Whatever you’re up to, I’ve hand-selected the 35 most inspirational songs to help you find your motivational mojo. With their catchy and inspiring lyrics, they are bound to lift you up and get you firing on all cylinders!
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This classic motivational anthem which was written during a difficult period in Destiny Child’s career. The song was actually inspired by a pun made on a radio station show about the fact that three members had already left the group, comparing the band to the reality game show Survivor.
Beyoncé was inspired to take this negative comment and turn it into a positive by writing a song with that title, and it has since helped to inspire and motivate millions of people around the world.
“I’m a survivor / I’m not gonna give up / I’m not gonna stop / I’m gonna work harder
I’m a survivor / I’m gonna make it / I will survive / keep on surviving”
This one is packed with simple words of wisdom for when things go beyond your control. Paul McCartney, who wrote and sang the song, said he got the idea for Let it Be after he had a dream about his mother during a tense period when the band was recording The White Album in 1968. His mother had died of cancer when he was just 14 years old. She is the “Mother Mary” referred to in the lyrics.
This inspiring song has continually ranked among the most popular Beatles’ tracks, and on lists of The Greatest Songs of All Time.
“And when the broken-hearted people / Living in the world agree / There will be an answer / Let it be”
British rapper and MC Skepta might be little known outside the UK, but his words certainly offer encouragement and strength to anyone, anywhere who is facing the seemingly insurmountable. Released 1 January 2012, the lyrics to Hold On are all about facing the haters and succeeding anyway.
“Whenever you feel like letting go / And you’ve got your back against the wall / Hold on, hold on, cause you are undefeatable”
There’s no better song to prepare ladies for big, scary life-events than this song. The inspiration for Girl on Fire came from Alicia Keys’ marriage to Swizz Beatz, and the birth of their son Egypt. Released in September 2012, the song was released in its original version and two remixes (including one featuring fellow boss babe Nicki Minaj).
Bold lyrics combined with Alicia Keys strong vocals make this a powerful and inspirational piece that will give you the courage you need to take your next big step, whatever it is.
“Oh, we got our feet on the ground / And we’re burning it down / Oh, got our head in the clouds / And we’re not coming down”
This list wouldn’t be the same without a classic tune from Eminem. Lose Yourself was written by the rapper for the soundtrack to the 2002 movie 8 Mile, and sum up the background of Eminem’s character B-Rabbit perfectly. It incorporates several aggressive themes in an accessible way, ultimately revealing the way that the character triumphs over adversary and struggle to gain success and the respect of others. This is the perfect song for when life feels more like a boxing match than a walk in the park.
“You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow / This opportunity comes once in a lifetime”
Inspired by the Depression-era photographs of Dorothea Lange, this chilled classic features a Peter Gabriel’s description of absolute despair on one hand and Kate Bush’s solace-filled words of hope and encouragement on the other.
English musician Peter Gabriel came across Lange’s images of poverty-stricken Americans in dust bowl conditions in a 1973 book called This Proud Land. He felt that a song based on them was appropriate to the difficult economic conditions faced by many people in England under Margaret Thatcher. Gabriel originally approached American icon Dolly Parton for the duet, but when she turned it down it was released as a single with Kate Bush in 1986.
“Don’t give up / ‘Cause you have friends / Don’t give up / You’re not beaten yet”
Forget the verses, this chorus of this song can be applied to all those horrible situations where you have just been disappointed after putting your energy/resources into something that doesn’t work out. Produced by Timbaland and released in February 2000, Try Again was the lead single from the soundtrack to Romeo Must Die.
Tragically, Aaliyah was killed in an airplane crash the following year, and she was never able to fulfil her full potential as an actress or singer. This single is closely tied to her legacy, with its inspiring chorus and catchy beat that you can dance to.
“If at first you don’t succeed (first you don’t succeed) / Dust yourself off, and try again”
The instantly recognizable opening sequence of this classic song is enough to pump you up and get you going! This is a firm favorite motivational song among runners and athletes, partly because it was used as the theme song for the movie Rocky III. With its catchy opening riff and inspiring lyrics, Eye of the Tiger went on to become one of the biggest tracks of 1982. Whether you need to tackle a huge flight of stairs (like Rocky), clean the house, or get pumped for your next marathon, Survivor is a great place to start.
“It’s the eye of the tiger / It’s the thrill of the fight / Rising up to the challenge of our rival”
Or “The Song for Change”, depending on how you look at it. If you find yourself at a crossroads in your life, needing the motivation to make a change, this is a song you might be able to relate to. From the album How I Got Over by American hip hop band The Roots, Now or Never is all about starting fresh, turning a new page, and moving on.
“Everything’s changing around me / And I want to change too / It’s one thing I know / It ain’t cool being no fool”
You might never have heard of Fort Minor, but you’ve probably heard the voice of their singer. The side project of Linkin Park’s co-lead vocalist Mike Shinoda, Remember the Name is a super catchy song that is sure to get stuck in your head. Released in 2005, the song was used in the media and for sports coverage in 2006. A song for hustlers, this is the perfect song to give you the motivation you need, whatever the obstacle you’re facing.
“This is ten percent luck / Twenty percent skill / Fifteen percent concentrated power of will / Five percent pleasure / Fifty percent pain / And a hundred percent reason to remember the name”
If you’re looking for an upbeat, motivational tune guaranteed to get you hyped up and ready to face that hurricane that life is throwing your way, you’ve just found your song! Switchfoot are an American rock group from San Diego California, who started out on the Christian rock scene. Hello Hurricane was the title track from their 2009 album, and its an essentially a song about singing into – or facing – a storm head on.
