Dan Pink Shares The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

So how is it that we motivate ourselves and others?

A History Of Motivation

Through much of history the idea of motivating people has focused on the external factors. The threat of death helped drive people to pull large rocks around to build temples; while the sniff of large rewards encourages people do things they’d otherwise find repulsive.

The idea of a job rests in this premise. So does school. Put in the effort and you’ll be rewarded with good grades and a high salary, spend your time doodling pictures and passing messages and you’ll fail the class or lose your job.

For a long time this method worked – or at least it sufficed. All those routine, repetitive, mundane tasks that were uninspiring, could be made more persuasive with the right external motivator.

Then in came the 21st century, and with it, machines and computers. No longer did we need humans for the routine tasks, we could rely on stronger, faster, and more reliable mechanical systems.

This change left us humans with what the machines couldn’t do: Be creative. All the jobs and requirements of this new age now rest in our ability to be complex thinkers, to be innovative, to think outside the box.

This change has taken the work away from our physical bodies, and put it into the power of our minds. It’s here that these external motivators go awry.

Finding The Third Drive

Harry Harlow found that our views on motivation were inadequate in his experiments with monkeys. He noticed that monkeys were quicker to solve puzzles when they enjoyed it as opposed to those rewarded for it.

The popular view at the time was that there existed two drives: the biological drive of hunger, thirst, and sex; and the drive of rewards and punishments. Harlow tried to remedy the issue by adding a third drive: intrinsic motivation, or the joy of the task itself.

People would come home from a long day at work, to paint, to write, to do a crossword, what caused them to do this? Intrinsic motivation helped to explain why people were driven to do things without the other motivators.

It seems intuitive that we have an internal drive, something that encourages us to seek intellectual pleasures and emotional thrills. But, outside of these personal pastimes, what does this motivation have to do with work?

It turns out that this intrinsic motivation can both encourage, and stand in the way of, the creative and complex thought that businesses today rely on.

Intrinsic Motivation Requires Intrinsic Rewards

In 1969 Edward Deci set out to study motivation. He used the Soma puzzle cube, a set of plastic shapes that can be assembled into larger shapes, with many different possibilities. He had two groups of participants go through three sessions of solving the puzzle.

In each session, participants sat at a table with the puzzle, drawings of three possible solutions, and three magazines.

At first they all needed to try to create the solutions in the drawings while Deci timed them. The second time around was a little different, in that one group were going to be paid for each correct configuration while the others continued for free — not knowing that some people were being paid. The third time through, they were all to find solutions for no reward, just as in the first session.

Midway through each session, Deci told the participants that he needed to leave the room to get a fourth drawing, and would be gone only a few minutes. He was gone exactly eight minutes, but rather than getting a fourth picture, he observed what the participants did to occupy themselves in his absence.

In the first session, all the participants continued using the puzzle for around 3 and a half minutes. In the second sessions, the group who were now being paid spent more than 5 minutes using it. Clearly the extra motivation was having an affect.

In the third and final session, those that had never been paid remained relatively consistent, in some cases using the puzzle for longer. The group who had been paid in the second session now lost their motivation, only spending 2 minutes on the puzzle.

When money is used as an external reward for some activity, the subjects lose intrinsic interest for the activity.

Money gets us going up to a point, for the average earner in the United States that point is around $75,000. After that, we need something different.

The best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table: Pay people enough so that they’re not thinking about money and they’re thinking about the work.

We all need to earn a decent living, to be able to get by comfortably, but the long held assumption that more money means more motivation doesn’t hold up. In fact, more money for some tasks can result in less motivation. This is an important point for a time when our intellectual abilities are becoming more important.

In Dan Pinks Drive, he looks to three core intrinsic motivators that show us how to get motivated, and that can pull us above and beyond their external counterparts: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.

1. Autonomy

We need to be in control. Nobody likes to be bossed around and feel like they have no say in anything.

Dan Pink notes that management is a human invention, an aging technology.

Its central ethic is control; its chief tools remain extrinsic motivators. That leaves it largely out of sync with the non-routine, right-brain abilities on which many of the world’s economies now depend.

Studies have found a link between autonomy and wellbeing in many different countries and cultures. Other studies have shown it’s positive effect on conceptual understanding, grades, persistence, productivity, fighting off burnout, and the aforementioned overall wellbeing.

