self improvement

4 Short Yet Powerful Quotes from Abraham Lincoln to Help You Grow

In today’s busy world, how do you find time to step back from your daily routine and think about where you’re actually going?

One great way is to tap into the wisdom of past and present thinkers. I’m not suggesting you read hundreds of books – instead, you can select one or more powerful quotes that are packed with practical wisdom. It takes just seconds to read a quote, and perhaps only a minute or two to think about it.

Here are four of my favorite short quotes from Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. I’ve included my own thoughts, plus a quick exercise, to help you dig into these quotes and put them into practice in your life.

#1: “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

Many people entering a coaching relationship in order to achieve a worthy goal feel concern or even fear when they look at the magnitude of the effort required.

The gap between where they are and what they want to achieve seems very wide – as if they were to leap the Grant Canyon in a single bound. Lincoln suggests here that we simply break the future into a series of steps.


Select one professional or personal goal that you deeply desire, yet you find yourself stopped in your tracks due to its magnitude.

Work alone or better yet with a coach, family member, or friend to break this goal into action steps with reasonable milestones that will excite and inspire you to keep taking the next step and the next.

#2: “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

We have all heard the phrase that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. A negative, pessimistic, cynical, and skeptical mind is a terrible thing, if what we think about comes about.

Lincoln is suggesting that we literally train our minds to exercise our happiness muscles.


To further develop your mental happiness muscle, ask yourself any or all of the following questions to be one of the happiest folks around:

1. Who are the people in my life that love and support me?

2. What freedoms, blessings, and gifts are you grateful for?

3. What are the beautiful and simple pleasures all around you?

4. What are the purposes that you fulfill, that give your life meaning?

5. Where are you learning and growing to become a better you each day?

Make up a few of your own questions to take this exercise even further.

#3: “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

Are you waiting for your personal or professional ships to come in? Most people would agree that patience is a virtue – however, if you want to succeed, Lincoln would suggest that you start swimming out to the ship you wish to sail on.


Consider placing one or more of the following phrases on a Post it note somewhere visible, to remind you not to settle for other people’s leftovers:

  • Just do it.
  • Get going.
  • Move it.
  • He who hesitates is lost.
  • Hop to it.
  • Rise and shine!
  • To the victor go the spoils.
  • It’s time to make a dent in the universe.

Feel free to come up with some of your own.

#4: “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”

One of the worst things about having enemies is that the hate generated toward these foes actually destroys the hater. It is like drinking poison and hoping the enemy dies.

Lincoln had many foes and adversaries in his time – and was wise enough to see the self-destructive nature of hate. He instead went out of his way to get to know his enemies better and to engender their friendship.


Do your best today to take a genuine interest and truly listen to those you would consider enemies. As they express themselves, look for the good and valuable in them and see where you have a bit more in common than you previously thought.

Which of these quotes speaks to you the most? What changes (big or small) do you plan to make in your life as a result? Let me know in the comments.

Get more quotes to help you break out of your existing patterns and reach a new level in your life. Master Certified Coach Barry Demp is author of the newly-released book The Quotable Coach: Daily Nuggets of Practical Wisdom. It’s packed with innovative ideas from hundreds of past and present thinkers … and for each quote, Barry’s included his own thoughts and an exercise to help you go further, faster.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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