15 Self-Motivation Quotes to Help You Achieve Your Goals
Whether your goal is to get out of bed and into the home office or off the couch to do a workout, these self-motivation quotes will help.
Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.
Self-motivation is what we rely on to do things that are good for us but don’t offer an immediate reward. Think of good habits like making a salad for dinner, sticking to a workout regimen, or going to bed at a decent hour—without a deep reserve of willpower, they sometimes don’t happen. At birth we’re loaded with self-motivation: Babies have an intense drive to learn about their environment that psychologists refer to as “intrinsic motivation;” studies have demonstrated its power to shape behavior.
But somewhere along the way, self-motivation becomes a little tougher to tap into, notes Hayley Gallagher, a licensed professional counselor specializing in family therapy, self-care, and wellness. So how do you get yourself to do something you know you should do but don’t really feel like it?
Clinical social worker Janika Joyner, owner of Higher Elevation Psychosocial Services in Chesapeake, Virginia, teaches her clients to schedule the activities and then keep the appointment as you would a work meeting. Need to exercise more? Put workout times in your calendar or reminders in your phone. You can also try engaging in a little pep talk with yourself; that’s what Gallagher does when she doesn’t feel like writing in her blog or engaging in self-care. Give yourself some talking points with these self-motivation quotes.
Don’t overthink it
“Just do it.” — Nike ad campaign
The classic still works—Nike adopted this marketing campaign in 1987, and it’s still in use. “A technique many of my clients find useful is borrowing the words from those Nike ads,” says ,” says John Sovec, a licensed marriage and family therapist and coach in Pasadena, California. People have a tendency to overthink or think themselves out of things, Sovec explains, so “instead of letting the brain take over, it’s good to just proceed.” (If you need more help, check out these 11 exercise motivation tricks.)
Fast forward past the excuses
“Show up! It’s the hardest part of fitness. Excuses will always come up, but…no one ever regrets the workout.” Astrid Swan
Finnish trainer Astrid Swan helps keep “Dancing with the Stars” cast member Julianne Hough at the top of her game. (Let these 13 weight loss quotes from professional athletes and trainers help motivate you to meet your fitness goals.)
Stop thinking, start doing
“I have two rules in life – to hell with it, whatever it is, and get your work done.” — Ray Bradbury
You just know that prolific author, Ray Bradbury had to have a mantra to produce as much as did, including classics such as The Illustrated Man, “Fahrenheit 451,” and I Sing the Body Electric. (Did you know why reading helps your brain?)
You don’t have to want to, you just have to do it
“I just sob and kick and scream and then force myself to do it,”— Gwyneth Paltrow
Whatever it takes, that’s what you should do—and it doesn’t have to be dignified if it works. And Paltrow’s self-motivation seems limitless, given the fact that she has 50-plus movies among her credits and is the CEO of a successful lifestyle brand. (These are the best graduation quotes you’ll want to memorize.)
Stop fearing, start doing
“When you hear someone say you can’t do something, know that you can and start figuring out how. Ask yourself, ‘What would I do if I weren’t afraid?'” —Sheryl Sandberg
As the chief operating officer of Facebook, Sandberg’s tenure has been a bit rocky. Finding the energy and courage to keep going must be a challenge, which explains her insight. (Here are the top tips from therapists on how to deal with anxiety.)
Ignore past failures
“I wanted you to see what real courage is… It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” — Harper Lee
Atticus tells his son Jem this in Harper Lee’s most beloved novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, the iconic book that inspired a Hollywood movie, a Broadway play, and countless readers. (Find inspiration from these 33 inspiring quotes from cancer survivors.
But fear of failure could be a great motivator
“I’m always afraid of failing. It’s great motivation to work harder.” — Mark Cuban
American entrepreneur and investor on television’s Shark Tank, Cuban often blogs about his road to success and the grueling work it took. (Check out these 15 quotes about positive thinking.)
Don’t wait to feel inspired
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” —Stephen King
Talk about self-discipline and motivation: King has written at least 87 books. (Don’t be afraid to pick up one of King’s books: Feeling scared actually has health benefits.)
Start from wherever you are
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” — Arthur Ashe
Tennis champion Arthur Ashe had to overcome so much to achieve his goals, that he must have lived by these words every single day. (Check out these inspirational quotes about the fight against racism.)
Just keep doing it
“Practice and all is coming.” — Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Jois was the founder of Ashtanga, one of the most physically challenging forms of yoga. Some of the poses in Ashtanga seem almost impossible—just try putting one leg behind your head and then balancing on your hands.
Pretend you’re in a fishbowl
“Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world is watching.” — Thomas Jefferson
Founding father and third U.S. president Thomas Jefferson wrote this in a letter to Virginian politician Peter Carr on August 19, 1785. It’s especially good advice for anyone who is working from home where no one is watching.
Don’t be that kid
“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.” — Tina Fey
Writer, actress, and comedian Tina Fey offers a hilarious visual: Most of us have been that kid—and we’ve overcome it.
Start with “why”
“I had 22 jobs before I started my own business at the age of 23, and I didn’t want one more boss telling me what to do. So I was motivated simply because I didn’t want a boss.” — Barbara Corcoran
Look for your motivation in surprising places. It may be a negative (not wanting a boss), but it can still work, according to entrepreneur and Shark Tank investor Barbara Corcoran. (And don’t let toxic people or bosses slow you down.)
Be the Force
“‘May the Force be with you’ is charming but it’s not important. What’s important is that you become the Force—for yourself and perhaps for other people.” — Harrison Ford
Actor Harrison Ford has likely heard the classic Star Wars line more times than he can count, but his take on the Force is fresh and inspiring.
Seriously, what are you waiting for?
“Put your head down and work hard. Never wait for things to happen make them happen for yourself through not giving up.” — Gordon Ramsay
Celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay is the walking, breathing example of “extrinsic motivation”—a force outside yourself that pushes you (and Ramsay loves to yell). But clearly understands the “intrinsic” form of motivation as well. Next up: Check out these funny motivational quotes.
- Frontiers in Neurobiotics: "What is intrinsic motivation? A typology of computational approaches"
- Online Library at Wiley.com, intrinsic motivation
- Michigan State University archives, intrinsic motivation
- Creative Review UK, history of Nike's Just Do It campaign
- Byrdie.com, celebrity motivation tips
- POPSUGAR, Gwyneth Paltrow
- Biography, Harper Lee
- Maverick Blog, by Mark Cuban
- Arthur Ashe official website, quotes
- Inc.com, Barbara Corcoran