Pink shows that there are four essential aspects of autonomy: our task, our time, our technique, and our team. With these under our terms, we gain true autonomy.

Everybody is different, with this freedom we are able to chose to work at the times that we’re most productive, with the people that we work best with, on the tasks that we enjoy the most, and in the way that works for us.

Control and direction are central aspects of being human, we’re built to be “players not pawns.”

We still need to work however, misconstruing freedom for the ability to do nothing defeats the purpose. It takes discipline to use that freedom in the right way, but if you truly enjoy what you’re doing that shouldn’t be a problem.

2. Mastery

Our interest withers when we feel like we’re not getting anywhere. That worked adequately for the routine work of the past, where jobs simply wanted compliance in exchange for money. Now we need engagement, a function that’s missing from the old model.

Engagement is the most important route to mastery and personal fulfillment. And, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi notably discovered, the greatest point of engagement is when we enter a state of flow.

In the flow state our self-consciousness disappears, our sense of time is warped, but our goals are clear. As Mihaly found, this state is described as the most satisfying time of peoples lives.

The requirements for entering this state are relatively simple: the challenge needs to be achievable, but it also needs to stretch you beyond your current abilities.

Goldilocks tasks as Pink calls them, are activities that are neither too difficult nor too easy. If the task were too difficult we’d become anxious, if it were too easy we’d become bored. The middle ground is where flow happens.

Throughout my athletics career, the overall goal was always to be a better athlete than I was at that moment — whether next week, next month or next year. The improvement was the goal.

Sebastian Coe.

Pink defines mastery as a set of three laws: It’s a mindset, it’s painful, and it’s an asymptote.

Carol Dweck found that what people believe shapes what they achieve, and that our self-theories determine how we interpret our experiences. Often those that go further are those whose goal is to learn, not to prove they’re smart.

In a study of potential military cadets, the best predictor of success was the prospective ratings of grit. Mastery occurs through effort over a long time, which takes persistence and a passion for the goal. It can also be painful.

An asymptote is a curve that is forever approaching but never reaching it’s end. Pink notes that true mastery never occurs, and that “the joy is in the pursuit more than the realization.”

3. Purpose

What we’re involved in needs to transcend the self, to at least feel like we’re an essential piece to a much larger whole.

People can be inspired to meet stretch goals and tackle impossible challenges, if they care about the outcome.

Elizabeth Moss Kanter

Every now and again we stop to contemplate our lives, and often wonder where the time has gone. It’s here we can be struck by our own mortality, the idea that our lives are just not that long, and that we need to be something meaningful with them.

Our purpose often comes in the form of doing something to help others. It’s something that can outlast our own lives.

Companies are popping up today whose mission is to pursue purpose, and to use profit as the catalyst rather than the objective. On a smaller scale many people are turning to volunteer work to fuel their purpose.

How we spend our money is just as important as how much we make, and when we spend it on other people or on a cause, we increase our subjective well-being.

One cannot lead a life that is truly excellent without feeling that one belongs to something greater and more permanent than oneself.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The Life Mission

As Edward Deci notes, humans have an “inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise their capabilities, to explore, and to learn.”

Research shows that even when our goals are extrinsic, achieving that wealth rarely leads to greater happiness. Those who look towards the intrinsic goals, however, attain higher levels of satisfaction and well-being, and show lower levels of anxiety and depression.

The old “if-then” rewards are ineffective and often deleterious to our conceptual, complex, creative drives. And as such, need to make room for autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

It brings up thoughts of a life mission. The external desires — money, clothing, housing — are products that should support something higher, something less tangible and more meaningful.

The extrinsic rewards provide the base on which our true purpose can flourish, but they cannot stand in the way of our intrinsic desires, lest they kill our motivation and creativity.

The richest experiences in our lives aren’t when we’re clamoring for validation from others, but when we’re listening to our own voice — doing something that matters, doing it well, and doing it in the service of a cause larger than ourselves.

What engages and drives you beyond everything else? Have you found your purpose?

