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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, Editor
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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.

Let us know your favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quote in the comment section below.

A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 62% of Americans believe that religion plays an important role in their lives.

This statistic is relevant because many of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quotes touch on spiritual themes, and can be especially meaningful for people who value religion and spirituality.

What are the benefits of reading these Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes?

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

We constantly discuss his books and writings 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.

They will help you:

  • understand writing and life
  • understand how he viewed self-reliance
  • gain new perspectives on friendships, love, and relationships

Who is Ralph Waldo Emerson?

Unfortunately, Emerson’s father died when Ralph was only eight years old.

Ralph was raised by his mother, whom he had a great relationship with until she 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 to pay his bills.

After graduating, Emerson worked as a schoolmaster at his brother’s school for women.

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 affected Emerson greatly.

The tragedy of these deaths and the fact that many Christians supported slavery led Emerson to question the validity of the church.

He took a tour of Europe, resulting in his first book, English Traits, based on his travels.

Traveling gave him time to think.

As a result, he moved 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 published the book Essays, which included his famous essay, “Self-Reliance.”

Emerson published a huge volume of work, including his 16 journals published after his death.

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 opposed 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 t read our collection of quotes by Nietzsche that will inspire you to think like the greats and tap into your Everyday Power.

If you like this article, we suggest you explore our most popular quotes article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily encouragement. 

Check out more inspirational quotes on our motivational quotes category page.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes about life and writing

According to a study by the University of Sussex, just six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by more than 60%.

This study found that reading can be an effective way to reduce stress and promote relaxation, which can contribute to a greater sense of well-being and life satisfaction.

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

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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

A survey conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts found that poetry reading in the United States has increased by 76% since 2012.

This statistic shows that more people are turning to literature, including poetry, as a way to connect with others and find meaning in their lives.

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

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

If you’re enjoying these quotes, read our collection of ambition quotes to set your sights sky-high.

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 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

If you’re enjoying this article, you’ll also love our collection of Maya Angelou quotes that will warm your heart.

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

Don’t forget to check out our collection of famous poems to inspire you when you feel like giving up.

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

If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our selection of friendship quotes celebrating lifelong relationships.

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

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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

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

If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to check out our collection of mindset quotes that will help take you where you want to go in life.

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. “Life consists of what man is thinking about all day.”― 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

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

If you’re enjoying these quotes, you’ll love our collection of world peace quotes to give you hope for humanity.

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

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes that will change the way you think

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

If you’re enjoying these quotes, you’ll love our collection of war quotes from writers, politicians, and more.

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

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes to inspire you

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

87. “The world belongs to the energetic.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

88. “The Artist always has the masters in his eyes.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

89. “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men that is genius.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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90. “The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

91. “Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

92. “In order for one to learn the important lessons of life, one must first overcome a fear each day.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

93. “A friend may be nature’s most magnificent creation.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

95. “Never lose an opportunity for seeing something beautiful for beauty is God’s handwriting.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Don’t forget also read these Edgar Allan Poe quotes that will broaden your thoughts.

More Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes

96. “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

97. “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

98. “Always do what you are afraid to do.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

99. “Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

100. “Nothing external to you has any power over you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

101. “Sorrow looks back, Worry looks around, Faith looks up.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

102. “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

103. “The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

104. “Life is a series of surprises and would not be worth taking or keeping if it were not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

105. “The reward of a thing well done is having done it.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Short Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes

106. “Make yourself necessary to somebody.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

107. “As soon as there is life, there is danger.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

108. “Knowledge is knowing that we cannot know.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

109. “In skating over thin ice, our safety is speed.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

110. “Every man I meet is in some way my superior.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

111. “A man is known by the books he reads.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

112. “Some books leave us free and some books make us free.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

113. “For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

114. “He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

115. “It’s the not the destination, It’s the journey.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes to help appreciate life

116. “Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

117. “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

118. “The first wealth is health.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

119. “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

120. “Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

121. “Every artist was first an amateur.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

122. “Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science.”  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

123. “There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

124. “Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

125. “Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes That Make You Feel Victorious

126. “No man can have society upon his own terms.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

127. “Wherever work is done, victory is attained.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

128. “The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

129. “You are constantly invited to be what you are.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

130. “No matter how often defeated, you are born to victory.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

131. “My life is not an apology, but a life.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

132. “Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

133. “The selfish man suffers more from his selfishness than he from whom that selfishness withholds some important benefit.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

134. “Good thoughts are no better than good dreams if you don’t follow through.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

135. “Life is a perpetual instruction in cause and effect.” — 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 worldwide 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. Emerson

    November 16, 2022 at 11:20 AM

    Ralph Waldo Emerson would have been my great times something uncle, and his quotes inspire me every day.

    • Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor

      November 17, 2022 at 11:35 AM

      What an interesting family connection to have! We are glad you enjoyed these quotes.

  2. Prema Anand

    August 17, 2021 at 6:38 PM

    Very inspiring collection. It s a great effort made to help those in momentary dullness. Thank you

  3. Willadean McRae

    February 8, 2021 at 5:00 PM


  4. john

    January 15, 2021 at 8:22 PM

    There is a crack in everything God has made. Ralph Waldo Emerson

  5. Kim Kowalski

    August 6, 2020 at 2:48 PM

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

  6. Pip

    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?

  7. 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 ??

  8. Anthony J Stratton

    May 4, 2019 at 11:44 AM

    Its worse not be; than to be.

  9. Jonathan W. Pullen

    April 1, 2019 at 1:55 AM

    Nothing great was achieved without enthusiasm.

  10. Yvonne

    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.

  11. Bridget

    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?

  12. 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

  13. 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.

    • Shaiful

      August 15, 2018 at 5:59 PM

      He left for us the marvelous trail.

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