How Inspirational Quotes Motivate Us

Written by
Kyle Sherman
Published on
January 7, 2022 8:00:00 AM PST January 7, 2022 8:00:00 AM PSTth, January 7, 2022 8:00:00 AM PST

How do our favorite quotes and sayings inspire us to be better?

When people are looking for a little inspiration, many read motivational quotes, sayings, song lyrics, Bible verses – something that can sum up all of what they’re feeling or doing in just a few words. Many have become part of popular culture and society’s vernacular.


It doesn’t matter if the person who says it is famous, influential or an expert – some turns of phrase are so memorable, they become mantras for a generation. Like “Just Do It.”


3 Things

● good word-smithing

● motivational psychology

● measure of self-reflection


The appeal of inspirational quotes seems to come from good word-smithing, motivational psychology and a measure of self-reflection combined with meaning. New York-based psychologist and motivation expert Jonathan Fader, PhD says when people are drawn to motivational sayings, they are inspired by the fact that someone else believes they can achieve what they want to achieve, and they’re more likely to do it. “There’s a little bit of implicit coaching that’s happening when you’re reading it,” he says. “It’s building that self-efficacy in that kind of dialogue that you’re having with yourself.”


Words Are Powerful

There is great power in the way an idea is expressed through words and language. Ward Farnsworth, dean of the University of Texas School of Law and author of Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric, says people have an “appetite for well-expressed wisdom, motivational or otherwise.” In fact, a study conducted by cognitive scientists at Lafayette College shows “the way an idea is expressed can affect judgments about its merit,” he says. When study participants were shown two statements of the same saying, they were more likely to say the rhyming aphorism seemed true. The more pleasing the words are arranged, the more convincing the expressed idea may be to people. Common writing techniques include the use of metaphor and parallel construction, where two halves of sentence are “attractively balanced.”


Human Nature

“Humans are aspirational. We want to look up to role models and leaders and follow what they ask,” says communications consultant Scott Sobel, founder of Media & Communications Strategies, Inc. in Washington, D.C. “Leaders and their words -inspirational quotes- affect us on a primal level.”


Quotes from recognized leaders in business, politics, the arts and spirituality may be perceived as more powerful because it’s assumed the person who writes them is accomplished, wise or exceptional. To each his own. Nonetheless, well-written messages that use strong imagery and appeal to our aspirational nature can be meaningful and powerful in changing our thinking and helping us see something in ourselves that we want to change or overcome, Dr. Fader says.


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