Motivational Quotations That Really Motivate

Think about how many sayings you’ve heard over the years. Most of them probably seem trite or corny, but almost everyone has one or two that have become more like personal philosophies. You might find yourself tossing in a few memorable quotes in regular conversation from time to time, or take on a few favorites as mantras for your personal or professional life. Have you ever thought about why you keep returning to those few phrases over and over?

For me, a great quote captures a particular moment or feeling. I particularly love words of wisdom that are witty or motivational—something to make me laugh out loud or provide an extra boost when I need it.

I believe in sharing, so I’m passing along a few of my favorites. These are just a few of the most effective ones that I’ve heard over the years and come back to when I face new challenges:

“If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it.” – Anonymous

I wish I knew who came up with this saying because I’ve adopted it as a professional mantra of sorts, and I feel I should give credit where credit is due! However, including it on my list here will have to suffice. This takes the old saying about “waiting for your ship to come in” (getting that big break) and turning it on its head—meaning, you may not get that big break if you sit around waiting for it. Sometimes you have to pursue opportunities rather than be passive. I fully believe in this idea, and it’s certainly been true for me more than once.

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Bernard Shaw

This quote would be on my list of Top Ten Favorites. It’s a great reminder that no matter your age, income level, background, or position in life, it’s never too late to go after your passion. You may not be where you’d like to be personally or professionally, but there are plenty of late-in-life success stories that can serve as motivators to get you started. Look at Frank McCourt, who was over 60 when his memoir Angela’s Ashes was published. Or George Dawson, the grandson of a slave who was 98 years old when he learned how to read. He later wrote Life Is So Good, a memoir about his journey, at the ripe old age of 101! Of course, your goal may not have to wait until your retirement—you can start putting small changes in place right now that will help you get to where you want to be.

“They say you can’t do it, but remember, that doesn’t always work.” – Casey Stengal

There are few things more satisfying in life than proving our doubters wrong—a sentiment Casey Stengal states very simply and effectively. While it’s true that not everyone is going to rock at everything, you might surprise yourself (and others) by what works. Sometimes you just have to take the risk and put yourself out there. The uncertainty is what keeps most people from taking that risk. Think of all of the major CEO’s who believed in themselves and their ideas enough to pursue their idea, despite whatever criticism they may have faced.

“All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it comes to danger. True courage is in facing danger when you are afraid…” – L. Frank Baum

I had to include one quote that appeals to my literary side, and this one seems to capture motivation and overcoming fear perfectly. Many of us second-guess our abilities so much, we talk ourselves out of taking that first step toward whatever it is we want to do. That persistent fear of failure (or success, for that matter) can hold us back. Granted, we may not be facing mortal danger like our friends in The Wizard of Oz, but plenty of other intimidating scenarios can hold us back. The truly brave ones ignore the pangs of fear and self-doubt and go after what they want.

“Just go out there and do what you have to do.” – Anonymous

To me, this sums it up perfectly. Sometimes there’s no other choice but to just get something done. There are moments in life, no matter how much you love your work, when you have to really psych yourself up to complete something. It could be a work-related or household project, a meeting or appointment you’ve been putting off, or another demand on your time and energy when you’re mentally and physically spent. In those difficult moments, the best thing you can do is keep your head down and power through everything you have to get done.

What are some of your favorite motivational quotes? Please share them in the comments.


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Sara Hodon is a freelance writer, nonprofit program manager, and English instructor based in Northeast Pennsylvania.


  1. angelee on the 15th December

    If I may add to that: “If there’s a will, there’s a way”… ~ by everyone

    • Kate Mag on the 17th December


    • Yoosuf on the 18th December

      True saying

  2. Daquan Wright on the 15th December

    Yoda – “There is no try. There is do and do not do.” 🙂

  3. Rasmus P. on the 16th December

    Luck us just the door. You gotta use the window. That’s where your skills come in. ~ Doyle Bruson

  4. LivelyWorks on the 16th December

    “Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow. ” – Doug Firebaugh

  5. Bryce Christiansen on the 16th December

    “We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  6. Aniketh Dsouza on the 18th December

    An brilliant idea in head, worth $10, a simple idea well executed, worth $1,000,000,000.

