A silhouette of a man with his arms in the air cheering on the beach at sunrise. He sometimes enjoys motivational quotes.
Image: © BillionPhotos.com/Stock.adobe.com

The ‘motivational’ quotes to ignore this year – and what to focus on instead

8 Jan 2019

Motivational quotes should be taken with a pinch of salt – or sometimes not at all.

I’m always a little wary of ‘new year, new you’ content that sprouts up in January. When I write New Year’s resolutions aimed at helping people boost their career, I try to avoid anything that sounds like I’m telling people to work harder.

I started the new year off with advice on getting into a positive mindset because I think, no matter what your goals for the year are, a good outlook will be of great benefit.

I do these things because, every year, the big ‘motivational’ quotes come out from the woodwork.

While the intentions of these quotes and the people who post them may be inherently good, I think they can sometimes put additional pressure on people to ‘achieve their best life’ and the underlying message is that if you’re not doing what the pretty font on the motivational poster says, you must be failing.

With this in mind, here are a few motivational quotes or pieces of career advice I hate, and why you should take your foot off the pedal and take each of these with a large pinch of salt.

‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life’

A version of this quote has been knocking around for years and attributed to various people including Mark Twain, Marc Anthony and Confucius.

As someone who really does love what I do, I couldn’t agree with this quote less. I’m well aware that the innocent backbone of this is, ‘Do what you love and work won’t be as difficult’, but the truth is that work is always work. Even dream jobs have their difficult side and anyone who looks at someone else and assumes that doing their dream job means they’re not working really hard is incredibly naive.

With this in mind, it’s OK if you go into work every day and it still feels like work. It’s OK to be excited for the weekend or occasionally feel like you don’t want to go in on a Monday. It doesn’t mean you’re not doing what you love and it doesn’t mean you need to go and find a different job.

‘Life’s too short to do things you don’t love doing’

Once again, there are plenty of versions of this – too many to even remotely nail down an accurate original source – but the point is similar to the above quote.

Once again, I’m not blind to the nice, motivational intention. After all, you only have one life and you should spend it doing things you love, right?

That’s far easier said than done when we live in a world where bills need to be paid, responsibilities need to be met and financial security is important.

People should certainly look at that quote and evaluate ways to bring more of what they love into their lives. But, for those who can only do so much of what they love and need to give a certain amount of time to things they don’t, you’re doing well, too.

‘Pursue your dreams and everything will follow’

There are so many versions of ‘follow your dreams, no matter what’ that this was the best way to sum them up. This is the kind of motivational quote I believe is most similar to that of a weekly horoscope. Feel free to take what you need from it in times of self-doubt, but take it with a pinch of salt.

Some people have walked into work one day, quit their day job and put all of their energy into making a success out of their dreams – and it has worked out. But, again, due to bills, responsibilities and the need for financial security, most of us don’t do that. And that’s OK.

If you need the motivational boost, please enjoy these inspirational words. But remember, if you can’t devote massive amounts of time to your dream today because you have to study or meet friends or make dinner or even simply unwind from a stressful day at work, that’s OK.

Motivational quotes are great for those who feel they are a genuine benefit, but sometimes all the motivation you need is to know that you’re doing just fine. It’s important for us all to remember that just because we don’t feel like we’re ‘killing it’ in the eyes of the motivational quotes, it doesn’t mean we’re not successful in our own right.

With all that in mind, here are three quotes I find a little more realistic:

“Success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out” – Robert Collier

“A positive mindset alone in the absence of hard work will get you nowhere” – Ken Poirot

“I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I must not fail to do the something that I can do” – Edward Everett Hale

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

Loading now, one moment please! Loading