The Best Way to Motivate Yourself and Others

Tom Coughlin“People often say that motivation doesn’t last,” Zig Ziglar, the late great inspirational speaker and business leader, once said. “Well, neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.”

We all need to be motivated and motivated regularly. Motivation is the fuel for charging forward, especially when we face adversity. If we’re going after anything worthwhile, we know our willpower will be tested again and again along the way. Regular motivation is what keeps you moving forward when times get tough.

But how do top achievers motivate themselves and the people they’re leading? What’s the best way to get results? Is it through fear? Is it through money? Is it through inspirational speeches? Or, is there another way, a better way?

John Wooden famously said, “Pride is a much better motivator than fear. It produces far better results that last for a much longer time.”

Especially early in his career, two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Tom Coughlin would sometimes motivate with a tough-love, fear-based approach. But after four decades of coaching, he came to recognize that pride was the best motivational tool available…


As a leader you can motivate your entire team as a single unit or you can motivate your people individually—and to some degree there is an overlap—but in both cases the very first thing you have to do is build pride: pride in the team and individual pride.

When I came home after a high school football game and my father criticized me for giving less than my best effort, he was appealing to my pride. The lesson that he taught me in so many ways is that pride is not given to you; it’s something you earn.

My entire self-esteem was built on my belief that I was working to the best of my ability, and when he pointed out that I wasn’t really doing that, that maybe I was skating by a little, my pride was hurt.

Pride in yourself is what motivates you to keep going at the end of the game, when you think you don’t have anything left in your tank. It’s what keeps you at the office late at night to put the final touches on a project, little things that only you might notice.

Self-pride is the engine of the self-starter.

The simple phrase, You can do better than that, spoken by someone you respect, is about as good a motivational tool as has ever been discovered.


— Tom Coughlin, from his book Earn the Right to Win

Pride is a powerful motivation tool. We must use pride to motivate ourselves and to motivate those we’re leading. (And to be clear, we’re not talking about the type of false pride that breeds arrogance, we’re talking about the type of pride associated with taking personal responsibility.)

I think it’s interesting that, outside of the sports world, you don’t hear people talk much about pride anymore. Many people think it’s “cool” to act like you don’t care about whatever job you’re doing. It’s sad to see that type of mindset in action. How much more productive and successful everyone would be if they were encouraged to take pride in their actions and appearance each day.

When you truly care about whether you’re giving your very best effort—regardless of whether anyone else notices—that’s pride doing its job. If you want to quickly rise to the top of any profession, you must take pride in the job you’re doing.

Don’t be afraid to call yourself out. At the end of each day, ask yourself if you really gave your best. If the answer is no, hold yourself accountable tomorrow. If the answer is yes, then take pride in the fact that you gave just a little bit more than everyone else. It’s that extra effort that will separate you from the pack in no time.

Take pride in how hard you work and how you present yourself. Take pride in your family name, your community, your neighborhood, and your team. Be proud of who you are and how you act.

If you look in the mirror at the end of the day and you’re not proud of the person you’re staring at, you need to call yourself out and hold yourself accountable. It’s time to make some changes.

Each day, strive to be the very best version of yourself. Be the best YOU you can imagine being. That’s what pride is.