25 Famous Quotes About the Past, Present & Future


Do you need some words to inspire you as you face an uncertain future? Read through some quotes about time

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These quotes about the past, present and future (some from famous people like Michael Jordan!) may impart some nuggets of wisdom as you reflect on life’s journey.

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Quotes About Leaving the Past Behind and Moving On

Are you tired of living in the past? Read through some quotes about learning from our previous experiences while creating new ones. 

You may appreciate these quotes if you leave a bad relationship, start a new career, or try to let go of bad things that have happened to you in the past. 

1. “To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” — Henri Bergson

Do you improve with age? As you create a new and better existence, learn from the mistakes of your past. 

2. “Never underestimate your power to change yourself; never overestimate your power to change others.” — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

You may want to change a few things about your family members or friends, but unfortunately, you probably don’t wield that kind of power. Focus on yourself instead. 

3. “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” — Charles Dederich

What are you going to do with your “first day?” Charles Dederich was a reformed alcoholic who developed a program for other people who suffered from addiction.

4. “This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” — Psalms 118:24

This is one of the most often-quoted verses of the Bible. 

5. “Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success, you know.” — William Saroyan

Trying to learn from past decisions is one thing, but dredging up the past to relive your mistakes is another. Learn and move on with life. 

William Saroyan was best known for his novel, "The Human Comedy."

Quotes About Learning From the Past

Athletes often study game films to learn about what strategies worked and what didn’t. Several quotes teach us about learning from the past. Some of these would make useful journal-writing prompts or provide you with questions to ask yourself about life. 

6. “One must never lose time in vainly regretting the past or in complaining against the changes which cause us discomfort, for change is the essence of life.” — Anatole France

There’s a big difference between regretting the past and learning from the past. 

7. “The past cannot be regained, although we can learn from it; the future is not yet ours even though we must plan for it... Time is now. We have only today.” — Charles Hummell

Some people spend so much of their time thinking about their past that they forget to live in the present.

8. “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game’s winning shot... and missed. And I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why... I succeed.” — Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan sought the past to learn from it. Do you do that in your own life?

9. “I wasn’t afraid to fail. Something good always comes out of failure.” — Anne Baxter

It’s common to want to avoid discomfort. Next time, try to think about what you could learn from the experience.

10. “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” — Truman Capote

Truman Capote wrote "In Cold Blood" and "Breakfast at Tiffany’s." Most writers become used to rejection, so Capote probably wrote this message based on his experience.

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Quotes About Embracing the Future

Do you look at each sunrise as a fresh new opportunity? Read through some quotes about embracing the time that is in front of you. If you don’t grab each new morning with gusto, you may need to read through these quotes.

11. “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” — Will Rogers

Will Rogers was a cowboy humorist. His reflections were often quoted.

12. “You must change in order to survive.” — Pearl Bailey

Sometimes change isn’t a matter of choice; instead, it is a matter of necessity. Pearl Bailey was an actress and singer who started in vaudeville, but she adapted with the times. She ended her career with appearances on TV. 

13. “Since we live in a changing universe, why do men oppose change? If a rock is in the way, the root of a tree will change its direction. The dumbest animals try to adapt themselves to changed conditions. Even a rat will change its tactics to get a piece of cheese.” — Melvin B. Tolson

Why do we all avoid change? We know that a lot of change is uncomfortable. Use these quotes to inspire you to move on with life. 

14. “Change is a challenge and an opportunity, not a threat.” — Prince Phillip of England

While it’s easy to agree with quotes like this, change can seem like an enemy. 

15. “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi

You can’t change others, but you can change yourself. What can you do to make life better for those around you?

Quotes About Living in the Past

Have you found the balance between reflecting on the past and living in the present? While you don’t want to dismiss those who you have lost, you can’t overlook those who are in your present.

16. “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.” — Anatole France

Are you sad about how much your life has changed? Maybe you aren’t ready to leave college and enter the workforce. Perhaps you are dreading being an empty nester. We hope that some of these quotes will help you move on to create a happier future.

17. “Be here now.” — Ram Dass

We all need this reminder, especially if you are addicted to your cellphone and social media. Put your phone down and be present in the moment. 

18. “I have everything I need to enjoy my here and now — unless I am letting my consciousness be dominated by demands and expectations based on the dead past or the imagined future.” — Ken Keyes, Jr.

Ken Keyes was a lecturer who spoke about personal growth.

19. “You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.” — Jan Glidewell

What are you finding hard to release? This is hard to do, especially when you miss someone you loved. 

20. “You’re gonna lose some ball games and you’re gonna win some ball games and that’s about it.” — Sparky Anderson

If we don’t get over each of our losses, we may find it impossible to move on with life. Sparky Anderson was a baseball player, coach, and manager. 

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Quotes About Changing the Past

Your mama probably always said, “there’s no sense in crying over spilled milk.” Here are some other ways that this idea is expressed.

21. “Yesterday is ashes; tomorrow wood. Only today does the fire burn brightly.” — Eskimo Saying

You may like thinking of your past mistakes and missteps as “ashes.” 

22. “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” — Joseph Campbell

While this quote isn’t saying that you should give up on your dreams, it may remind you that your goals may change as your life progresses.

23. “Life doesn’t require that we do the best — only that we try our best.” — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Reread this quote to make sure you understand the meaning. 

24. “Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.” — Annette Funicello

Annette Funicello was one of the original Mouseketeers. 

25. “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” — Japanese Proverb

In other words, keep on keeping on.

What “Words of Wisdom” Speak to You?

You may feel that some of these sayings and famous quotes contradict each other. After all, how can you be mindful of the past while focusing on the here and now? How can you embrace the future if you don’t plan for it with what you have learned in the past?

Instead of being overwhelmed with all of these life lessons from great writers and famous thinkers, consider what each quote tells you today. What advice did you need to hear? What words speak to you?

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