Zig Ziglar’s Timeless Guide to Motivation

“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.”

Last week, at the age of 86, one of the most motivational people in the personal development world passed away.

Zig Ziglar served in the US Navy during World War II and after the war he worked as a salesman. Later on he started writing books and he held seminars and live events on how to become a better salesman and on motivation and self-improvement.

Today, as my own small tribute, I’d like to share five of my own favorite motivational lessons that I have learned from Zig Ziglar.

1. You have to keep the motivation up.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

So true for many things in life. It’s not like you can hit a light switch and then you are changed for life. The most meaningful and important things tend to need continued effort.

Now, if you want to start your day with getting your motivation up here are two quick tips:

  • Spend 3 minutes with remembering your successes. If you lose your motivation or it is low in the morning then it is easy to get stuck in looking at your failures and so you get stuck in inaction. So instead, sit down for three minutes and just remember your successes. Let them wash over you and refuel your inspiration and motivation.
  • Make a list of upsides. Take a few minutes to write down all the benefits you will get from achieving something, like for example getting into better shape or making more money. And be sure to include very personal reasons and benefits. Like being able to travel to your dream destination or spend more quality time with your son or daughter. Put that list somewhere where you will see it every day until you reach your dream.

2. Failure is not permanent.

“Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”

It is very easy to start thinking of mistakes or failures like permanent things. Like they are you and you are a failure or loser.

But these things are just like successes not permanent. Things go up and down.

So don’t identify with the failure. Take some time to accept that it happened but try to not beat yourself up about it or make it bigger than it is. You don’t have to be perfect. And no one who tries to go outside of his or her comfort zone can avoid failures, mistakes and low points.

And remember…

3. Learn what you can from your low points.

“If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost.”

You only lose when you give up and go home or when don’t learn anything from a defeat.

If you keep going despite bumps in the road and temporary defeats then you are still on your way towards your dream and goal.

So don’t revisit the past too much. Instead, learn what you can from the defeat and keep moving forward.

Ask yourself:

  • What can I learn from this?
  • What do I need to do or not do to avoid winding up the same negative situation again?
  • And what is the hidden opportunity within this situation? (there is often one if you just take a little time to look for it)

4. Look at your world and the people in it through an open and positive lens.

“The way you see people is the way you treat them.”

And the way you treat them they tend to treat you.

Now, you may not become best friends or get along splendidly with everyone.

But with a positive and open attitude towards the world and the people you meet and know you’ll feel more inclined to listen, get to know them better and to help out if you can. And over time things tend to even out. You get back what you give.

For more openness and positivity towards others try these two questions:

What parts of this person can I see in myself? How is he or she like me?

This one can help you to shift your perspective from what is different and what you feel the need to judge to what the two of you have in common instead. It tears down the mental barriers between the two you and you can feel closer to and more understanding and appreciative of this person.

5. Get the ball rolling today.

“If you wait until all the lights are “green” before you leave home, you’ll never get started on your trip to the top.”

You can wait for everything to be just perfect before you get started but that usually results in years passing you by before getting going. Or you may never get started.

Beginning something can of course be scary and uncomfortable as you step into the unknown.

But you can make it a lot easier to get started and to keep going. Here are three of my favorite tips for that (they are my favorites because they are so effective for me):

  • Take one small step forward. Instead of focusing on everything you have to do to reach your goal just focus on taking one small and practical step today. Nothing more. But make it a small step that isn’t just about reading more about what you want. Make it step that matters and pulls you forward. Book an appointment or set up a meeting. Create a budget and see how much and what you can save each month to be able to go on that trip you dream about.
  • Or take an even smaller step. If that first step feels too big and you start to procrastinate then come up with an even smaller step you can take. Then take that step.
  • Just take care of today. Don’t look too far ahead or you may start to procrastinate. Or your mind may play tricks on you and you become worried or scared. To feel more comfortable while still making progress step by step go smaller and focus on just taking care of today. Nothing more. Tomorrow will come in time. And then you will take care of that today too.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Nice article. Your last point is especially useful. Too many people get stuck in Indecision Land because they’re waiting for everything to be perfect, or for the time to be just right, but it never is. It’s best just to jump in and adjust along the way.

    And for a great (and fitting for this blog) quote, here’s one of my favorites . . .

    “Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” — Zig Ziglar


    • Thanks for the kind words and for sharing your own favorite quote, it’s an awesome one.

  • Lisa

    Thank you for sharing this. Zig Ziglar was a great man and a great teacher.

  • AJ


    Awesome to be reminded of small things that make the big difference!

    Love It!

  • That’s a respectul tribute to Zig Zaglar.

    I didn’t know much about Zig Zaglar as I’m a young man from Eastern Europe, but the quotes in this post tell how wise this man was.

  • Thanks! I love Zig Ziglar and he will be truly missed by so many people…

  • Timeless advice. The most important things I have ever learned in my life-the things that have really changed the way look at the world-were learned at the lowest points of my life. I would never undo these moments.

    • Hi Bobby,

      You have a great perspective. It’s often only at our lowest that the fog lifts and we can see our path. You are right to cherish those moments — they are the trials that make us who we are.

      Just checked out your blog and I LOVE it! I look forward to more of your writing.


    • Very true in my experience too. Thanks for sharing your insight!

  • Shaima

    I hardly ever post comments simply because I read the weekly blogs through my email. But today I choose to go onto the website and look for inspiration. This post is particularly useful for me as it highlights how significant motivation really is.. In fact it’s amazing to think what I get done when I’m motivated “.. But I want to take a small step as you said.. And write a comment and be heard whilst letting go of my unpleasant morning. I’m looking forward to a better day ahead.

    Thank you

  • Zig Ziglar left his mark on the world in such a positive way. He lived true to his messages and that is truly all that one can aspire to do. Live with purpose, live with honesty to others yourself, focus on the positive and learn from your mistakes, and do not fail to take action.

    5 great lessons for us all from one great man.

  • Well, it’s sometimes difficult for me to find motivation to go on working. Especially, when I’m in despair. Thanks for this great post Henrik! It’s really helpful.

  • Very sad to lose such a great man, but at least his wisdom lives on via his writings and quotes. Here’s one of my favourite quotes by Zig.
    “Other people and things can stop you temporarily. You’re the only one who can do it permanently.”

  • Akansha

    Hi Henrik,

    I really love all the posts you put up here.They have helped me overcome my problems tons of time.Just wanted to appreciate your great work!

  • Daniel McNamara

    I first heard of Zig Zigler at the undoubted lowest point in my life. That was just over two years ago. From that point I changed and began to climb to where I want to be. I am still climbing and achieving the things I always wanted to but never thought possible. For this I will always be grateful to ZIG.

  • Lisa Anne

    Hi Henrik, thank you so much for your wonderful article on worrying and Zig, I am struggling with anxiety and panic attacks every day which are very distressing, and I am trying to deal with these with practical solutions. Your article really helps and the small small steps, moving forward, focusing on TODAY advice is very helpful to me