How To Set Goals and Achieve Them

You hear a lot about the importance of setting goals – if you enjoy reading about success and accomplishment as much as I do, you’ll find a common thread among successful people is that they all set goals (without exception), and they all work extremely hard to make them a reality.

Well that’s all well and good, but how exactly do you go about setting a goal? Contrary to popular belief, goal setting isn’t simply about imagining what you want to achieve. When applied properly, goal setting is actually a tool in itself that can greatly increase your chances of making your dreams a reality.

Here is a lesson on how to set goals from two men who have devoted their lives to unlocking the secrets to success and accomplishment.

Napoleon Hill – Think and Grow Rich

Before “The Secret” convinced a generation that you could make your fat credit card bill disappear by sending positive vibes into the universe, there was “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill.

Think And Grow Rich is “The Secret” for hustlers, for people who want to go out and make things happen for themselves, but just need a push in the right direction. The fact that it is 70 years old and written during the great depression doesn’t make it any less relevant today. If anything, anyone reading it today will feel like it was tailored specifically for this point in history, archaic references notwithstanding.

But who was Napoleon Hill, and what exactly qualifies him to teach us about setting goals? Napoleon Hill spent a quarter decade interviewing the 500 richest men in America of his generation, distilling all of that wisdom into this seminal work. Some of these men included Henry Ford, Teddy Roosevelt, Andrew Carnegie, William Wrigley Jr., Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, John D Rockefeller, Charles Schwab, and many more.

In fact, it was Andrew Carnegie – one of the richest men of all time – who suggested that Hill write a book and share his accumulated wisdom with the world.

How does Think And Grow Rich address goal setting?

While I highly recommend reading the book, the process of goal setting taught in Think and Grow Rich can be distilled into the following points:

  1. Determine exactly how much money you desire – don’t be vague.
  2. Determine exactly what you intend to do in order to earn the money you desire. What value are you going to offer? Remember, there is no free lunch.
  3. Establish an exact date for when you plan to possess the amount of money you desire.
  4. Establish a definite plan for achieving your desire, and start right this moment, whether or not you feel you’re ready.
  5. Write out a clear statement of how much money you are going to acquire (the amount from step 1), what you intend to do in exchange for the money (the value from step 2), the date you’ll acquire it by (the date from step 3), and your specific, actionable plan for reaching the desired monetary goal (the plan from step 4).
  6. Twice daily, read your written statement out loud to yourself. Do it once in the morning, and once at night. While you read the statement, visualize yourself executing on your plan and visualize the money in your possession.

The goal setting principles above fit into a larger framework of what Hill calls creating “burning desire to win”, but it is essential to the framework presented in Think And Grow Rich. While Hill focuses on goal setting as it applies to financial success (the book is called Think and Grow Rich after all), the same principles can be applied to anything you want to achieve.

Tim Ferriss – 4 Hour Work Week

In the 4 Hour Work Week*, Tim Ferriss describes how he went from working 100+ hours a week on his online supplements business to turning it into a passive income business that funded his travels and hobbies. He accomplished this by creating what he calls a “dreamline” for his ideal lifestyle.

*Note: Don’t let the catchy title fool you, the 4 Hour Work Week isn’t about only working 4 hours a week – it’s about rejecting social norms regarding how we “should” live and work. It’s about using out-of-the box thinking to minimize the work we don’t want to do, so we can spend time doing what we really want.

What Ferris calls a “dreamline” is essentially a list of things you want to acquire and/or accomplish, without concern for how exactly you will accomplish it. The idea is to not limit yourself to your preconceived notions of what is or isn’t possible, but to design an ideal lifestyle for yourself, figure out how much money you’ll need to accomplish that lifestyle, and then aim to create income streams that will support that lifestyle. Its about setting fixed deadlines for creating our dream lifestyle, rather than using a vague notion of “the future” to indefinitely defer what we truly want from life.

Here is an excerpt from the 4 Hour Work Week where Tim talks about creating a dreamline.

Create a two timelines—six months and twelve months—and list up to five things you dream of having (including, but not limited to, material wants: house, car, clothing, etc.), being (be a great cook, be fluent in Chinese, etc.), and doing (visiting Thailand, tracing your roots overseas, racing ostriches, etc.), in that order.

For now, don’t concern yourself with how these things will be accomplished. That’s all covered later.

