Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Action

"Wise men weigh the advantages of any course of action against its drawbacks, and move not an inch until they can see what the result of their action will be; but while they are deep in thought, the men with self-confidence ‘come and see and conquer.’" - Ahad HaAm, pen name, born Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg

"[Paraphrase] Action should be something added to the life of prayer, not something taken away from it." -

"Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom." -

"I saw there was no boundary lines between vegetable and animal life, and hence no beginning nor end to either... All physical phenomena, at their best, are dull and murky till they come up into spiritual life. As an illustration that every law has its universality take the familiar law or principle that action and reaction are equal. What is this but reaping the whirlwind after one has sown the wind, or how does natural law differ from this teaching: ‘Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap?’ Are they aught but different strains in the great cosmic melody?" - H. B.

"The first real mental illumination I remember to have experienced was when I saw that the universe exists in each of its individual atoms - that is, the universe is the result of a few simple processes infinitely repeated. When a drop of water has been mathematically measured, every principle will have been used which would be called form in the measurement of the heavens. All life on the globe is sustained by digestion and assimilation; when by voluntary and traumatic action these stop death follows. The history of an individual mind is the history of the race. Know one thing in its properties and relations and you will know all things." - H. B.

"Prayer is the most perfect and most divine action that a rational soul is capable of. It is of all actions and duties the most indispensably necessary." - Augustine Baker

"Knowledge and action... are only two aspects of one and the same faculty... There are things that intelligence alone is able to seek, but which, by itself, it will never find. These things instinct alone could find; but it will never seek them." - Henri Bergson, aka Henri-Louis Bergson

"Action, so to speak, is the genius of nature." - Hugh Blair

"Sentiment and principle are often mistaken for each other, though, in fact, they widely differ. Sentiment is the virtue of ideas; principle the virtue of action. Sentiment has its seat in the had; principle, in the heart. Sentiment suggest fine harangues and subtle distinctions; principle conceives just notions, and performs good actions in consequence of them. Sentiment refines away the simplicity of truth, and the plainness of piety; and "gives us virtue in words, and vice in deeds."" - Hugh Blair

"The fatal fondness of indulging in a spirit of ridicule, and the injurious and irreparable consequences which sometimes attend the too severe reply, can never be condemned with more asperity than it deserves. Not to offend is the first step towards pleasing. To give pain is as much an offence against humanity as against good-breeding, and surely it is as well to abstain from an action because it is sinful, as because it is unpolite." - Hugh Blair

"You need more tact in the dangerous art of giving than in any other social action." - William Bolitho, pen name for Charles William Ryall

"Only by his action can a man make (himself/his life) whole... You are responsible for what you have done and the people whom you have influenced. In the end it is only the work that counts." - Margaret Bourke-White

"Example has more followers than reason. We unconsciously imitate what pleases us, and approximate to the characters we most admire. A generous habit of thought and action carries with it an incalculable influence." - Christian Nestell Bovee

"Piety and selfless deeds elevate the inhabitants of this earth to exalted spiritual estates... self-serving acts reduce them to the realms beneath, of sorrow and pain, rebirths among birds and vermin, or out of the wombs of pigs and beasts of the wild, or among trees. Action is a function of character, which in turn is controlled by custom. This is the whole substance of the secret. This knowledge is the ferry across the ocean of hell to beatitude. For all the animate and inanimate objects in this world... are transitory, like dream. The gods on high, the mute trees and stones, are but apparitions in the fantasy. Good and evil attaching to a person are perishable as bubbles. In the cycles of time they alternate. The wise are attached to neither." - Brahma-Vaivarta Purana NULL

"It is not necessary for all men to be great in action. The greatest and sublimest power is often simple patience." - Horace Bushnell

"The fairest action of our human life is scorning to revenge an injury; for who forgives without a further strife, his adversary’s heart to him doth tie: and ‘tis a firmer conquest, truly said, to win the heart than overthrow the head." - Elizabeth Carew, Lady Carew, formerly Lady Elizabeth Bryan

"All virtue lies in individual action, in inward energy, in self-determination." - William Ellery Channing

"Consider and act with reference to the true ends of existence. This world is but the vestibule of an immortal life. Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity." - Edwin Hubbell Chapin

"The angels may have wider spheres of action, may have nobler forms of duty; but right with them and with us is one and the same thing." - Edwin Hubbell Chapin

"This world is but the vestibule of an immortal life. Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity." - Edwin Hubbell Chapin

"At times, laziness is the root of taking action. When we feel an urge to give in to a desire, we might hear a whisper telling us that something is not right. Laziness, however, prevents us from fighting that desire and we give in to our bad habit." - Chazon Ish, named Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz

"Action is consolatory. It is the enemy; of thought and the friend of flattering illusions." - Joseph Conrad, born Teodor Josef Konrad Korzeniowski

"Happiness is fundamental in morals only because happiness is not something to be sought for, but is something now attained, even in the midst of pain and trouble, whenever recognition of our ties with nature and with fellow-men releases and informs our action." - John Dewey

