20 Motivational Quotes From Science

I’ve written a number of posts now on great motivational quotes and one of the things that’s surprised me is some of the unusual sources.

Sure you expect to hear words of wisdom from the likes of Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar, Napoleon Hill. Early Nightingale and the godfathers (and mothers) of self development, but do you expect profound wisdom from Marilyn Monroe?

Equally, you expect people such as the The Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rumi, Pema Chodrin and Mahatma Ghandi to  make you stop and think with their nuggets of wisdom, but for most people Kurt Cobain probably wouldn’t usually be included in the same sentence.

Yet as my last quotes post, ‘20 Awesome Celebrity Quotes Worth Sharing‘ demonstrates, wisdom isn’t confined to scholars, philosophers or people who do a lot of chin stroking, it can manifest in all arenas if we are prepared to listen with an open-mind.

The following quotes all stem from the world of science yet all apply to self development. I hope you enjoy them and if you do you can please share via Social Media using the bar on the right I’d be stoked.

By the way, one of these quotes may not be 100% accurate. See if you notice which one it is.

The quotes are in no particular order, nobody gets to have two quotes no matter how cool they are, and if you’re reading via my e-mail feed, you may need to click through to see the images.

20 Motivational Quotes From Science


1. Charles Darwin’s Motivational Quote On Change

I talk a lot about change because it’s the one constant in life. In the very short time you have read this post you have changed at a cellular level. 

Everything changes, nothing is stable and to think otherwise is folly.

Feeling like we need to fight change causes a lot of anguish and stress because ultimately we’re doomed to fail.

Of course Darwin was talking about evolution (if you’re a creationist, you really well may as well stop reading now because there’s a big dude at the foot wanting to sell you some magic beans), but this is a classic example of it being entirely relevant to self development.

charles darwin quote

2. Stephen Hawking on Ignorance

There’s a thread in a LinkedIn group I am a member of that has truly developed a life of its own.

In it people are encouraging each other to like their Facebook pages.

On the surface it seems like a  great idea, but really it’s a horrible idea and will hurt them all by reducing their organic reach. 

I attempted to explain the reasons in a long comment, but apart from a couple of people all I seemed to do it inspire more people to hop aboard the bandwagon heading off the Facebook cliff.

I’m far from perfect, but I try like hell to test my thinking, to be open to new ideas and changes. Because of that I have changed a number of my opinions on certain people within my industry.

People who I used to admire and like, I now realize are nothing more than, if not charlatans, then certainly not deserving of the adulation they receive.

No doubt I still have blind spots because we all do, but if you point one out to me I’ll at least consider it.

Question your own thinking as well as others.

hawking knowledge

3. Carl Sagan on Beliefs

Belief is an incredible force. In fact it’s probably the greatest force on the planet for both good and bad.

However, just because you believe something, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. I have told this story before, but it bears repetition.

I was chatting with two Jehovah’s Witness supporters on my doorstep when one said, “I know for a fact that God exists”. I responded by saying, “Well if you don’t even know the difference between a belief and a fact, then there’s no point continuing the conversation”.

You don’t know God exists and you don’t know God doesn’t exist, you have a belief.

There’s nothing wrong with having strong beliefs, they can be highly beneficial, but at least have the courage to accept when you know something for a fact and when you just believe something.

Why? You may be wondering.

Because the world would be a far more peaceful place if we weren’t all trying to ram our beliefs down each others throats after having dressed them up as facts.

And that isn’t just aimed at religion, you can see it in every walk of life from politics to sports and all stops in between.

carl sagan quote

4. Marie Curie On Curiosity

We live in a time where people seem obsessed about wanting to know about the lives of others. 

Reality programs have never been so prevalent and there are dozens of blogs, magazines, books, tv programs entirely devoted to gossip and showing you how other people live.

But why do we give a fuck, seriously?

In large part there are two reasons, and neither are good.

The first reason is we watch to see other people fail. That gives us a bump in status and a lovely little dopamine rush. 

Secondly, we watch because we aspire to the celebrity lifestyle. We want what they have, the money, the fame and all the associated trappings.

Then we look at our own life with a sense of disappointment.

I feel sure many people will say they watch for entertainment and maybe even to root for the underdog and there’s some truth to that. 

It’s still by and large driven by the first two things though, it’s just that most people don’t understand what their cunning brain is up to.

marie curie quotes

5. Albert Einstein On Imagination

I only had about 500 Einstein quotes to choose from and you may have well have another one you prefer, but I love this for two reasons.