Consider the question: What would you do, day-to-day, if you had $100 million in the bank? If still blocked, fill in the five “doing” spots with the following:

  • 1 place to visit
  • 1 thing to do before you die (a memory of a lifetime)
  • 1 thing to do daily
  • 1 thing to do weekly
  • 1 thing you’ve always wanted to learn

Chances are that the ultimate TMI figure will be lower than expected, and it will decrease over time as you trade more and more “having” for once-in-a-lifetime “doing.” Mobility encourages this trend. Even if the total is intimidating, don’t fret. It is possible—case studies in the book prove it—to get to more than $10,000 per month in extra income within three months. This is usually 3 or 4 times more than is needed. Getting to an extra $2,000 or $3,000 is seldom a problem.

You can have it all—really.

Of course, learning how to set goals, or creating a “dreamline”, is only the first step in the process of success. To find out how Tim accomplished his dreamline and how you can as well, I highly recommend reading the 4 Hour Work Week.

The key takeaway from the 4 hour work week as far as goal setting goes, is not to let our preconceived notions of what is and what isn’t possible dictate our goals. Much too often, people set goals based on what they think is realistic.

The other takeaway is to set both a short term and long term goals. You can write down a specific goal with a specific deadline, but if the end goal is 5, 10 years down the line, how do we measure progress in the meantime? Its important to create short term goals that you can start working towards right now, and to always give yourself less time than you think you’ll need to accomplish any given goal.


So now that we’ve looked at goal setting from the perspective of two authorities on the subject, what common elements can we draw here? Whether we’re talking about the great depression, or the modern internet era of remote working and the digital nomad, it looks like there are certain elements that remain universal truths when it comes to setting goals:

  1. Don’t let your pre-conceived notions of what is and isn’t possible define your goals. Rather, describe what you want to achieve, and work backwards from that to create a plan to get from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be).
  2. Part of your goal setting should involve a plan of action to achieving your goal, starting from today.
  3. Goals must be specific and exact in nature. They should state exactly what you want.
  4. Goals must have a specific timeframe for accomplishment.
  5. Goals should be written down so they’re concrete.
  6. Re-visit your goals daily.

Have you used these goal setting techniques to make big progress in your own life? Do you have your own process for setting and achieving your goals? Feel free to share in the comments below.

On The Importance Of Goal Setting: 6 Reasons Why You Need To Set Goals

Ok, so this isn’t the first time you’ve heard someone talk about the importance of goals, and its definitely not going to be the last.

But clichés aside, understanding the importance of goal setting and knowing how to set goals for yourself is crucial to accomplishing great things in your life. Here are 6 important reasons why you need to set goals for yourself:

1. Goals Propel You Forward

Having a goal written down with a set date for accomplishment gives you something to plan and work for. A written goal is an external representation of your inner desires; its a constant reminder of what you need to accomplish.

There’s a very common pattern that comes with working towards goals that we’re all familiar with: you set your mind to something, you get excited and work like mad, and then motivation starts to wane. Having goals that you can focus on and visualize helps you better connect yourself with your inner desires, and gives you the motivational energy you need to work through periods where your focus inevitably starts to wane.

2. Goals Transform Insurmountable Mountains Into Walkable Hills

walking up hill
Photo credit: Peter Lewis

Most of us have big dreams that seem impossible to accomplish. Its easy to feel discouraged when you’re staring at a massive, seemingly insurmountable mountain.

Proper goal setting can help break larger, intimidating aspirations into smaller, more achievable stepping stones. Planning towards these smaller goals not only makes it easier to formulate a definite plan of action that we can start working on right away, but research has shown that hitting smaller milestones provides real motivation and greater contentment.

In his fantastic book, “Delivering Happiness“, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh describes how offering smaller, but more frequent promotions had a measurable increase in employee satisfaction, even though the final accomplishment was the same. Instead of offering one big promotion every 18 months for example, the management at Zappos found that offering smaller promotions, say every 3 months, would result in increased employee satisfaction and motivation.

You can take this lesson and apply it to your own life. Take the mountains you need to climb and break them up into smaller hills that you can walk. You’ll be happier and more motivated to start working towards that next milestone on your way to greatness.

