Create a Personal Motto to Stay Focused on What Really Matters

Written by on September 18, 2015 in Pathways, Self-Awareness

Create a Motto


Mottos are all around us, though without question, the most memorable have come to us courtesy of major corporations, such as Nike’s “Just Do It” and Apple’s “Think Different”.

But a personal motto is different. It’s meant to inspire you to take action, to help you overcome obstacles, keep working toward your goals and persevere even in the face of overwhelming opposition.

A Personal Motto Represents a Core Belief

Our mottos become guideposts and verbal beacons along the road we travel. They serve as reminders that it is possible to fashion a life of our choosing based on our core values combined with the passions that inspire us.

Some mottos are grand and sweeping statements while others are short and simple. Some people have one motto for life and others for special goals or events. Many are chosen from favorite quotations or songs that have inspired us, others crafted from scratch based on personal values and goals.

It doesn’t matter where your motto comes from or how long or short it is; all that really matters is that it honestly represents the values you hold dear, and invokes real emotion right down to your gut.

A personal motto will energize you while keeping you focused.

My favorite motto for times when I’m striving to achieve a goal or find myself up against a particularly challenging project is the title of the Tim McGraw song – How Bad Do You Want It.

I’ll stick post-it notes around with this motto on it and have the song handy to play at least a couple of times a day. What I love are the powerful words in the chorus that do such a great job of describing what it takes to reach for a dream.

“People always ask me what does it take to reach out and touch your dreams? To them I always say, are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Is it a fire that burns you up inside? How bad do you want it? How bad do you need it? Are you eating, sleeping, dreaming with that one thing on your mind? Cause if you want it all, you’ve got to lay it all out on the line.”

Simple Guidelines

Begin by giving some thought to your personal values. Maybe there’s a favorite quote, proverb, spiritual truth or religious saying that motivates and inspires you to be your best self. As you begin to narrow it down here are a few things to consider.

  • Make your statement personal and energizing. Take this quote for example: “Getting upset or being disappointing for more than 15 minutes over setbacks doesn’t get you any further in life or your goals… suck it up, get over it and figure a way around it…” I’d shorten this to “Suck it up, get over it and figure a way around it.” which says it all in a few easy to remember words and would be a great motto for those times when you’ve been blindsided by a crisis.
  • Make it a phrase you’d actually say and use. No flowery prose unless that’s the way you actually talk on a daily basis. Slang is perfectly okay.
  • Use positive phrasing. Take the two phrases, “I’m fearless and therefore powerful” and “I choose not to be a victim”. There’s nothing wrong with either statement, but the fearless motto is more empowering.
  • Use your motto consistently. Creating a motto you don’t actually use will do you no good. You can’t overuse a personal motto; in fact, it becomes more powerful with use.

A few popular mottos to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Choose with no regret.
  • Whatever it takes!
  • Every wall is a door. (I love this!)Personal Motto
  • Do the things you think you cannot do.
  • I choose to take responsibility for my life.
  • Get busy living, or get busy dying.
  • I choose to live life to the fullest.
  • Actions speak louder than words.
  • I am an intentional creator.
  • The way I treat myself sets the standard for others.
  • Live well. Love well. Laugh often.
  • I trust that no matter what challenges I face in life, I will be okay.
  • I live my truth. I nurture my spirit. I celebrate my life.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can do what others can’t. (A favorite for Entrepreneurs!)
  • Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.

A personal motto can be a powerful motivational tool, but the key to moving it beyond mere words on a page to a true energizing powerhouse is combining it with your commitment to laying it all on the line to create the life you really want for yourself.

Let your motto become expressions of your character. And let your character be informed by the words you use to express it.

Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita A. Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click here.

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27 Reader Comments

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  1. Vicky

    Personal mottos are a great way of focusing on your values.

    There are a couple I use:
    Be Present
    Accept What Is

    These help me to be mindful of every moment and not to struggle when things don’t go the way I want or expect.