  7. Aniketh Dsouza on the 18th December

    Who’s stronger? A group of sheep led by a lion, or a group of lions, led by a sheep. #humanresource

    • BPGeez on the 28th December

      is this a rhetorical question? Please explain the analogy to me

    • Junaid on the 3rd January

      If I may take a crack at it, its easy to be a sheep and follow a good leader but it really takes courage to go out their and lead the leaders. Like its easy to lead the sheep cuz they will follow anyone. At least that is what I get out of it.

    • Aniketh Dsouza on the 9th February

      Well, your man power is the the ultimate need for your business. If your have a roaring manpower and you could manage them well, then your team will be behind the success of your business. On the other hand, if your the best in the organisation and your employees fail to fill in your weaknesses which you look up for, then its gonna be even more harder to run your business. I feel, this quote is all about hiring the right people for the job!

  8. Aniketh Dsouza on the 18th December

    The future belongs to those who can share ideas ~ @guykawasaki

  9. suhail on the 18th December

    “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein.

  10. Dusan Stranatic on the 18th December

    “Who believes in miracles he makes miracles.”

  11. Buyongo Phiri on the 18th December

    Hi Sara, I have a quote which I live by, I believe its Winston Churchill who said the worlds in WW2. ‘If your going through hell keep going’, I believe it says the most about me! Thanks for the great article!

  12. Jeffrey Lewis Hales on the 18th December

    helps me avoid distraction (sometimes):

    “It made me think about it. It made me. Think about it.” ~ me

    • Suhas on the 9th February

      Nice one, but couldn’t exactly get what it was supposed to convey.. Still thinking about it!

  13. Michael Dobekidis on the 19th December

    “Time is not your enemy. Forever is.” ~Planescape torment, RPG.

  14. Said Martinez on the 19th December

    I read this awesome quote last night while browsing comic art.

    “Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.” by Charles Schulz

  15. Ben on the 19th December

    “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

    • Said Martinez on the 19th December

      @Ben, awesome line. Where is it from? It reminds me of a short metaphor I heard a month ago. It was about short term goals to break up long term milestones.

      The headlights of a car illuminate about thirty feet up the road at night. But stay focused on those thirty feet, and they’re enough to take you home.

  16. Paul Maddock on the 20th December

    My personal favourite helps me focus:
    “We overestimate what we can do in a day, and underestimate what we can do in a year.”

    It helps me to continue looking forward and develop.

  17. Te on the 20th December

    ‘Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.’

  18. Cynthia on the 20th December

    “Nothing important is easy.” Patrick White

  19. Cynthia on the 20th December

    Actually — related to the other quote I posted — another favorite that inspires me is this one from Theodore Roosevelt: “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

  20. Amanda on the 21st December

    My favorite (or one of them) is: “The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.” (Plutarch)
    My other favorite is by Walt Disney: “We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious. And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

  21. Ryan Jenkins on the 26th December

    “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in battle.”

    I love this quote because it’s all about how well you prepare and get intentional about your vision/calling/life. I also dig the warrior undertone!

  22. Ghost on the 3rd January

    I love motivational quotes.. after reading the article one of the quotes that came out of my mind is ” People may doubt what we say, but they will believe what we do” just do it.

  23. michelle on the 3rd January

    One of my favorites: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

  24. Joanne on the 3rd September

    “I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he fears to do, provided he keeps doing them until he gets a record of successful experience behind him.” quoted by Eleanor Roosevelt is great.

    I am still learning to take fear in stride. The first step is always the most difficult.

  25. Max on the 20th September

    I have a couple of favorites :

    Strong reasons make strong actions. William Shakespeare

    Trust yourself, then you will know how to live. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine with only interests. John Stuart Mill

    Cry in training, laugh on the battlefield. Samurai Proverb

    The list goes on!

  26. Ruqaiya on the 2nd September

    I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do ~
    Helen Keller

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