Whoever will cultivate their own mind will find full employment. Every virtue does not only require great care in the planting, but as much daily solicitude in cherishing as exotic fruits and flowers; the vices and passions (which I am afraid are the natural product of the soil) demand perpetual weeding. Add to this the search after knowledge… and the longest life is too short.
—Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689–1762) English Aristocrat, Poet, Novelist, Writer
I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.
—Abraham Lincoln (1809–65) American Head of State
He who asks of life nothing but the improvement of his own nature is less liable than anyone else to miss and waste life.
—Henri Frederic Amiel (1821–81) Swiss Moral Philosopher, Poet, Critic
The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.
—Robert M. Pirsig (b.1928) American Writer, Philosopher, Author
He who stops being better stops being good.
—Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) British Head of State, Military Leader
By all means use sometimes to be alone. Salute thyself: see what thy soul doth wear. Dare to look in thy chest; for ‘Tis thine own: And tumble up and down what thou findst there. Who cannot rest till he good fellows find, he breaks up house, turns out of doors his mind.
—George Herbert (1593–1633) Welsh Anglican Poet, Orator, Clergyman
The good man is the man who, no matter how morally unworthy he has been, is moving to become better.
—John Dewey (1859–1952) American Philosopher, Psychologist, Educator
That discipline which corrects the eagerness of worldly passions, which fortifies the heart with virtuous principles, which enlightens the mind with useful knowledge, and furnishes to it matter of enjoyment from within itself, is of more consequence to real felicity than all the provisions which we can make of the goods of fortune.
—Hugh Blair (1718–1800) Scottish Preacher, Scholar, Critic
I am a bad, wicked man, but I am practicing moral self-purification; I don’t eat meat any more, I now eat rice cutlets.
—Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924) Russian Revolutionary Leader
Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.
—Isaac Asimov (1920–92) Russian-born American Writer, Scientist
There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self. So you have to begin there, not outside, not on other people. That comes afterward, when you’ve worked on your own corner.
—Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) English Humanist, Pacifist, Essayist, Short Story Writer, Satirist
Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound. The man who does not shrink from self-crucifixion can never fail to accomplish the object upon which his heart is set. This is true of earthly as of heavenly things. Even the man whose object is to acquire wealth must be prepared to make great personal sacrifices before he can accomplish his object; and how much more so he who would realize a strong and well-poised life.
—James Allen (1864–1912) British Philosophical Writer