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The 20 Greatest Motivational Quotes Of All Time

Roman Life CoachIf you like the following post, you can get an expanded version with 50 quotes as an ebook by signing up for my newsletter in the box on the left.

Not only that, but you’ll get the heads up on forthcoming free books and Life Coaching specials as as well as my ebook that takes an in-depth look at goal setting.

The 20 Greatest Motivational Quotes Of All Time

I was playing about on Twitter the other day when I noticed an exchange about Life Coaching between two people I vaguely know. One person had made a comment (and I paraphrase) “Life Coaches are psychotherapists that can’t be bothered to finish their training”

As you can imagine I had to have my say and I was told by the person in question that they managed to learn all they needed to learn about self development from reading blogs and furthermore nobody needed to hire a Life Coach.

This exchange had me thinking for the millionth time,

“There is no how it is, only how it is for you”

It seems shameless to quote my own quote, but it is really at the core of what I do and also what I believe. I have no doubt whatsoever that some people can get all the help they need by reading a self development blog, but equally I have no doubt that many people need a lot more than that.

As I pondered the exchange I started thinking of great self development quotes that inspire me and really tell an entire story in a few lines or less and thought I’d share with you today the 20 that I think are the best.

I realize that you may very well disagree and as such I’d love to hear your own personal favorites whether they are on my list or not. I’d also love to hear any that you may have come up with that are original to you.

1. “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything” -George Bernard Shaw

Apparently it’s statesmanlike to stand firm and not change your mind. It’s also idiotic if you ignore new evidence and refuse to admit you may have been wrong.

I remember when John Kerry ran against George Bush and it was discovered he’d changed his stance on the war in Iraq. He was pilloried by the Republicans for being a flip-flopper rather than commended for being honest enough to accept he was wrong.

2. “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, 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 assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” – William H Murray

This is often mistakenly attributed to Goethe when it really just came from a Goethe couplet and is presumed to have been said in full my Scottish Mountaineer, W H Murray.

Is there are greater quote on the importance of commitment? I doubt it.

3. “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing” – Elbert Hubbard

Many people are terrified of criticism and will often keep their head down and go with the flow for fear of being on the receiving end of it. The world doesn’t need that, speak your mind

4. “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead

Another oft cited quote and one that inspires people (or at least should do) to believe they really do have more power than they could ever imagine. Don’t ever think you are powerless.

5. “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm” – Winston Churchill

There are so many quotes regarding the importance of failure in being successful, but imho, this is the best.

6. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” – Gandhi

I almost left this out because it’s tweeted to death and it possibly the most well-known quote in the universe. But there’s a good reason for that, and that’s because it’s stunningly brilliant.

You cannot ever change anybody else, you can only change yourself and hope you inspire other people to do the same.

7. “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up” – Thomas Edison.

Three years ago I had a client that I knew was really close to making a huge breakthrough when she lost her nerve. The fact that I’m telling you about it know demonstrates how frustrated as a Life Coach I was. There is a time for giving up and a time for pushing through, even though the latter can sometimes be scary.

8. “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing” - George Bernard Shaw

I hit 50 next year and it seems incomprehensible to me. I still get hyper excited about work, I still laugh my ass off at juvenile humor and as I type this I have loud dance music playing in the background.

Don’t stop being young because your birth certificate tells you too.

9. “You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger” - Buddha

Is there any need to explain this? Probably not because we all know how shit we feel when we’re angry, so let it go and don’t feel shit.

10. “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans” – John Lennon

Doesn’t that sum up many people you know, maybe even yourself? Are you so busy planning what’s next, that you forget that now is already here. Planning is crucial of course, but so is enjoying the only time you ever have, now.

11. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” - Eleanor Roosevelt

Every feeling you have is generated internally as a reaction (usually) to external events. It is your interpretation of events that gives them meaning, not the events themselves. How liberating is that? To know that people can only hurt you if you allow them to.

Of course, you have to believe it first.

12. “A ship is safe in harbor, but that is not what a ship was built for” – William H Shedd

Another quote that may not be attributed to the right person, but who cares who said it, it’s still brilliant.

You can hide yourself away from the world, you can avoid doing anything risky or out there, but that’s not what you were put on this earth to do. You were put here to be the best person you can be and that means taking risks by hauling anchor and sailing out into the uncharted open sea from time to time.

13. “Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny” – Author unknown although sometimes attributed to Frank Outlaw.

I don’t think this needs any explanation other than you become what you think about, so be careful what you think about.

14. “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it” —Aristotle

Most people I know like to think they are open-minded. Yet if you cannot entertain thoughts that contradict your belief system, how open-minded can you truly claim to be?