3. Goals Help Us Believe In Ourselves

Setting goals for yourself is a way to fuel your ambition. Goal setting isn’t just about creating a plan for your life and holding yourself accountable, its also about giving us the inspiration necessary to aim for things we never thought possible.

Do you want to accomplish something that many people dream about, but few people ever actually accomplish? Unless you make it a goal for yourself and work everyday towards achieving it, why would you ever believe that you could accomplish it? Unless you see yourself slowly making progress, your dreams and aspirations are nothing more than vague notions floating around in your imagination.

4. Goals Hold You Accountable For Failure

If you don’t write down concrete goals and give yourself a timeline for achievement, how can you look back and re-evaluate your path if you fail?

There’s something extremely humbling about looking back on a goal you set for yourself 6 months, 1 year, or even 5 years ago and realizing that you were supposed to accomplish a lot more than you actually did. Its a concrete sign that whatever you’re doing isn’t working, and you need to make real changes if you want to get where you want to be.

5. Goals Tell You What You Truly Want

There are certainly times where we set goals that don’t really reflect what we want. Sometimes we think we need more money, when really we need a change of environment, or someone to love. Sometimes we think we want more free time, but what we really want is work that we can be truly passionate about. Sometimes we think we want to be alone, but really we need to be around more positive people.

If you never set goals in the first place, how do you find out what you truly want? If you wander through life with vague notions of “success” and “accomplishment”, you might never discover that buying a new BMW isn’t what will bring you true happiness, or that landing that coveted promotion at work will make you miserable because the extra money and fancy title won’t make up for the reduced time with your family.

By asking ourselves what we really want and constantly re-assessing our goals, we gain the benefit of introspection and self-reflection. We can figure out what it is we really want in life – and then we can go out and do it.

6. Goals Help Us Live Life To The Fullest

When you take the time to set goals, you ensure that your life is geared towards getting the most out of every moment. There’s so much to do and experience in life, but many of the things we want to achieve and experience won’t be handed to us – we need to work for it.

lost in the forest
Which way should you go? (Photo credit: Luigi Montebello)

Imagine you’re on a vacation. You have a limited amount of time to take in all the sights, sounds, and experiences of a foreign land. Wouldn’t you want to figure out exactly what you want to do and what you want to see? Or would you wander around, hoping to find something interesting? And if you do have some sights and landmarks in mind that you want to visit, wouldn’t you do a little research to find out how to get there? Or would you wander around, hoping that you’ll eventually find the place you’re looking for?

In many ways, life is like a vacation (though it certainly doesn’t feel like it); we’re given a finite amount of time to pursue the experiences we want and then before you know it, its time to go. If you want to get the most out of your precious moments of life, you have to know what you want.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to have every single moment of your life planned out. After all, what’s a vacation without a little serendipity? During your journey, you’ll find lots of interesting things to see and do that you never would have thought of before you started. Heck, your destination might change as you travel down the road and learn more about yourself and the world you inhabit. But without a clear sense of what you want to do and where you want to go, you’ll never be able to live life to the fullest.

Be sure to check out our article on how to set goals to learn how to set goals for yourself, if you want to harness the power of goal setting to improve your life.

Quotes About Determination

Determination is an essential part of success. If you’re looking for more resolve, these determination quotes are a great place to start.

Though determination can be a positive and powerful motivator, continuing to feel determined can be incredibly difficult when we encounter obstacles and setbacks. From losing weight to quitting smoking, it takes an incredible amount of determination to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.

Determination is what motivates us to improve ourselves, make positive changes in our lives, and increases our chances of success. It enables us to build dreams, live healthier lives, and strengthen our relationships with others.

Determination inspires us to dream bigger and achieve more for ourselves. When we adopt hard-working, successful people as a role models, we fuel our own determination and stay inspired to create new goals.

So here the most inspiring quotes about determination to encourage you to go for your dreams!

Determination Quotes

Tony Robbins quote "Determination is the wake-up call to the human will"
“Determination is the wake-up call to the human will.” – Tony Robbins

The path to success is to take massive, determined action.

Tony Robbins

It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.

Napoleon Hill

I am not judged by the number of times I fail, but by the number of times I succeed: and the number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I fail and keep trying.

Tom Hopkins

Fall seven times, stand up eight.

