24 Success Motivators

Success is defined in so many different ways that it’s nearly impossible to choose just one.

Success depends on the person, the situation, and any number of other factors, but most importantly, success is determined by you. Maya Angelou once said, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

To find it, you have to define what it means to you first. No one else can do this for you. Your success in life will depend on your attitude and the amount of effort you put into achieving your goals.

For many people, true success is peace of mind. If you have the right success motivators, you’ll find that peace of mind, along with other benefits as well. However, to find your success, you have to start with a goal.

What Are Your Goals?

Goals are easy. Everyone has goals in life. If you have a dream, you have a goal. It may not seem attainable, but it’s a goal nonetheless. It’s up to you to decide which dreams you want to pursue actively, and which dreams are just decoration on the walls of your mind.

Believe it or not, imagination plays an important role in determining which direction your goals will take you. When you have a dream you want to make into a life goal, you must imagine where that dream could take you, how you’ll get there, and what you’ll gain from the experience. All of that requires imagination.

Imagination leads to planning, and planning is a definitive step in the right direction. When you decide to plan out your goals, it should look something like this:

  • Develop S.M.A.R.T. goals
  • Work backward and set milestones (or smaller goals)
  • Determine what needs to happen and what actions you need to take to reach each milestone
  • Schedule your actions
  • Follow through

S.M.A.R.T. goals are those that are:

  • Specific (clearly defined),
  • Measurable (quantifiable),
  • Attainable (reasonable),
  • Relevant (right for your life), and
  • Time-based (deadline-focused).

What Kind of Motivation Drives You?

There are two general types of motivation that drive us to complete tasks in our daily lives. These same forms of motivation also push us towards our loftier goals. We achieve success through either extrinsic or intrinsic motivation or a combination of both.

Extrinsic Motivation

Truly meaningful work is difficult to achieve based on extrinsic motivation alone. When we are motivated in this way, our focus is on receiving a reward for our behavior or accomplishments. This reward may take the form of a raise from our employer, a promotion, a gift, or some other physical recognition.

This type of motivation can often be seen as shallow and may not be looked upon favorably.

Although money can be an alluring motivator, we should take care not to let it take over. Avoiding this trap is sometimes difficult. Money encourages primarily self-serving, short-term behaviors more so than lasting achievement.

An over-reliance on money as a reward for reaching your goals will inevitably erode your emotional commitment. Being proud of your accomplishments is what brings a lasting improvement in your life.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is a deeper, more fulfilling force. This is the type of motivation that drives artists, musicians, and teachers. Those that are successful may also see a monetary reward, but their humbler beginnings come from intrinsic motivation.

This type of motivation stems from the human desire to find true meaning in our lives. If this describes you, it’s likely that you seek fulfillment more than compensation for your work. Research has shown that individuals who focus on intrinsic motivators will be more successful in achieving their goals. Those who seek external incentives experience decreased performance in the long run.

It is often difficult for people to develop intrinsic motivation when things like more money and a better job are so attractive. Seeking deeper meaning requires conscious effort, but it’s not impossible. When you look for small ways to motivate yourself intrinsically, you’ll eventually build to where you want to be.

For instance, keeping family photos on your desk at work can remind you of what matters most and why you do what you do every day.

The Most Common Success Motivators

You already know that being properly motivated is the key to being successful in your endeavors, however big or small they may be. However, many people start with barely an inkling of what it is that actually motivates them. Finding your motivation and defining it, whether extrinsic or intrinsic, is just as important as maintaining it.

The most common motivators are fairly universal across the board, meaning these apply in some form or another, to just about every human on the planet. Learning to identify these basic measures of success will help you expand and further define them.

Ultimately, you’ll be able to hone in on a few key motivators that work best for you.

Living Comfortably

While this motivator seems obvious, it has different meanings for each person. Some consider simply having enough money to pay their mortgage and put food on the table as “comfortable.” Others prefer to have a salary that allows them to maintain a nice home, save money, and live a modest lifestyle without having to worry about pinching pennies.