15. “What the thinker thinks, the prover proves” - Robert Anton Wilson

Taken from the absolutely brilliant book ‘Prometheus Rising’ Wilson sums up in a sentence something we all do, which is to look for evidence to support the beliefs we already hold rather than questioning them.

16. “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily” — Zig Ziglar

Zig nails it with this one. Self development is like going to the gym. Nobody gets fit by going to the gym once, it’s a daily or weekly ritual. Self development is the same, you have to work on it, if that is, you really want to master it.

17. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – Wayne Gretzky

Guess what? If you don’t launch that ebook you have been thinking of, you have failed. If you don’t start that new business you have dreamed of, you have failed. And if you don’t ask for that date for fear of rejection, you have failed.

Failure isn’t missing, failure is never trying.

18 “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

Belief in yourself is so important and often the determiner in how successful you are in life.

Believe in yourself because you’re absolutely brilliant!

19. “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” - Albert Einstein

Look if the great man himself says reality isn’t real, who are you to argue?

Go and set your own reality and don’t allow other people to impose theirs upon you.

20. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

The quotes were in no particular order, but I think I’ve saved the best till last because the passage from Marianne Williamson’s ‘A Return To Love‘ captures the essence of almost all of the preceding quotes and if you can live your life by that one passage you will die a happy person.

So come on, don’t just sit there, leave me your favorite quote in the comments!

Update: I will be running the interview and belief busting session I did with Morty Lefkoe later this week, so watch this space.

Life Coaching Marketing Course

Just a quick heads up that we will be closing applications for this within the next day or so. In any event we only have a maximum of two places left, so if you are a coach or counselor and want help marketing your business and gaining more clients check it out.

93 comments to The 20 Greatest Motivational Quotes Of All Time

  • I didn’t know that about the Murray/Goethe quote. I’ll have to go change the copy of it hanging in my living room and give Murray some attribution. Great list!

  • One of my favorites is an old Zen saying (are there any new Zen sayings, I wonder?):

    The obstacle is the path.

    • Yeh I’ve yet to hear somebody say “there was this Zen guy in the barf last night that came out with this cool new saying” Could happen I suppose.

      Like that one, but similarly, are there any bad Zen sayings?

  • Another Gandhi quote I love and is often quoted is “An eye for an eye will make make the whole world go blind.” It’s looking at the bigger picture and how sometimes we need to look at forgiveness over getting back at people who we fell have wronged us.

  • Some terrific ones on your list, Tim. I’ve always liked this evocative one from Mark Twain (amongst many, many others from Mark Twain, who was apparently a one-man quotation factory of sorts):

    “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the one’s you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

    ‘Nuf said.

    Cheers,
    RC

  • Here one of my favourites from a man who lived by his own words:

    “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller

    Cheers
    AA

  • Hi Tim,
    It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations
    -Winston Churchill

    How much time he saves who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks
    -Marcus Aurelius

    To do great work a man must be Idle as well as very industrious
    -Samuel Butler

    When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.
    -Abraham Lincoln

    good article Tim I am going to steal that Gretzky quote.

    • My favorite is the Butler quote. I love that, some people think that to do good work you have to be continuously busy. Nonsense!

      Thanks and steal away ;-)

  • One of my favorites is when Wayne Dyer paraphrased a passage from A Course In Miracles:

    “If you knew who walked beside you, at all times, on this path that you have chosen, you could never experience fear or doubt again.”

    ACIM is pretty much packed with quotable passages, so one of these days I’m going to go through the whole thing, but it’s somewhat daunting in its scale

    • Glad you mentioned that Jack. I was about to buy Marianne Williamsons ‘Return to Love’ yesterday. I know it’s based on TCIM, but also that some people on Amazon slam it for twisting TCIM to fit her agenda.

      Have you read either books in full? I’d love your take.

      • I’ve flipped through ACIM, but I’ve never read Marianne Williamson. I’ve also heard that she interprets ACIM in a much more brief and accessible way, but yeah, I think that it’s hard to shrink down such a large text and still keep the entire message.

  • Loved this list, Tim.

    BTW, another quote from Wayne Gretzky that I love: “Good players are where the puck is; great players are where the puck will be”.

  • “It is better to try something great and fail–than do nothing and succeed.” (Robert Schuller)

    Since I’m failing a lot these days, I trying to remember at least I am failing at great important things that others aren’t even trying. Maybe they aren’t important to other people–but they are life and death to my family.