Japanese Proverb
Napoleon Hill determination quote “Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting”
“Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting.” – Napoleon Hill

The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground.

Author Unknown

Never consider the possibility of failure; as long as you persist, you will be successful.

Brian Tracy

If you are going through hell, keep going.

Winston Churchill

There’s only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything.

Vince Lombardi

If you would hit the mark, you must aim a little above it; Every arrow that flies feels the attraction of earth.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Ann Landers determination quote “Nobody ever drowned in his own sweat"
“Nobody ever drowned in his own sweat.” – Ann Landers

What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower

A difficult time can be more readily endured if we retain the conviction that our existence holds a purpose – a cause to pursue, a person to love, a goal to achieve.

John Maxwell

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Theodore Roosevelt

I think and think for months and years. Ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right.

Albert Einstein
Robert Kiyosaki quote "All depends on how determined we are to be successful"
“All depends on how determined we are to be successful.” – Robert Kiyosaki

It’s not about money or connections — it’s the willingness to outwork and outlearn everyone… And if it fails, you learn from what happened and do a better job next time.

Mark Cuban

He who would do some great thing in this short life, must apply himself to the work with such a concentration of his forces as to the idle spectators, who live only to amuse themselves, looks like insanity.

John Foster

When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there.

Zig Ziglar

I determined never to stop until I had come to the end and achieved my purpose.

David Livigstone
Chelsea Clinton quote "Determination gets you a long way"
“Determination gets you a long way.” – Chelsea Clinton

Some people dream of success… while others wake up and work hard at it.


If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you’ll achieve the same results.

Tony Robbins

It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. You only have to be right once and then everyone can tell you that you are an overnight success.

Mark Cuban

To succeed… you need to find something to hold on to, something to motivate you, something to inspire you.

Tony Dorsett
William Feather determination quote “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go”
“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.” – William Feather

An Unfailing Success Plan: At each day’s end write down the six most important things to do tomorrow; number them in order of importance, and then do them.


For true success ask yourself these four questions: Why? Why not? Why not me? Why not now?

James Allen

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.


We must be the epitome-the embodiment-of success. We must radiate success before it will come to us. We must first become mentally, from an attitude standpoint, the people we wish to become.

George Herbert Allen
Ayn Rand quote "The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me"
“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

Conquering any difficulty always gives one a secret joy, for it means pushing back a boundary-line and adding to one’s liberty.

Henri Frederic Amiel

Decide carefully, exactly what you want in life, then work like mad to make sure you get it!

Hector Crawford

Learn how to be happy with what you have while you pursue all that you want.

Jim Rohn

Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.

Michael Jordan
Daisaku Ikeda quote "The determination to win is the better part of winning"
“The determination to win is the better part of winning.” – Daisaku Ikeda

When I was younger, I thought that the key to success was just hard work. But the real foundation is faith. Faith — the idea that ‘I can do it’ — is the opposite of fear (‘What if I fail?’). And faith creates motivation which in turn leads to commitment, hard work, preparation … and eventually success.

Howard Twilley

Give the world the best you have, and the best will come to you.

Madeline Bridge

Nothing can withstand the power of the human will if it is willing to stake its very existence to the extent of its purpose.

Benjamin Disraeli
George Patton saying “In case of doubt, push on just a little further and then keep on pushing”
“In case of doubt, push on just a little further and then keep on pushing.” – George S. Patton

There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.


Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.

Thomas A. Edison

God gives every bird a worm, but he does not throw it into the nest.

Swedish Proverb

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Calvin Coolidge
Aeschylus quote “When a man is willing and eager, the gods join in”
“When a man is willing and eager, the gods join in.” — Aeschylus

You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.

George Lorimer

An invincible determination can accomplish almost anything and in this lies the great distinction between great men and little men.

Thomas Fuller

Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.

Abraham Lincoln

We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.

Sonia Johnson
Tommy Lasorda quote "The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man’s determination"
“The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man’s determination.” – Tommy Lasorda

Continuous, unflagging effort, persistence and determination will win. Let not the man be discouraged who has these.

James Whitcomb Riley

Within each of us is a hidden store of determination. Determination to keep us in the race when all seems lost.

