The Best Personal Development Quotes to Motivate You

The phrase “personal development quotes” is a modern one, but the idea is ancient. People have always had questions about how to get motivated, get organized, and live the life you want to live. It is one of the few things that unites us across history and cultures. 

The importance of personal development can’t be understated. It’s the secret to success by separating yourself from the rest, building bridges towards your goals. It’s easy to invest time numbing yourself to reality; scrolling social media or watching countless hours of TV, but how much time do we spend on ourselves? Setting aside dedicated time for personal development, learning, and growing into the person you want to define your existence.

Personal development is a lifelong process and not achieved overnight. It can be a way for people to assess their qualities and set achievable life goals to maximize a higher quality of life potential. These inspirational quotes from famous philosophers will give you the confidence boost you need to kick start your day.

On the other hand, what some may consider a small improvement, maybe an excellent show for another. Personal growth and development mean several things to different people. We all have individual strengths and weaknesses, growing natural abilities in areas others have not. Applying these quotes to your life will not only keep you on top of your personal development but help you grow in more ways than you expected.

Here are some of the most inspirational quotations, by category, starting with the oldest.

the word grow written with grass illustration

The Most Inspirational Personal Development Quotes

The Wisdom of the Ages

“Be happy while you are alive.” -The Teachings for Ptahhotep

This has to be the granddaddy of all personal development quotes. The Prisse Papyrus, where it first appears, is almost as twice as old compared to Christianity. But the maxim itself also translated as “follow your desire as long as you live,” is the underlying theme of basically all personal development quotes since then.

And it is worth noting that the author was not just saying “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you will die.” The Egyptians believed in an afterlife and were very concerned about it. His point was that simply that here, in this life, you should not waste your time.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” -Laozi

The Tao Te Ching is notoriously one of the most difficult books to translate. Partly this is because of a deep language barrier, but mostly it is because the concepts are so dynamic. For instance, the passage above seems to neatly express the tension between one’s current self, and the person you are trying to become or capable of becoming. Clear enough, right? But it is also translated as:

“Less and less do you need to force things, until finally you arrive at non-action. When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.” -Laozi

That demands a good deal more study. And what really deserves our contemplation is the fact that these are two different translations of the same idea.

Personal Development Quotes By the Numbers (Part 1)

“One per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.” -Thomas Alva Edison

“80 percent of life is showing up” -Woody Allen

Edison’s famous motto and Woody Allen’s similar formula are often cited side by side. They do not mean quite the same thing, but they work together nicely. Edison’s formula was simply a way of saying that hard work is more important than extraordinary ability.  (He also liked to say: “a ‘genius’ is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework”).

Allen explained his 80% rule by saying that he knew many aspiring authors who talked about the novels that they had never finished. On the other hand, the people he knew who had finished their projects tended to be successful in getting them published. Personal development quotes are not mathematical proofs, but it seems worth putting these two observations together.

80% of your odds of success are just “showing up”: doing the basic groundwork without which it is impossible to succeed.  The next 19% is “perspiration”: the hard work, over and above the minimum.  But last 1%, innate talent, is what everyone tends to focus on.

Personal Development Quotes By the Numbers (Part 2)

an illustration of a man climbing the stairs of personal development

While we are being numerical, here are two more quotations, one of them quite precise, the other more general:

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” –Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan’s breakdown of his failures somehow feels more real than many adages that get at the same idea. There is a Japanese saying: “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” That is exactly the same idea, but it doesn’t quite hit home the way Jordan’s 26 missed winning shots do. And of course, if he weren’t talking about those missed shots, no one would remember them. Because we remember the ones he made.

“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” –Charles Swindoll

With this formula, Swindoll has addressed a long-standing qualm with a certain kind of advice.  People are not immune to the outside world.  Eleanore Roosevelt (allegedly) said “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” and there are plenty of similar personal development quotes.

This sort of wisdom fails when it is most needed.  Roosevelt was talking about a breach of etiquette at a public speaking engagement: no big deal.  Meanwhile, an abusive parent, for instance, can certainly make their child feel inferior without their consent.

Still, we often need to be reminded that we have substantial power to shape our own reality, despite our life circumstances. So perhaps Swindoll’s 90% rule is a good compromise. Sure, there are things that just happen to you. But ultimately, most of your life is determined by how you respond.

Excuses, Excuses

“If I had stayed for other people to make my tools and things for me, I had never made anything.” -Issac Newton (attributed by John Conduitt)

“I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse.” –Florence Nightingale

Things happen–and don’t happen–for different reasons. Dogs actually do eat homework. People do get stuck in traffic. Such excuses may be correct, but as the two luminaries above remind us, the point is whether or not they control us. Newton could be remembered as a guy who tried to order a telescope but couldn’t get the model he wanted.

In fact, of course, we wouldn’t remember that guy at all: we remember Newton and Nightingale because they were not satisfied with having a perfectly good excuse; they wanted success.

Drawing to a Close

These personal development quotes have provided millions of people with motivation and inspiration, over centuries in some cases. If they speak to you, check out the authors themselves: they all had a lot more to say. All the above personal development quotes are life-changing but only when you apply them to your own life.

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