Motivational Words: How to be Quotable

motivationalwordsEver wondered what makes some people so charismatic and magnetic? Often, it’s the way they speak. Ever felt inspired by someone whose energy is contagious? That’s someone who knows how to use motivational words.  If you too want to feel the power of motivating the people around you, check out the tips below for some helpful ideas on how to use motivational words. If you want to be a real master of persuasion take a look at these courses on the art of swaying opinion.

Practice Makes Perfect

Being able to motivate people is a skill that can be honed and perfected. It starts with inclusive speech with very subtle cues like using ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ or ‘you.’ Using ‘we’ and ‘us’ automatically implies that you, and the people you’re with, are working together toward a common goal. When you’re addressing others, put on your happy face. Optimism is contagious (as is pessimism) and your positive outlook can sway others to feel the same. At the same time, if you’ve got a Negative Nellie in your group, take that person under your wing directly, so their attitude doesn’t spread. (If you’re working with unruly students, get a comprehensive program for motivating children.)


Never underestimate the number of people desperate for personal praise. Unless you’re a toddler, no one is giving you the high-five for finishing your peas or making your bed. Most people are starved of praise. A simple pat on the back, “Dude, that was awesome!” can often be enough to bring someone in line with your objectives. If you’re working with a weak performer, give them simple tasks they can succeed at, so you can offer genuine praise. Keep in mind, praise is more valuable when reserved for truly exceptional performance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show your appreciation for an everyday contribution.


Coming up with phrases worthy of being quoted isn’t as hard as it seems. Anybody can be deep. One simple way is to alter an existing turn of phrase like this: “For every truth, there is an equal and opposite truth.” Another classic turnaround is to create a phrase and then invert it like this: “Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.” John Wooden. Motivational phrases typically center around behaviors. Remember, you’re trying to mobilize someone out of their chair. Think of the classic JFK quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” It acknowledges the existing mindset and turns it on its head. That’s what you want to do; and you can take that format and adjust it to suit your own needs: “Don’t be afraid of the risks, make the risks afraid of you.” You get the idea. While you’re busy crafting your quotable phrases, consider this course to learn how to Present with Power. After all, it’s hard to sell your ideas if no one is listening to them.


Generally speaking, motivating people starts with getting them to focus on a single objective. We think of personal dreams as a single life-long pursuit. You want to minimize external distractions. You can inspire people by helping them focus on their innate abilities—capitalizing on their unique perspective and experience. Get them to tackle one idea or one task at a time. Our entire society is built around specialization, and now science has shown us when we multitask, we do worse at everything. Get your people to focus. Focus. Focus.


When leaders want people to take action, they remind their team that results don’t just happen. Extraordinary people aren’t born extraordinary. They take advantage of opportunities, create their own lucky breaks, and refuse to succumb to adversity. Being exceptional means taking exceptional risks. It means not being satisfied with the daily grind. It means always going after the dream. As a leader, you can remind your team that to get the most out of life, they’ve got to squeeze life like a sponge. (Whether you like that turn of phrase or not, visual imagery like that helps anchor the idea in people’s minds.)


While the sponge metaphor is still fresh in your mind, it’s important to use phrases that suggest personal strength or power—like the act of squeezing. You want to imply that everything is within their control—even adversity. People who have control are called powerful. People who feel powerful take action. Also a metaphor that uses an action like “grab the bull by the horns,” inspires action. It assumes an active participant. It implies control over the mighty and unexpected.  See if you can make your motivational words take on a physical action.


Mental framing is the tool used to turn failures into learning experiences, hardship into triumph, and adversity into opportunity. When you reframe a negative experience, you demonstrate that overcoming obstacles is a question of attitude and fortitude. And attitude and fortitude are, of course, within your control.

Things not to do

When you’re trying to drum up optimism and action, you want to downplay the adversity. You can, and probably should, acknowledge it in some way, but inspiring speech gets bogged down in literal truths. How inspiring is this: “Despite your marital status, you’ve done quite well.” It’s easy to see that it’s not. Why? Because it gives credence to the idea that marital status is an obstacle—it implies that marital status is a genuine shortcoming. Instead, you want to imply that shortcomings are easily managed by focusing on success like this classic, “Success is the best revenge.”

At the end of the day, motivational words derive primarily from a positive outlook and attitude. If you need some reminders about how to keep on the sunny side, check out this course about Positive Thinking. Now, if you’re ready to try your hand at motivating others, go own the day.