Regardless of your definition of “living comfortably,” it’s likely you desire a sense of security (employment) in this area as well.

Enjoying Life

Being able to enjoy life is a huge motivator for many people. This may come in the form of travel, hobbies, writing, or just spending more time with friends.

Unfortunately, this desire to have fun and follow your passion isn’t always feasible for some, depending on their circumstances.

Doing Better

Some people are driven to always do better. They have a great desire to improve upon things from their past (or present). They want to be the best at what they do, not for any reason other than the simple idea of success.

For employers, finding someone like this is a major benefit. They know that person will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Helping Others

For many people, providing for and helping out family members is a strong motivator. This isn’t only seen in people with families, though. Altruism in humans is a subject that is widely studied. Single individuals may also have an altruistic desire to help others, whether it’s through donating their time or money, or just working in a field with a focus on charity.

Being Free

Having free time is one of the greatest motivators of all. Many workers accept jobs for the vacation time more than the salary. Being able to spend time relaxing, whether on vacation or just at home with family and friends, is a great way to reduce stress and improve mental health.

Studying Success Motivators

Researchers from Vanderbilt University and the University of Virginia conducted a study that focused on the psychological forces at play when people actively pursue long-term goals. Co-author of the study, Bruce Barry, noted that people seem to know that “they should ‘think long term,’ when in fact they base their choices and behaviors primarily or even solely on short-term considerations.” Therein lies the problem.

In today’s competitive world, most businesses seek short-term success, even if it gets in the way of (or completely derails) long-term planning. As a result, it’s very difficult for people to conceptualize a goal that could be months or years from fruition. Until recently, the psychology behind this mentality not been studied in much detail.

We already know that people who focus on and actively pursue long-term goals are very disciplined. They have a specific goal in mind, put in a great deal of effort towards that goal, and persevere over the short-term to reach the long-term goal.

To understand how this mindset develops, researchers interviewed 25 professionals in various fields, including medical, finance, and climate science, among others.

Results of those interviews included three primary traits that the respondents’ goals had in common:

  • Achieving the goal could take years.
  • Progress towards achieving the goal would come very slowly.
  • There was a significant chance of failure.

Even though these traits might not apply to every long-term goal, the insights gathered were valuable. This study provided the researchers with a great deal of information regarding how professionals sustain motivation and enthusiasm over long periods.

The study concluded that “long-term goals arguably are at least as important as short-term goals in their ultimate consequences.”

Sources of Motivation That Provide Sustenance

The study mentioned above resulted in considerable commonality between respondents. Eight key motivators for professionals seeking fulfillment of long-term goals were identified. Each of these elements would be considered intrinsic, as they provide “psychological sustenance” for the goal-setters.


In literature, an allegory is a metaphor in which a character, place, or event is used to deliver a message that reveals a real-world issue. It’s a symbolic representation. When speaking of long-term goals, any abstract statement that offers meaning to the goal-setter can be beneficial. For instance, a friend comparing a book of poems you’re working on to that of a famous poet you admire would be a positive motivator.


Futurity is defined as renewed or continuing existence. Knowing your efforts may positively affect your children or grandchildren is a key motivating factor for many goal-setters. Even the possibility that achieving this goal could make things better for future generations may be all you need to press on.


Statements that provide a glimpse into who you are as a person, your reputation, or your belief systems are key elements of motivation. When you believe you are expressing your creativity or upholding your reputation by pursuing a particular goal, you are more likely to see it through. Owning your creativity and using it to connect deeply to your goals will lead to positive results.


Your goals may not actually be unique in the grand scheme of things, but they likely are to you. Referencing the uniqueness of your dream, however big or small it may be, can help push you further down the road. An example would be developing a book of family recipes, which might not contain new recipes for the reader, but would certainly have a special and unique meaning for you as the writer.