Roger Dawson

Determination becomes obsession and then it becomes all that matters.

Jeremy Irvine

Life is not only merriment, it is desire and determination.

Kahlil Gibran
Johnn C Bovee quote "A failure establishes only this, that our determination to succeed was not strong enough"
“A failure establishes only this, that our determination to succeed was not strong enough.” – John C. Bovee

You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.

William Faulkner

Nothing great will ever be achieved without great mean, and men are great only if they are determined to be so.

Charles Du Gaulle

Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.

William James

A failure establishes only this, that our determination to succeed was not strong enough.

John C. Bovee

Decision and determination are the engineer and fireman of our train to opportunity and success.

Burt Lawlor
Og Mandino quote "Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough"
“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” – Og Mandino

A determined person will do more with a pen and paper, than a lazy person will accomplish with a personal computer.

Catherine Pulsifer

The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.

Roger Bannister

A vow is fixed and unalterable determination to do a thing, when such a determination is related to something noble which can only uplift the man who makes the resolve.

Mahatma Gandhi

If you set goals and go after them with all the determination you can muster, your gifts will take you places that will amaze you.

Les Brown
FDR quote "If we attack our problems with determination we shall succeed"
“If we attack our problems with determination we shall succeed.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Time can be an ally or an enemy. What it becomes depends entirely upon you, your goals, and your determination to use every available minute.

Zig Ziglar

Some succeed because they are destined to, but most succeed because they are determined to.

Henry Van Dyke

It is your determination and persistence that will make you a successful person.

Kenneth J. Hutchins, 10 Powerful Habits of Successful People

Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.

Mario Andretti

Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.

Dan Gable
Beverly Sills determination quote "There are no shortcuts to any place worth going"
“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” – Beverly Sills

Never give up, for this is just the place and time that the tide will turn.

Hariet Beecher Stowe

The difference between men is in energy, in the strong will, in the settled purpose and in the invincible determination.

Vince Lombardi

There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Never give in! Never give in! Never, never, never, never – in nothing great or small, large or petty. Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.

Winston Churchill
Einstein determination quote "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer"
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” – Albert Einstein

We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.

Jesse Owens

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.

Colin Powell

America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.

Harry S. Truman

You can’t give up! If you give up, you’re like everybody else.

Chris Evert
Napoleon quote "A resolute determination is the truest wisdom"
“A resolute determination is the truest wisdom.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

Set your goals high, and don’t stop till you get there.

Bo Jackson

Construct your determination with Sustained Effort, Controlled Attention, and Concentrated Energy. Opportunities never come to those who wait… they are captured by those who dare to attack.

Paul J Meyer

He conquers who endures.


Most people fail because they do not have determination and perseverance. Extraordinary people are determined and persevere that is what makes them extraordinary.

Catherine Pulsifer
Cher quote "If you really want something, you can figure out how to make it happen"
“If you really want something, you can figure out how to make it happen.” – Cher

Are you desperate or determined? With desperation comes frustration. With determination comes purpose, achievement, and peace.

James A. Murphy

Courage is the foundation of determination. Determination and courage are the cornerstones of success.

M. K. Soni

The only good luck many great men ever had was being born with the ability and determination to overcome bad luck.

Channing Pollock

Working hard, being patient and being full of determination is perhaps the most fulfilling way of becoming rich.

Robert Gardner
Lynn Jennings quote "Determination is like a muscle. If you do not use it regularly, it fades away"
“Determination is like a muscle. If you do not use it regularly, it fades away.” – Lynn Jennings

It has never been my object to record my dreams, just the determination to realize them.

Man Ray

Victory is the child of preparation and determination.

Sean Hampton

Within each of us is a hidden store of determination. Determination to keep us in the race when all seems lost.

Roger Dawson

A great book begins with an idea; a great life, with a determination.

Louis L’Amour

Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the determination to make the right things happen.

Horace Mann
Ian Duncan Smith quote "Do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man"
“Do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man.” – Ian Duncan Smith

We hope you’ve enjoyed these determination quotes! Remember, setbacks and obstacles in the road are all part of your journey to success. Keep dreaming and striving for greatness, and you’ll reach your goal.

*This post was originally published on June 19th, 2012 and updated with more great determination quotes on April 7th, 2020.