  2. Sounds like a great motto to live by Tuhin! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. 🙂

  3. Tuhin

    You are right Marquita, we need some positive mottos in our daily life to keep the fire ignited.
    I have trained my brain to believe in: ‘Simple living, honest thinking’ And glad enough my mind has adopted this principle.
    Thanks for writing this!
    Tuhin recently posted…Protect your child from sexual abusersMy Profile

  4. I have a few affirmations that I say to myself everyday. I can probably use a couple of them as my personal motto’s.
    Jason Butler recently posted…The Life of an Uber DriverMy Profile

  5. Ah, Marquita, this is a good one. Ties in a bit with Phoenicia’s and reminds me of a blog I did in January about my one word epithet. All year I have bee meaning to turn “instigator,” into something more than just that one word. Reading this has inspired me to post-it that word to the bulletin board in front of my face and start pondering again! Thank you!
    Rose M Griffith recently posted…The Chaos of FamilyMy Profile

  6. William Rusho

    I like the idea of a personal motto. I wonder long ago if personal motto’s didn’t end up being the motto for the family crest, as you see in Europe.
    Thanks for sharing this.
    William Rusho recently posted…Last Fair of the Year and the Hyde CollectionMy Profile

  7. Dana

    Hi Marquita,

    I love the idea of personal mottos. I’ve come up with a few over the last couple of years.

    One that I reflect back on and remind myself of often is
    “An independent mind…
    …is a terrible thing to waste”.

    This comes in handy when I need to remember that sometimes, we need to trust in our own intuition as opposed to the programming we confuse as our real selves.

    One of my favorite mottos by someone else is Dr. Wayne Dyer’s “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”.
    Dana recently posted…Strawberry & Golden Vanilla Vegan CupcakesMy Profile

  8. Hey Marquita,

    Mottos are a great energy booster when the going gets tough or when you’re being tested.

    I can definitely say I go through my mental rolodex of mottos whenever life hits me. It gets me back into balance so that I can keep moving forward.

    I tie them in to something I learned from Noah St. John called afformations which instead of making positive statements like you would do with affirmations you turn them into positive questions. This helps to automatically get your mind to think of great answers for yourself to get you moving .

    Thanks for sharing Marquita and I hope you have a great day!
    Sherman Smith recently posted…9 Ways To Not Waste Your Time BloggingMy Profile

  9. Well, you’ll laugh, but I recently saw a Mel Brooks movie that had a great theme “Hope for the best, expect the worst.” Which is maybe a little cynical for every day, but there are times when it is a comforting thought. Other than that, I would say my motto is “Nothing’s impossible,” because I do believe that …
    Krystyna Lagowski recently posted…Chasing after the last sunny days of summer in a 2015 Honda Civic SiMy Profile

  10. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty, Wow it has been a while HUH? When I seen this shared on FaceBook I headed right over and so happy I did to.

    I guess I never really gave much thought to a personal motto although I have always used Love What You Do and Do What You Love as a tag line.

    Is that a personal motto? Hum I do like this one Live well. Love well. Laugh often, but have not really ever shared it..

    I did really enjoy your post and do need to get back here more often..

    Thanks For Sharing & Happy 1st Day Of Fall
    Chery 🙂

  11. Donna Merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    You did it again…inspired me as always when I visit you. A motto is a great thing to have because it is a mental reminder of our “why” It sure does have to be something from our heart and soul. Something to live by and the more we say it the better we get at it.

    Mottos become part of us. I used to have “I turned victim into victor” way back and that has helped me so much.

    I like the list you have given us. Best is “I live my truth. I nurture my spirit. I celebrate my life.” Thank you for that!

    Donna Merrill recently posted…Sell Affiliate Products On Your BlogMy Profile

  12. Patricia Weber

    Full of wisdom Marquita – the post and your examples of mottos. Every year I create a mantra, it’s like a motto and it is said aloud or in my thoughts every day. Can’t help but see it with a post it note in a couple of prominent places in our house!

    This one you gave us, “Live well. Love well. Laugh often.” – one of my favorites!
    Patricia Weber recently posted…Staying focused, brain on technology, smell the roses, introvert in graphs #Blog Round-up from #introvert inspirerMy Profile

  13. Dave

    Well, Marty, I feel like we have come full circle 🙂

    A little over a year ago, maybe more, you posted an article on your site about the mystery of four in the morning. Everything happened at 4 am. It was a humorous video that you shared, but one that had some serious undertones, and it got me thinking. Maybe there is something special about the number four. And that got me thinking even deeper.

    What if I had to choose four words to represent who I am and what I want to represent in life. What would they be? So began the compilation of my non-fiction personal essay entitled “Four Words”. Over the course of that post, I searched for what my four words would/should be.

    It is probably not a surprise to you what those words are, “inspire and be inspired”. It has become my own personal motto and mantra. In my writing and everyday life. I keep my senses alert to everything. I long to be inspired by the simple, the ornate, and everything in between. That’s the second half, be inspired. The first half is to take that inspiration and pass it on to others, to inspire. Through my writing and my actions.