  • “You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger” – Buddha

    This one stands out big time to me. I’ve been reading and working on emotional intelligence for the last couple of months and anger is documented to be one of the most experienced emotions in the workplace. Yet, most of us don’t approve of how we act when we are angry.

    Like Buddha said, the punishment comes from our lack of control when emotional triggers run our actions ahead of our logical controls.

  • One of the least effective motivational quotes of all time:

    “What, you want me to follow you around and wipe your butt for you, too?”

    Tracy’s Mom said daily 1984-1992

  • Tanya Laing Gahr

    “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
    ~George Addair

    • Been processing that one and I like it. Do I think it is 100% true? Not so sure, but I think it makes a cool point, thanks!

      • Tanya Laing Gahr

        I think it may be true. At least, it’s been true for me. I think the question may lay more with “want” than “fear,” and it can be a good reminder to search oneself to make sure the choices we make are what serve our long-term goals. But I think most of what stops us from becoming all we want is fear, and unfortunately, most people will change what they want rather than risk . . . what?

        And, of course, most of what we fear, once faced head-on, tends not to be as bad as we imagined it.

        Either way, it’s been a good reminder to me when I hesitate to do something to determine what it is that’s really holding me back, and most of the time, it’s the fear of failing. And you’ve covered that very well. :)

  • The smallest of actions is mightier than the biggest of intentions.

    I think I made that one up. (probably why it may not be grammatically correct). It is something I say to myself often when I have so many good intentions and struggle to put so many into action.

  • Nick

    Very good, all of them, but my Mom’s is still my favorite one:
    “I was sad because I had not shoes and then I saw someone who had not feet.”

  • Great List, thanks Tim. Try this…’Your thoughts give you wings, with positive thoughts you can fly, with negative thoughts you remain grounded.”

    Be good to yourself
    David

  • Love all these quotes. Whenever I feel down, just reading these makes me feel alive again =)

  • Zac

    Great thread of Quotes Tim, there are so many motivational quotes that I love, can’t possibly list them all here, but here are two…the third one is my own, and the fourth one is my dad’s…

    “We fear the thing we want the most.”
    by Dr. Robert Anthony

    “Nothing happens until something moves.”
    by Albert Einstein

    “In order for any dream to become a reality, it must first be given up as a dream.”
    by Zac Vega

    “The devils knows not because he’s the devil, but because he’s old” – my dad

  • yvonne

    “Pain is temporary, quiting is forever”. Lance Armstrong
    “All I know is the decisions we make dictate the life we lead, ‘to thine own self be true’”. Bill Rago – Renisannce Man

  • Janet

    Before enlightenment “chop wood carry water.”
    After enlightenment “chop wood carry water.”

    Probably some Taoist philosophy for I have no idea who said it just have it in my brain to help me realize its all about perspective(attitude), the now ,quite simple yet profound and well, funny.

  • Adam

    Loving the Roosevelt quote. I also collect inspirational quotes on http://quotista.com

  • These are great! Do you have a http://www.quotista.com account so I could follow your quotes there as well?

    • Wow, how spooky is that to get two comments one after each other asking me about Quotista?

      Amazingly enough they have the same IP address too.

      Lame.

      • @Tim We are a startup for quotes and currently reaching out and spreading the word in blogs to people who love quotes :) and while doing that Adam and I both ended up in this blog. Considering that the internet is quite a big place it’s a very lucky coinsidence :)

  • After I read this post Tim, I counted the number of quotes that I had heard prior to reading, and it was 6.

    So I have gained 14 new quotes from this post.

    I’d say that’s a good result to take away, don’t you?

    And here’s my quote,

    “When you were born, you cried whilst the world rejoiced. When you die, make it so that the world will cry whilst you rejoice.”

  • Helen

    Love these quotes.

    My favourite and one Ive heard a lot as my parents used to say it is:

    ‘I moaned because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet’.

    Stopped me in my tracks if I was having a spoilt selfish brat monment as a kid.

  • Helen

    I see someone else’s mum used to say mine too! Must be a famous quote then rather than just an ‘our family’ thing! :)

  • @Tim We are a startup for quotes and currently reaching out and spreading the word in blogs to people who love quotes :) and while doing that Adam and I both ended up in this blog. Considering that the internet is quite a big place it’s a very lucky coinsidence :)

    • Juli, I get that I really do, but there is a certain way to do what you want to do. You do get a link back from your name and it’s usually poor etiquette to enter the url in the body of the comment as well, unless it’s for some specific link relevant to the post.

      Also, when I get two posts from the same IP address under different names that screams SPAM at me and would pretty much any blogger I would imagine.