"The essential problem of freedom, it seems to me, is the problem of the relation of choice and unimpeded effective action to each other... There is an intrinsic connection between choice as freedom and power of action as freedom. A choice which intelligently manifests individuality enlarges the range of action, and this enlargement in turn confers upon our desires greater insight and foresight, and makes choice more intelligent." - John Dewey

"Character isn’t inherited. One builds it daily by the way one thinks and acts, thought by thought, action by action. If one lets fear or hate or anger take possession of the mind, they become self-forged chains." - Helen Gahagan Douglas

"How many of us are waiting for the opportunity to do some great thing for the betterment of our community, forgetting that the solution of the problem requires only the active intelligent fulfillment of individual civic duty. The only things which are wrong about our Government are the things which are wrong with you and me. Democracy is never a thing done; it is and always will be a goal to be achieved. It means action, not passive acquiescence in things as they are; it requires alertness to duty, a dynamic faith, a willingness to give for the good of all. It can live only as a result of loyalty and devotion to its principles expressed by daily needs." - Douglas L. Edmonds, fully Douglas Lyman Edmonds

"Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny." - Tyron Edwards

"Vacillating people seldom succeed. They seldom win the solid respect of their fellows. Successful men and women are very careful in reaching decisions and very persistent and determined in action thereafter." - L. G. Elliott, fully Lloyd George Elliott

"Contemplation is necessary to generate an object, but action must propagate it." - Owen Feltham

"Works without faith are like a fish without water, it wants the element it should live in. A building without a basis cannot stand; faith is the foundation, and every good action is as a stone laid." - Owen Feltham

"The best general means to insure the profitable employment of our time is to accustom ourselves to living in continual dependence upon the Spirit of God and His law, receiving, every instant, whatever He is pleased to bestow; consulting Him in every action, and having recourse to Him in our weaker moments when virtue seems to fail." - François Fénelon, fully Francois de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon

"All worthwhile men have good thoughts, good ideas and good intentions - but precious few of them ever translate those into action." - John Hancock Field

"Let us unite contemplation with action. In the harmony of the two, lies the perfection of character. They are not contradictory and incompatible, but mutually helpful to each other." - Alexander L. R. Foote

"Prayer is not an old woman's idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action." -

"Until there be correct thought, there cannot be right action and when there is correct thought, right action will follow." - Henry George

"My will does not produce the motive power to move my limbs. Rather, he who imparted motion to matter, and ordained its laws, shaped my will also; he thus joined together two utterly different things - the movement of matter and the decision of my will in such a way that whenever my will desires some action, the desired bodily movement will occur and vice versa, without there being any causation involved, or any influence of the one upon the other. It is just as if there were two clocks appropriately adjusted with reference to each other and the time of day in such a way that when one struck the hour the other immediately did likewise." - Arnold Geulincx

"The silent influence of books, is a mighty power in the world; and there is a joy in reading them known only to those who read them with desire and enthusiasm. Silent, passive, and noiseless though they be, they yet set in action countless multitudes and change the order of nations." - Henry Giles

"Knowledge of our duties is the most essential part of the philosophy of life. If you escape duty you avoid action. The world demands results." -

"A teacher who can arouse a feeling for one single good action, for one single good poem, accomplishes more than he who fills our memory with rows and rows of natural objects, classified with name and form." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"How shall we learn to know ourselves? By reflection? Never; but only through action. Strive to do thy duty; then shalt thou know what is in thee." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"There are few who have at once thought and capacity for action. Thought expands, but lames; action animates, but narrows." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"What is the true test of character, unless it be its progressive development in the bustle and turmoil, in the action and reaction of daily life?" - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"We accept the verdict of the past until the need for change cries out loudly enough to force upon us a choice between the comforts of further inertia and the irksomeness of action." -

"Heroism is active genius; genius, contemplative heroism. Heroism is the self-devotion of genius manifesting itself in action." - Julius Charles Hare (1795-1855) and his brother Augustus William Hare

"Heroism is the self-devotion of genius manifesting itself in action." - Julius Charles Hare (1795-1855) and his brother Augustus William Hare

"For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you want to receive a great deal, you first have to give a great deal. If each individual will give of himself to whomever he can, wherever he can, in any way that he can, in the long run he will be compensated in the exact proportion he gives." - Ralph A. Hayward

"Thought precedes action as lightning does thunder." - Heinrich Heine

"By annihilating the desires, you annihilate the mind. Every man without passions has within him no principle of action, nor motive to act." - Claude-Adrien Helvétius

"For... what liberty is; there can no other proof be offered but every man’s own experience, by reflection on himself, and remembering what he useth in his mind, that is, what he himself meaneth when he saith an action... is free. Now he that reflecteth so on himself, cannot but be satisfied... that a free agent is he that can do if he will, and forbear if he will; and that liberty is the absence of external impediments. But to those that out of custom speak not what they conceive, but what they heard, and are not able, or will not take the pains to consider what they think when they hear such words, no argument can be sufficient, because experience and matter of fact are not verified by other men’s arguments, but by every man’s own sense and memory." - Thomas Hobbes

"Words without action are the assassins of idealism." - Herbert Hoover, fully Herbert Clark Hoover