New Knowledge

If your goal ultimately helps you develop a new skill, that can be a tremendous motivator. Acquiring new knowledge provides many people with a desire to complete a project, even in the face of great challenge. Other motivating factors in this realm might include learning the truth of something, learning how something works, or finding a way to control something.

The Work Itself

The idea that the work you are doing is important and lasting might not be as inviting to you as the challenge of the work itself. Perhaps you consider this project to be particularly risky or uncertain, and that encourages you to continue. If you enjoy puzzles, and the work you’re doing leads you to solve a few, you’ll be more likely to complete your goal.


Some people enjoy thinking about what the completion of their goals will mean for society. They are enamored with the thought that their work may earn social legitimacy and be looked upon favorably by peers. The prestige that comes with this thought is also appealing, although it may lean a bit more to the extrinsic side of success motivation.


Forward movement, even if it is only short-term in nature, is a common motivating factor for goal-setters. Eventually, all forward movement leads to the end result. Many people strive to continuously move from one point to the next in life, as long as the next point doesn’t end up being behind them. Developing a new tool that will help make a process more efficient is one example of a progress motivator.


24 Success Motivators

Understanding Your Motivators

If you identify with any of the success motivators outlined above, you’re moving in the right direction towards understanding what guides you in your journey to achieve your long-term goals. Many people don’t stop to analyze their motivators, which is a mistake.

We are all motivated by different things. Knowing where your creative juices flow from can shape the way you work as well as how efficiently you work.

We all want to feel a sense of purpose in our lives. Fully comprehending the source of your motivation is the best way to achieve that feeling. Although research suggests it’s better to focus on intrinsic motivators, extrinsic motivation can still have a positive effect if you truly understand why it drives you.

The source of your motivation, whether it’s one of the eight elements listed above or something else entirely, is not all that important. Once you recognize what each motivator means to you and how you can use it to succeed, you’ll be well on your way. Below are two benefits of how understanding your motivators can have a positive impact on your success.

An Increased Work Ethic

If you know that your primary motivation for completing a big project at work is that your company will move out in front of the competition because of your efforts, you have identified your success motivators.

Several of the key motivators listed above apply in that situation. Now that you understand what makes you tick, think about how you can use that to work harder, faster, and stronger towards your goal.

Knowing why you’re so focused on a particular dream is a sure-fire way to ramp up your work ethic. If you find yourself struggling to stay in the groove, develop a routine that includes subtle (or obvious) reminders of your motivation. Recalling the reasons behind your actions will make you less likely to skip out on any of the important steps.

A Strong Support System

You don’t have to rely solely on yourself to reach your goals in life. If other people know what you’re attempting to accomplish, they’ll cheer you on. For that to happen, you have to tell someone. Before you tell someone, you have to fully understand your sources of motivation.

It’s a bit of a cycle, but one that will lead to great things.

Finding a cheerleader (or two or three) whose job is to remind you why you’re putting yourself through this daunting process will be invaluable to you in the end. A true friend will hold you accountable by making you hold yourself accountable.

Open communication with that person(s) is important to your success. When priorities change, or you feel like you’re derailing, reach out and find solid ground again with the help of your support system.

How Can You Stay Motivated?

Now that you understand your motivators, how will you use them to advance your progress towards a goal? If that process is expected to be a long one, staying focused can be difficult, even with the best motivators.

So, how do you maintain your motivation and keep your inspiration for completing your goals at the forefront of your mind?

Get Serious and Then Keep Moving

Before you even start checking off smaller goals in pursuit of the end game result, you have to make a conscious decision to begin. In other words, you have to get serious. It’s time to take the plunge and make it happen.

Once you’ve begun, you need to maintain your momentum. If you do certain tasks each day that are ultimately leading you to your goal, don’t slack off. Keep up the pace. Maintaining a sense of urgency in the back of your mind will help in this area. It will also set you apart from others who fail when their momentum drops off.

