the lack. So concentrate on the first three and the results will amaze you." - Norman Vincent Peale

"Remember that when you are unhappy it is generally because you do not visualize strongly enough the great things that you definitely want to accomplish in life, nor do you employ steadfastly enough your will power, your creative ability, and your patience until your dreams are materialized." - Paramahansa Yogananda, born Mukunda Lal Ghosh

"Men can endure to hear otheres praised only so long as they can… persuade themselves of their own ability to equal the actions recounted: when this point is passed, envy comes in and with it incredulity." - Pericles NULL

"The condition which high friendship demands is ability to do without it." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Our best hope, both of a tolerable political harmony and of an inner peace, rests upon our ability to observe the limits of human freedom even while we responsibly exploit its creative possibilities." - Reinhold Niebuhr, fully Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr

"Ninety percent of all human wisdom is the ability to mind your own business." -

"Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence." - Robert Frost

"Don't be agnostic - be something." - Robert Frost

"Perhaps more than any other single factor, the intimate alchemy between the healer and the patient helps mobilize the body's natural resources. The mere presence of a healer often evokes hope in the patient and an expectation of recovery. When the two people create a partnership based on compassion, trust, and shared decision-making, and when the relationship nurtures the patient's hope for a positive outcome, even seemingly incurable diseases sometimes go into remission.... insistently restoring the human heart to the practice of medicine. Rather than treating patients as disease processes, they risk bringing their full humanness to the therapeutic encounter. They not only call on their technological expertise, but on the inner qualities practiced by healers from time immemorial: patience, humility, compassion, and an ability to inspire and mobilize their patients' healing resources." - Ronald S. Miller

"Wisdom consists in the ability to discriminate between the probable and improbable, and in being reconciled to the inevitable." - Salomon ibn Gabirol, aka Solomon ben Judah or Avicebron

"Money is like the reputation for ability - more easily made than kept." -

"The essence of love and compassion is understanding, the ability to recognize the physical, material, and psychological suffering of others, to put ourselves “inside the skin” of the other." - Thich Nhất Hanh

"A disposition to preserve, and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman." - Thomas Burke

"Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and however early a man's training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly." - Thomas Henry Huxley, aka T.H. Huxley and Darwin's Bulldog