    I have said this many times before, but this article really hits home for me. A little deeper than all the others that I have referred to as such because this takes me back to that day when I finally realized what it is that I am living for. And for that, I thank you more than words can possibly say 🙂
    Dave recently posted…Opening NightMy Profile

  14. Hi Marty: My personal motto has always been “Live every day like it could be your last.” I adopted that early in life because my mother died when I was just 13, and she was just 55. She never had a chance to really enjoy life as she was always working so hard to keep our family going until she got sick with cancer and died.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…Velas Vallarta: a great place to stay in PVMy Profile

  15. Jacqueline Gum

    Stupendous idea! I think that I have always had more than one, but I often say to myself…and out loud…no turning back, or get on with it, or I live my truth. Another one I use is Persistence! The world is full of unsuccessful talented people…simply because they lacked persistence.
    Jacqueline Gum recently posted…Karma… Where’s The Justice?My Profile

  16. Lenie

    Marquita, my personal motto is “I believe” from the song by Frankie Lane. I first heard it back in the 70s when I was going through a rough period in my life – that helped me through and kept me going. I’ve used it ever since when life threw a curveball. You are so right that words can change your world. Thanks.
    Lenie recently posted…Cooking Tips for Reluctant CooksMy Profile

  17. Phoenicia

    No, I do not have a favourite motto but I can see they are of great benefit. Positive thinking and speaking makes all the difference.

    From your list I liked;
    Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can do what others can’t. (A favorite for Entrepreneurs!)
    Phoenicia recently posted…Contentment – do you have it?My Profile

  18. Suzie Cheel

    Love this exercise Marty and I am going to work through this and your exercise for today to come up with a new Heart Whisper manifesto thanks xx
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…What’s Your Color For The Week?My Profile

  19. Mark

    Without a doubt the right motto can potentially be incredibly inspiring!
    And I love the quote Trish shared.

    And I remember when one of the characters in the movie, “Coach Carter” actually referenced it!

    I also love where you shared, “the key to moving a motto beyond mere words on a page, to a true energizing power house,is by combining it with your commitment to lay it all on the line,to create the life you really want for yourself.”

    That’s a very empowering point of view M!

    Thanks so much for sharing it! And honestly, I think I’ll have to spend a little more time, to get a handle on what my personal motto truly is!
    Mark recently posted…Why Wall Street Aren’t The Only Ones That Profit From Creative Asset Management!My Profile

  20. Erica says:

    I love the idea of having a personal motto. The great thing about that is that you take something uplifting and inspiring, and it becomes part of your identity. I’ve had mottos of sorts in my past to get through hard times in my life so I’ve seen first-hand how they can be beneficial.
    Erica recently posted…5 Ways To Get Past Your Weight Loss ExcuseMy Profile

  21. Beth Niebuhr

    You had me with the url – loved the idea! I haven’t thought to do this though I use a lot of things like this on my business FB fan page. I’m going to choose one and I thank you for giving me the idea!
    Beth Niebuhr recently posted…Facebook Groups – Where Women Love to NetworkMy Profile

  22. Leora

    Interesting idea. I can see why having a motto can be motivating. Sometimes I find certain songs help move me along – I sing them in my head to get me going with the next task at hand.
    Leora recently posted…Benefits of a WordPress Test SiteMy Profile

  23. Marquita — I have more than one. A motto that my father drilled into his children was “always try for that extra 10%.” Do not only the best you can but even better. I still believe that. I have two other mottos I live by and one is “learn to forgive yourself.” We all make mistakes but we can’t let them defeat us. Forgive yourself and move on. The last is not so much a motto but a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.” I’ve done that more than once and I’m sure I will again.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…Can You Succeed in Business Without Emotional Intelligence?My Profile

  24. Welcome Trish and thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I’ve heard that quotation before, but had forgotten it so thanks for highlighting it.

  25. Glad you enjoyed the article Stacey, and thanks so much for taking the time to contribute to the conversation!

  26. Trish

    Well said Marquita!

    On of my favourite quotes comes from a movie Coach Carter (2005), directed by Thomas Carter and it goes like this:
    ” ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.’ …..

    We are all meant to shine, as children do…. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

    And as we let our own light shine, we subconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
    Trish recently posted…For Those Who Believe Climate Change is Our World’s Apocalypse – You NEED to See ThisMy Profile

  27. Stacey Toupin

    Thank you, Marquita for a great post. I love your list of personal mottos. The one motto I do resonate with is, “how bad do you want it?”. I have also been known to say, “let’s do this!” and “why not?” when I am tackling a situation that needs courage and positive energy. Thanks for the reminder of the power of words. So important! – Stacey