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Quotations By Thoreau on Finding the Best Within Ourselves and Living It

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When it comes to peak performance and finding the best in one's self, Thoreau was an unmitigated genius. Here is a large collection of quotations. For example, from his journal, "We live but a fraction of our life."

It is extraordinary that one person could tap such a deep spring of wisdom and bring it to the surface for us all to process and be inspired by it.


Henry David Thoreau statue in front of a scale replica
of the cabin he stayed in on Walden Pond.

Image from flickr by jamieca

If you like these, read the article that inspired the pursuit of the collection:
Living in The Vein of Gold & Falling out http://bit.ly/veinof We have abilities we haven't tapped or maximized

The ways in which most men get their living, that is, live, are mere makeshifts, and a shirking of the real business of life-- chiefly because they do not know , but partly because the do not mean, any better.
Thoreau, Life Without Principle

Work your vein till it is exhausted, or conducts you to a broader one.
Thoreau, letter to Daniel Ricketson, March 5, 1856

Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them.
Thoreau, Walden, Chapter 1

...man's capacities have never been measured; nor are we to judge of what he can do by an precedents, so little has been tried.
Thoreau, Walden, Chapter 1

Woe be to the generation that lets any higher faculty in its midst go unemployed.
Thoreau, J. 12/22/1853

Why level down to our dullest perception, always, and praise that as common sense? The commonest sense is the sense of men asleep, which they express by snoring.
Thoreau, Walden, Ch. 18

We are acquainted with a mere pellicle of the globe on which we live. Most have not delved six feet beneath the surface, nor leaped as many above it. We know not where we are. Beside, we are sound asleep nearly half our time.
Thoreau, Walden, Ch 18

It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?
Henry David Thoreau Letter to Harrison Blake, Nov 16, 1857

In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.
Henry David Thoreau

I bought me a spy-glass some weeks since. I buy but a few things, and those not till long after I begin to want them, so that when I do get them I am prepared to make a perfect use of them and extract their whole sweet.
Thoreau, Journal April 10, 1851

Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows.
Thoreau, Journal, March 12, 1853

There are as many strata at different levels of life as there are leaves in a book. Most men probably have lived in two or three. When on the higher levels we can remember the lower levels, but when on the lower we cannot remember the higher.
Thoreau, Journal, June 1850

SETTLING
We live but a fraction of our life.
Thoreau, Journal, June 13, 1851

A man sits as many risks as he runs
Thoreau, Walden, Ch. 6

Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.
Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862) US essayist, poet, naturalist

All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every second.
Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

Associate reverently, as much as you can, with your loftiest thoughts.
Henry David Thoreau (

Every man is the builder of a temple, called his body, to the god he worships, after a style purely his own, nor can he get off by hammering marble instead. We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones.
Henry David Thoreau "Walden," "Higher Laws," 1854.

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.
Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862) US essayist, poet, naturalist
In "The Book of Success," ed. Richard Shea, 1993.

I would give all the wealth of the world, and all the deeds of all the heroes, for one true vision.
Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862) US essayist, poet, naturalist

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal -- that is your success. All nature is your congratulation . . .
Henry David Thoreau

Men have become the tools of their tools.
Thoreau, Journal 1845

WE begin to die not in our sense or extremities, but in our divine faculties.
Thoreau, Journal, Jan. 27, 1854

If labor mainly, or to any considerable degree, serves the purpose of a police, to keep men out of mischief, it indicates a rottenness at the foundation of our community.
Thoreau, Journal, Dec. 12, 1859


Ninety-nine one-hundredths of our lives we are mere hedgers and ditchers, but from time to time we meet with reminders of our destiny.
Thoreau, Journal, Jan 13, 1857

The millions are awake enough for physical labor, but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only on in a hundred million to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake.
Thoreau, Walden, Chapter 11

The art of life, of a poet's life, is, not having anything to do, to do something.
Thoreau, Journal, April 29, 1852

Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows.
Thoreau, Journal, March 12, 1853

It is rare that we use our thinking faculty as resolutely as an irishman his spade. To please our friends and relatives we turn out our silver ore in cartloads, while we neglect to work our mines of gold known only to ourselves far up in the Sierras, where we pulled up a bush in our mountain walk, and saw the glittering treasure. Let us return thither. Let it be the price of our freedom to make that known.
Thoreau, Journal, Jan 13, 1852

How many fine thoughts has every man had! How few fine thoughts are expressed!
Thoreau, letter to H. Blake, March 27, 1848

How to extract its honey from the flower of the world. That is my everyday business. I am as busy as a bee about it. I ramble over fields on that errand and am never so happy as when I feel myself heavy with honey and wax. I am like a bee searching the livelong day for the sweets of nature.
Thoreau, Journal, September 7, 1851

I make it my business to extract from Nature what ever nutriment she can furnish me.... I milk the sky and the earth.
Thoreau, Journal, Nov. 3, 1853

Here I am thirty-four years old, and yet my life is almost wholly unexpanded. How much time is in the germ! There is such an interval between my ideal and the actual in many circumstances that I may say I am unborn.
Thoreau, Journal, July 19, 1851

Though my life is low, if my spirit looks upward habitually at an elevated angle, it is as if it were redeemed. When the desire to be better than we are is really sincere we are instantly elevated, and so far better already.
Thoreau, Journal, 1851

STORMS
To see wild life you must go forth at wild season.
Thoreau, Journal, April 19, 1852

It is the marriage of the soul with Nature that makes the intellect fruitful, and gives birth to imagination.
Henry David Thoreau

Knowledge does not come to us in details, but in flashes of light from heaven.
Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862) US essayist, poet, naturalist

Let nothing come between you and the light.
Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862) US essayist, poet, naturalist

Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.
Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862) US essayist, poet, naturalist

Many men go fishing their entire lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.
Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862) US essayist, poet, naturalist


Men are born to succeed, not to fail.
Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862) US essayist, poet, naturalist
In "My Favorite Quotations," by Norman Vincent Peale, 1990.

Music is perpetual, and only the hearing is intermittent.
Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

Nay, be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.
Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862) US essayist, poet, naturalist
"Walden," "Conclusion," 1854.

 

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One theme has run through my work for the past 40 plus years-- a desire to play a role in waking people up, raising their consciousness and empowering them. I was the organizer founder of the Winter Brain, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology and StoryCon Meetings and president of Futurehealth, Inc., with interests in (more...)
 

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