When I first started Life Coaching I used to get a lot of clients who seemed to have read a lot more books on self development than I had.

To begin with it freaked my out because they had more knowledge than I did. 

But slowly it dawned on me that knowledge is useless without the tools to apply it, one of which is imagination.

Why imagination?

Anybody can pick up a pen and use it to write with, but it took imagination for a doctor to remove the ink cartridge, clean it out, and then use it to perform an emergency laryngectomy on an airplane.

And also it encourages parents to cultivate imagination with their kids rather than stifle it.

From imagination comes creativity, and from creativity comes progress in all its many forms.

Einstein quotes

6. Nikola Tesla On Patience

Isn’t this at the heart of self development as well as science?

It takes time to change negative patterns of thinking.

It takes time to move from a pessimist to and optimist.

And it takes time to build up positive habits that can beat procrastination.

A meditation practice takes time before you see results and getting fit takes time.

Everything takes time and it’s our inability to accept this that often leads to people quitting just before the results of their work are about to bear fruit.

tesla quote

Speaking of which….

7. Louis Pasteur On Tenacity

Tenacity is one of the most underrated attributes for success and it’s one that most great people have in spades.

Think of any great person you can admire and I can point to somebody has overcome adversity with their tenacity.

It maybe a refusal to give up, a refusal to take no for an answer, a refusal to accept conventional wisdom. Or just a bloody minded refusal to accept defeat.

That’s tenacity!

Pasteur quote

8. Linus Pauling On Cognitive Biases

Oh this is so cool and so clever.

You, me and that guy wondering across the bottom of my driveway who almost walked into my mail box because he was texting on his phone, all have cognitive biases.

As such we can easily think we are doing to others as we would want them to do to is when it’s not necessarily the case.

I’m probably taking this a tad too literally and let’s just agree on the fact that it’s cool to treat other really well and then some, right?

Linus Pauling quote

9. David Attenborough On Life

Aren’t we an arrogant bunch on the whole, us humans?

Don’t we possess a collective mindset that we are sooooo superior to all other life forms, both now and those that preceded us?

Yet think about it, we’re one huge fuck off meteor away from being toast. 

One massive nuclear tragedy from being genetically screwed.

And a another ice age away from kissing our frozen asses goodbye  – sorry if the scientific jargon is confusing you.

Mosquitos would probably survive though seeing as they have survived pretty much everything else this planet has thrown at them including my unhealthy desire to wipe them off the planet single-handedly.

Yet few people admire mosquitos, or see them as being superior in any other way than spreading disease and being a general pain in the ass, sometimes quite literally.

What’s the point of this one?

Remember, life isn’t a right, it’s a privilege. 

A privilege that will be one day withdrawn from you.

David Attenborough quote

10. Neil deGrasse Tyson on Thinking

If you haven’t been watching the series ‘Cosmos’ narrated and presented by deGrasse Tyson then you’re missing a treat because it’s brilliant.

deGrasse is very outspoken about the need for science and the need to think critically.

I happen to admire the man tremendously, you may not.

deGrasse quote

11. Richard P Feynman on Questions

One of my favorite autobiographies of all time is Feynman’s, ‘Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman’  so I’m biased about his work.

As somebody who won a Nobel Prize for his work on quantum mechanics he was a fairly clever chap and he got that way in large part because he wasn’t afraid to ask the tough questions.

Too many people are scared of having their assumptions and beliefs questioned by others.

And in many ways this is normal because our brain hates to be wrong more than I hate mosquitos.

If we start to form the conclusion that some of our most strongly held beliefs may actually be wrong, then a whole string of events kick into action inside our brain designed to assure us they really aren’t.

We undermine, ignore or disbelieve evidence. We convince ourselves the supplier of the evidence is stupid, heretical, evil, self serving, or just plain wrong. And we look for evidence to support what we already ‘know’ to be true.

The alternative is scary, very scary indeed.

richard feynman quote

12. Viktor Frankl On Stimulus & Response

Yes Stephen Covey used this in ‘7 Habits’, but Frankl said it first as I was quite rightly reminded in the previous guest post for not picking up that error.

In coaching I often talk to clients about the fact that few events in life are truly cause and effect.

Sure if you hold your hand in the fire it will hurt. The nerves in your hand will soon be shouting to your brain, “Hello, helloooo, this fucker really hurts and I’m about to burst into flames, you may want to remove it sooner rather than later!”

