People often talk about what they “deserve.” But what does this really mean? What do we “deserve” in life?

There is a tension in the word “deserve.” On the one hand, aspiring to be deserving of what we want makes us better people, not to mention being far more likely to get what we want. On the other hand, feeling that we “deserve” this or that can lead to a sense of entitlement in life. We should strive to be worthy of what we desire, but without feeling short changed when we do not get what we feel that we “deserve.”

What’s more, we should not feel put out when we do not receive the recognition we feel we deserve. It is important to act as if no one is watching us, to seek achievement, aspire to excellence and to commit good deeds for their own sake, rather than the accolades of the crowd, which are fleeting.

In the final analysis, there is no better reward than the feeling of achievement, progress and self-actualization. It is only when we realize that the validation we receive from the self is the highest form of praise that we begin to properly appreciate the accolades that come from outside.

Here are some of our favorite quotes about what we deserve and the place of external praise, from some of the most accomplished figures in human history.

Quotes About Deserving Things in Life


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“To get what you want, you have to deserve what you want. The world is not yet a crazy enough place to reward a whole bunch of undeserving people.”

Charlie Munger


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“How to find a good spouse? The best single way is to deserve a good spouse.”

Charlie Munger


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“Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them.”



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“There is no way in which a man can earn a star or deserve a sunset.”

G.K. Chesterton


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“Make the most of what you have and keep your standards high. Never settle for anything less than you deserve or are capable of achieving.”

Roy T. Bennett

“Fransisco, you’re some kind of very high nobility, aren’t you?” He answered, “Not yet. The reason my family has lasted for such a long time is that none of us has ever been permitted to think he is born a d’Anconia. We are expected to become one.”

Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

“The fortunate man is seldom satisfied with the fact of being fortunate, beyond this he needs to know that he has a right to his good fortune. He wants to be convinced he deserves it and above all that he deserves it in comparison with others. Good fortune, thus wants to be legitimate fortune.”

Max Weber




“You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.”

American Proverb




“Plant an expectation; reap a disappointment.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, quoting an old proverb


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“You don’t get what you deserve. You get what you tolerate.”

Tony Robbins


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“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Will Durant


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“A leader does not deserve the name unless he is willing occasionally to stand alone.”

Henry Kissinger

“They should live all together on an equal footing; merit to be their only road to eminence, and the disgrace of evil, and credit of worthy acts, their one measure of difference between man and man.”



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“Expecting a trouble-free life because you are a good person is like expecting the bull not to charge you because you are a vegetarian.”

Jeffery R. Holland

Quotes About Recognition and Rewards


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“It is up to us to give ourselves recognition. If we wait for it to come from others, we feel resentful when it doesn’t, and when it does, we may well reject it.”

–  Spencer Tracy


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“No person was ever honored for what he received.  Honor has been the reward for what he gave.”

Calvin Coolidge, Veto of Salary Increase, February 4th, 1916


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“The honors and rewards fall to those who show their good qualities in action.”





“Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.”

Abraham Lincoln

“The town had a basketful of feelings good and bad about Joe’s positions and possessions, but none had the temerity to challenge him. They bowed down to him rather, because he was all of these things, and then again he was all of these things because the town bowed down.”

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God


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“There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Ronald Reagan


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“It is better to be looked over than overlooked.”

Mae West


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“Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius.”

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Valley of Fear


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“People work for money but go the extra mile for praise, recognition, and rewards.”

Dale Carnegie