      You’ll get traffic back by leaving comments of value and all you’ll do (on the whole) by leaving a comment trying to send traffic back directly is piss off other bloggers and probably get deleted.

      Sorry if that seems harsh, but otoh, I didn’t delete you ;-)

  • Meg

    So many good quotes!! I think the Marianne Williamson one would have to be my favourite … if I was forced to choose.

  • I enjoyed your quotes, and your comments and replies. It’s nice to see a little civility. I like these quotes, though I can’t say who all of them originated from.

    “hope for the best, plan for the worst”
    “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”
    “if you love him let him go, if he comes back it was meant to be, if he doesn’t, hunt him down, and kill him”

    That last one just makes me laugh.

  • Wow, thank you. I sent this to a friend, and although I love all the quotes, that last one is one of my favorites and has been for quite some time. Thanks for putting these all in one great place.

  • Rob

    Fantastic set of quotes Tim. I think it’s important to feed our spirit a regular dose of motivation, and these quotes certainly do just that.

    Here are a few others that come to mind:

    “Become who you are.” -Picasso

    “It is the nature of man to rise to greatness when greatness is expected of him.” -
John Steinbeck

  • Max

    I do not like that man, I must get to know him better.
    ~Abraham Lincoln

    The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
    ~Winston Churchill

    Never give up.
    ~Winston Churchill

    Three of my favorites. The last one by Churchill plays a special part in my life. So simple, yet very powerful.

    • Great quotes Max, and I may ‘borrow’ a couple for the ebook I have planned.

      I think the Churchill one was “never,never, never give up” and I believe he said it when asked by a boy at Eton School where he was talking for one piece of advice.

      Not 100% sure, but it sure sounds Churchillian!

  • “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”

    Winston Churchill

    I like this particular quote from Churchill.. reminds me of the time when I was on the rough.. without wavering I managed to grab hold of my haven and eventually being successful.. Such a nice one…

    • Agreed, Churchill had some amazing quotes. I also like “If you’re going through hell, keep going”

    • Anne Daniels

      I’m fairly certain it was Thomas Edison that said that. It was mentioned as being his quote in a book I read about about Nikola Tesla.

  • [...] Your Life and that will be goingfor design this week.I am then following up my most read post ever The 20 Greatest Motivational Quotes Of All Time by writing an expandedversion and maybe making it either 50 or 100 quotes and delivering that in [...]

  • I liked all the quotes my favorite is gandhi quote “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”

  • Matt

    Tim,
    not necessarily a motivational quote but one of total self belief that i really like is that of Mr Clough snr, “Frank Sinatra, he’s met me!”
    Matt

    • Personally I prefer Cloughs quote when asked of he thought he was the best manager in the country replied:

      “Well I wouldn’t go that far, but I would say I’m in the top 1″

  • Anne Daniels

    Lately it’s been Einstein blowing me away with relevant quotes. His social-emotional skills may have been below average, but he knew a thing or two…

  • [...] and why it will work.Simply saying, “Do this!” is seldom effective this side of anS&M party.The 20 Greatest Motivational Quotes Of All Time was my first post in closeon 5 years of blogging that went viral. I really had no idea why, as [...]

  • Marcela

    Really nice quotes, loved the subtle approach towards them. My life quote would be “They also have their story” (It’s a phrase from the “Desiderata” poem), it’s a constant reminder of the vastness of the human mind and soul…

  • Matt

    “Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’; that’s goddamn right”

    Red, from Shawshank Redemption

    Works for me.

  • wyatt brizinski

    Oscar Wilde is another man from the past that is a fairly wise quotable person, my favorite quote from him is “Life is too important to be taken seriously” Although it also takes a certain amount of wisdom to get to really get it.

  • Rod

    “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
    Henry Ford

    One of my favorites. I use this with a team that I coach. They all know it by heart now…lol.

  • SUR

    thank you very much

  • Gurpreet

    Tim, Excellent work.

    - Stay Excellent !

  • cat

    lol i love harry styles

  • A really awesome quotes, i really love this one of Winston Churchill: *Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm*

  • SUDHIR NAYKINDE

    thank you for such inspirational and valuable thought’s. I like it.

  • If you do something because you see somebody doing that thing you won’t achieve you’ll never take someone’s talent

  • It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy.
    I have read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you few interesting things or advice.
    Perhaps you can write next articles referring to this article.
    I desire to read even more things about it!

  • Never give up its not over untill God say its over.

  • Cali

    “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda the Jedi Master

  • “Start believing in yourself, the world will automatically believe you”-A.D.Mohla

  • Think Big ! Dream Big ! Believe in that Thinking and Dream ! Achieve that Dream !