However, somebody yelling at you and you either bursting into tears, punching them or laughing heartily is not a cause and effect. It is a cause – interpretation – effect.

Your response is based entirely on what you think the shouting actually means and what is the normal way and appropriate way for you to respond.

Usually the gap between stimulus and response is about 1/3rd of a second.

Not much you may be thinking, but it’s actually just enough if you stay mindful to step into and change your response accordingly.

If you want to that is.

Viktor Frankl

13. Neils Bohr On The Law Of Attraction (not really)

This is similar to a quote by Richard Feynman, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics you don’t understand quantum mechanics” but seeing as Feynman already made the list I’m going with this one.

Some charlatans are now using quantum mechanics to explain the law of attraction, when the reality is they know about as much about quantum physics as I do about goat farming in Patagonia.

It’s a cunning thing to do though because even though they know fuck all about quantum physics, as only handful of people in the world are genuine experts, they know you know fuck all too, so they can blind you with pseudo science by saying:

Quantum physics explains the law of attraction.

Sure it does, and my dogs nose marks on the front door explains how the human brain produces consciousness.

Which by the way happens to be another thing that stumps science, but not a few eager gurus looking to take your cash.

Bohr quantum mechanics quote

14. Sir Isaac Newton on Being Nice

Not many people know that Newton was a bit of a self development buff and coined this motivational phrase centuries before it became popular.

It may appear at first as though it’s an insult, but like the similarly bizarre, ‘You’re the dogs bollocks’ it’s actually a compliment designed to uplift the recipient of the blessing.

It’s also thought that Newton also said, ‘You da shit bro’ and your ride is sick’ to a friend once, but  this hasn’t been substantiated.

tits quote

15. Alexander Graham Bell On Options

You will have had many occasions in your life when a door slammed in your face, both literally and more importantly, metaphorically. Sometimes you will have stood staring at the door bemoaning its shutness. Maybe you cursed your luck, kicked the door or even burst into tears. The funny thing is though, there are a shit load of other doors that are open and waiting for you to walk through  them. In my post ‘Awesome Blessings In Heavy Disguise’ I talk about this. Alexander Graham Bell quote

16. Thomas Edison On Reframing

A bit like Einstein there were a lot of great quotes to choose from when it came to Edison and this is the most obvious. However, it’s probably the greatest reframe of all time. And if you don’t know what a reframe is and why it’s probably the greatest skill you can master for your mental wellbeing, check this post out. Thomas Edison Quote

17. Benjamin Franklin On The Meaning Of Life

Many people cite Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography as being the best ever written. I have to sheepishly confess that I haven’t read it, but that doesn’t stop me loving this quote. Life is all about meaning. If you live a life that you believe is meaningful, then there is a high probability it will be, for the most part, a happy one. On the other hand, if you do a job you hate and see no value in, can’t be bothered to do anything much more exhilarating than watching The Next American Ninja and rarely leave the comfort of your couch, then you probably won’t be as happy as you could be and you may well look back on your life in your dotage with regret. Benjamin Franklin quote

18. R. Buckminster Fuller On Education

Whoa there, this one is a bit ‘out there’ don’t you think? Well maybe, but as an intelligent person you know that the brain learns the quickest by making mistakes. Sure we can produce students who spends 3 days cramming fueled by Adderall and coffee, only to forget everything a month after the test. Or we can encourage true learning by not writing all over genuine errors with red ink and comments like. “could do better”. Well we could do better with the education system. A lot better.   buckminster fuller quote

19. Leonardo de Vinci ON STFU

Most people think of de Vinci as an artist and it’s true he could bang out the odd sketch and sculpture or two. But he was also a brilliant scientist literally centuries ahead of his time in some matters. Ever seen an argument spiral out of control when all that was needed to stop it was for one person to be quiet and take the high moral ground? It’s easy to get sucked into defending your position (trust me, I do it enough!), when sometimes just smiling and being quiet makes much more of an impact. I may try this one out when somebody leaves a comment telling me what an idiot I am and how I totally misunderstood one of the quotes. da Vinci

20. Henry Ford On Thinking Outside The Box

Ford was a genius and revolutionized the motor industry, and he he demonstartes the power of thinking differently. I’m not sure it needs any more explanation than that. Henry Ford quote

What’s Your Take?

I have given you my opinions and for the most part, that’s all they are, opinions and not facts. I’d welcome your feedback and favorites in the comments, especially people I may have overlooked. Oh and by the way, if you sign up for my newsletter, one of the 4 free books is all about great quotes. Woo-hoo!