Margien Matthews

Motivational quotes for success unpacked. Rainbow or rainclouds?

Motivational quotes for success

Motivational quotes for success.

What motivates you? And what pushes your buttons?


Do you also find yourself being ambushed by inspirational and motivational quotes jumping out at you everywhere like unwanted telemarketers? Springing up like daisies.  Actually, make those weeds.  They are on TV, in magazines and newspapers, on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, TikTok, etc ad nauseum.

Even grumpy Twitter gets showered with glitter and rainbows now and again.

Spend one day counting all the motivational quotes that bombard you and you’ll see what I mean.

With all this positivity the world should be a much better place. And we should, at the very least, be happy, motivated achievers all day long.  Well (spoiler alert), it's not working. In fact, it's downright demotivating. And a key reason why is that most of what's out there does not pass the test of reason or logic.

Allow me to unpick a few. 

“If your dreams don't scare you, they are too small” 

In other words, if I'm scared witless then my dreams are the right type.  To achieve anything, I need to be driven by fear.  Otherwise, I'm a hopeless non-achiever.

Do you buy this? Because I don't.

I can cite countless studies which explain, in great academic detail, why taking small steps in the right direction is more effective than setting audacious goals.

To my mind, we are most successful when we set one small goal. And achieve it. Then we set another one. And achieve that.  Next thing, it's become a habit and we achieve so much more than we ever thought possible. And it started with one small goal and one small step in the right direction.

Dreams shouldn't be scary. They should be exciting. 

“Your only limit is your mind”

Well, that's good to know.  So glad that I can be a supermodel, an Olympic athlete or a Nobel Prizewinning scientist as long as I get my mind right.

"You shouldn't take it so literally", I hear you saying.  "It's meant to convey that we should not limit ourselves".

The mind is a power tool, I'll grant you that.  But telling our mind to be limitless is unlikely to achieve anything.  Have you tried it lately?

Let's rather say that our mind is, for most of us, an underused muscle.

We would profit from having more self-confidence. So often our self-confidence limits us far more than our mind ever will. More confidence frees our mind and helps us expand our mental boundaries.   That's how we can flex our mental muscles.

“Winners never quit; quitters never win” 

Chad the evil personal trainer used to say this to me as I lay whimpering on a sweaty gym floor.  Well, let's get all competitive and macho here, shall we?

Winners do quit. The smartest ones quit when they are ahead, to pursue other dreams or to enjoy the fruits of their labour. That’s my feeble excuse why I no longer go to the gym, at any rate.

Quitters aren’t losers. Frequently quitters have to give up their dreams due to insurmountable odds.  Sometimes the challenges of an unequal society, or social barriers, or economic constraints, cannot be overcome.  Dreams might need adjustment.

The win/lose approach is a strong example of binary thinking. All or nothing.  Winner or loser.  Binary thinking does not benefit us because it makes us think in black or white.  Yet life comes in a multitude of shades, so let's not settle for two only.

Smart people choose when to try and win, and when to walk away. We do best when we calculate the odds and are realistic about where to put our best efforts. That, to my mind, is how winners think.

“Train your mind to see the good in every situation”

This is the ultimate positivity trip. We are encouraged to believe that every cloud has a silver lining. Every situation can be made better by looking at the positives, or benefits, or advantages, so the thinking goes.

For those of us who tend towards negativity, it is indisputable that there are benefits to seeking a bright side.  It's helpful to scan the situation and look at both the good and the bad.

The bit I have a problem with (and I'm sure you know where this is going) is the word "every".  Again, it's that binary thing.  Not every situation has good in it.  Or bad.

We do well when we try to see the good in a negative situation most of the time.  And we do best when we accept that not all situations have good in them. Some just plain suck. No amount of positive thinking will change that.

We don't have to bin this saying.  Let's rephrase it. Train your mind to see the good in most situations.  Feels better already!

“Life only gives you what you can handle”

This gem is mostly given to people who are suffering the death of a loved one in the mistaken belief that it will somehow comfort and inspire them.

Did you speak to Life? Did Life tell you this personally? If not, leave it alone.

Tough things happen. Terrible things may happen to people who least deserve them. Sometimes the randomness of who is selected for suffering, and who is not, is difficult to come to terms with. You’re probably thinking of a personal example right now.

That's why this statement should go straight to the bin, where it belongs.  We deserve better.

Send me some hate

These five inspirational quotes irritate me the most and I attempted to turn them into something more meaningful. But there are so many more out there!

I'd love to hear which motivational quotes drive you crazy and why. Drop me a line at and I'll feature some of them in an upcoming blog.

Where to go for more (down to earth-ish) quotes

-   Try 17 quotes for success and 50 inspirational quotes for a boost that gets it right most of the time.

-   We love because they cover so much ground.

-   And finally, you can’t go wrong with for some daily inspiration.

Check out our freebies at and start your own 90-day roadmap to success at

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