Self-regulation is critical at this juncture. You must keep yourself in line to achieve your dreams. The faster you move, the easier it will be to advance your directive. The better you are in that respect, the happier you will be with yourself. This will build your self-esteem, which will, in turn, increase your self-discipline. The resulting persistence will make you unstoppable.

24 Success Motivators

Know Your Limitations

When pursuing new endeavors, we all run across things we don’t know how to do. You will have limits, but don’t let holes in your knowledge base bring you down or slow your progress. Instead, use that lack of knowledge as a motivator. Take the time to find information sources that will increase your confidence and put you back on track.

Books, blogs, and forums are great sources when you’re feeling stuck. Not only does a book consolidate a great deal of information into one place, but it also provides focus, which helps strengthen your mental acuity. Books are strong motivators, and in some cases, can introduce a perspective you had not considered.

Find the Right People

When you’re working hard to achieve a lofty goal, you know how important it is to stay positive. Surrounding yourself with people who do not support you 100% is a recipe for disaster. Negativity can bring you down and derail your progress.

If you find yourself in this situation, seek out people who have similar plans. You might be surprised by the number of like-minded individuals who are looking for the same thing you are: positive motivation. Social media and group forums are a good way to find positive people.

Collaborate with these people and develop a network where you can share ideas, talk through problems, and help each other stay on track.

Take Care of Yourself

You, like every other human on this planet, are one-of-a-kind. There is no one like you. You are unique, but you are also finite. There is a limit to what you can put your body and mind through before systems begin to break down.

Taking care of yourself is crucial to your long-term success. Not only does this mean you should eat well, exercise and get plenty of rest, but you need to be kind to your mind as well. Visualizing yourself in a good light and controlling your inner dialogue so you practice only positive self-talk is just as important for your mental health as eating right is for your physical health.

In other words, look in the mirror every once in a while, and tell yourself you are worthy. You can complete this project. You will achieve your goals. In truth, you may not believe the person in the mirror at first, but in time and with successful completion of small steps along the way, you’ll start to believe. By the time you make it to the finish line, you’ll have achieved your goal and gained considerable confidence.

Develop Rituals

Daily rituals or habits are powerful motivators. Even if your ritual has nothing to do with the accomplishment of your current goal, it brings regularity to your life. This will help you stay on track with other regular activities that are related to your goals.

Simply put, it’s good practice. We all need a little stability in our lives, and developing a ritual as simple as taking the dog for a walk every evening is an easy way to self-motivate.

Learn from Your Failures

There is no more powerful motivator than failure. Failure can lead to success, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the moment. Once you’ve moved past the initial shock and pain of the failure, it’s time to step back, put on your thinking cap, and analyze the situation. Why did you fail? What can you learn from that experience?

Embracing failure is one example of self-regulation, which plays an important role in guiding your progress and dealing with bumps in the road. Controlling emotions and using failure as a basis for improvement rather than a roadblock is critical for self-improvement.

Only through the act of overcoming failure will you eventually achieve success. If you don’t bother to analyze the failure, you’re more likely to give up instead.

Reward Yourself

Telling yourself that you will be successful is one form of motivation that is effective for many people. However, there’s no need to stop there. You should reward yourself every once in a while as well. There will be times when you get discouraged, and your rituals, discipline, and positive self-talk won’t be enough.

It’s during those times that you’ll need to step away and reward yourself.

Giving yourself small rewards at certain milestones during your journey is also an excellent way to provide encouragement. Nothing says “Great job!” quite like a chocolate bar and a nap (not necessarily in that order). If it makes you feel better (and less like you’re slacking off), schedule your rewards into your workday or routine.

The important part is to remind yourself that you are doing good work.

The Long Road

We all have dreams, but often we think they’ll never become reality because the road is too long. We try for a while and then give up. Identifying, understanding and using our success motivators to help us along the way can make a tremendous difference. All goals are attainable given the right knowledge, motivation, and support system. With patience and perseverance, you’ll eventually cross that finish line.

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