Posted in The Sunday Driver: Life in the Slow Lane

Until One Is Committed, There Is Hesitancy – Goethe Quote

There is a Goethe quote that has been very important to me over the years. Currently, while I am in the midst of several major life transitions, it is a good reminder for me to not lose hope and courage. I offer it here for all:

Until one is committed
There is hesitancy, the chance to draw back
Always ineffectiveness.

Concerning all acts of initiative (and Creation)
There is one elementary truth
The ignorance which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:

That the moment that one definitely commits ones self
Then Providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one
That would never otherwise have occurred.

A whole stream of events issues from the decision
Raising in one’s favor all manner
Of unforeseen incidents and meetings
And material substance
Which no one could have dreamt
Would have come your way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.


16 thoughts on “Until One Is Committed, There Is Hesitancy – Goethe Quote

  1. Doesn’t he go on to say something like about indecision is fear masked as painful deliberation or something like that? I want to find the rest, do you know about it?


    1. Thank you for your comment. I do not know what he goes on to say. I’ve had a photocopy of the quote for years and wanted to share it. I no longer know the source. However, I did a little research and found this quote which may be what you are looking for:

      “Then indecision brings its own delays, And days are lost lamenting o’er lost days. Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; What you can do, or dream you can, begin it.”

      And here is another:

      ““Treat a man as he is and he remains as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”



    2. Here is also a quote by William James:

      “There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation.”

      William James (1842-1910) American philosopher and psychologist.


  2. May I suggest a correction. All but the last two lines are attributable to W.H. Murray from The Scottish Himalaya Expedition. The quote should end with:

    I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

    Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!


  3. Dear Sr. I have been doing research and wikipidia for instance says, that this quote of Goethe, it does not belong to him. I just copy what it says,

    “A quotation by Murray is widely misattributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.[1] The following passage occurs near the beginning of Murray’s The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951):”

    Can you verify and let me know. I am just very confused.




    1. It is a somewhat paradoxical statement. So many times we want to have everything in order before we jump in. Often though when we take a leap of faith then the door opens and things fall into place.


  4. Haven’t seen any other comments so don’t know if this was already brought up. This quote was written by William Hutchinson Murray. It is often mis-attributed to Goethe. Only the last 2 lines come from Goethe. And Murray has an equally interesting story.


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