“Hello hurricane / I’ve got doors and windows boarded up / All your dead end fury is not enough”
What better song to listen to when you’re feeling defeated and down on your luck? She might sing like a wounded lover (Rolling Stone’s words, not mine), but you certainly can’t help but feel the strength of Kelly Clarkson’s resolve as she powers through this chorus.
Released in early 2012, Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) is all about empowerment and recovery after heartbreak. You don’t have to be going through a breakup to enjoy this catchy, uptempo song though, as its positive vibe is perfect for so many of the obstacles life throws our way.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger / Stand a little taller
Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone
What doesn’t kill you makes a fighter”
One of my personal favorites on this list, because it got me through a trying time of my own, Fight Song is a motivational anthem! Here’s what Newsweek had to say about this song: “there’s such a thing as a breakout moment for a brand-new artist, where they come out of nowhere and all of a sudden everybody is singing this song.”
Recorded by American singer-songwriter Rachel Platten, it was released in 2015. The lyrics of Fight Song are full of optimism and positivity, making it the perfect accompaniment to gearing up for the challenges that lie ahead.
“This is my fight song / Take back my life song / Prove I’m alright song / My power’s turned on / Starting right now I’ll be strong / I’ll play my fight song / And I don’t really care if nobody else believes / ‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me”
This list would not be complete without this motivational, chilled out anthem from musical legend, Bob Marley. The song originally appeared on The Wailer’s 1973 album Burnin’ and was inspired by the poverty Marley witnessed while on tour in Haiti.
Don’t be fooled by the laid-back beat of Get Up, Stand Up, the lyrics are so poignant that they have become one of the biggest Human Rights anthems of our generation. This song was also the last song Bob Marley ever performed on stage, on 23 September 1980 in Pennsylvania.
“Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights / Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight!”
Here’s a song for the dreamers. This catchy little gem from the UK’s grime scene is as motivating as it is compelling. It might just be song you needed to hear to give you the push to go out and chase that dream, work that extra hour on your project, apply for funding, or take that class and start on a journey to self-improvement. It’s impossible not to be inspired by these lyrics!
“Dreams can come true for you / I know, I know / That I can make it”
Empowerment is the theme of this techno track by the Queen of Pop. Taken from her tenth studio album Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005), Jump is all about self-empowerment and self-sufficiency while looking for a new relationship. With its inspiring lyrics and subtle tributes to the Pet Shop Boys, this song is the musical equivalent of a push up the backside.
Whether you’re looking to start dating again after a big break up, or just want to focus on feeling happy and empowered, this song might just be your anthem.
“I haven’t got much time to waste / It’s time to make my way / I’m not afraid of what I’ll face / But I’m afraid to stay / I’m going down my road and I can make it alone / I’ll work and I’ll fight till I find a place of my own”
Nothing gives a finger to heartbreak and disappointment like this classic track. A karaoke favorite, you probably know the lyrics by heart already! This disco anthem was first performed by Gloria Gaynor in October 1978, with lyrics that describe the narrator’s discovery of personal strength following an initially devastating breakup.
I Will Survive has become a symbol of female empowerment, and in 2016 the original recording was recognized as “culturally, historically, or artistically significant” enough to be preserved in the National Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.
“I will survive / Oh, as long as I know how to love I know I’ll stay alive / I’ve got all my life to live / I’ve got all my love to give / I will survive”
If Kanye West’s Stronger doesn’t make you want to get up on your feet, not much else will. With its danceable rhythm, in Stronger the king of overconfidence provides us with plenty of wisdom and some serious motivation – if you can avoid getting lost in the beat.
Released in 2007 from his third studio album Graduation, Stronger features a vocal sample from Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. Its lyrics are all about the resolve that we develop when we face times of deep adversity; that what doesn’t kill us, does make us stronger. Kanye West describes the song as his own “emancipation,” and says that he used the track to vent his frustration over mistakes that he made in 2006-7.
“N-now th-that that don’t kill me / Can only make me stronger”
The life lesson in this song from Sara Bareilles? Never be too afraid to say what you want to say. Don’t keep it all in – be brave and let the world know how you really feel. Does this sound like the kind of motivation you need right now?
Brave was written by Bareilles and Jack Antonoff from the band Fun and is inspired by the struggles faced by a close friend when he came out as gay. It isn’t only applicable to this situation, though. With its powerful lyrics and uplifting video, this is the perfect song to press play on when you’re in need of a boost.
“Say what you wanna say / And let the words fall out / Honestly I wanna see you be brave”
You might recognize this tune as the theme song for the reality TV show The Hills, but its another upbeat pop song with a positive message that you need on your motivational playlist. Released in 2004, Unwritten is the perfect anthem for living courageously and never giving in to your fears and inhibitions. Wherever you hear it, it’s sure to put a spring in your step!
“Drench yourself in words unspoken / Live your life with arms wide open / Today is where your book begins / The rest is still unwritten”
Christina Aguilera’s aim in writing Fighter was to create an “emotionally rich and positive empowering” for women, to help them to be strong and speak up for themselves. In the lyrics, Christina thanks a man for all of the wrong he has done to her, because in doing so he had made her a stronger person. With her trademark powerful vocals and empowering lyrics, this is the perfect song to help you move on or move forwards from something (or someone) that no longer makes you feel good. Keep fighting!
“Made me learn a little bit faster / Made my skin a little bit thicker / Makes me that much smarter / So thanks for making me a fighter”
This catchy tune by Irish band The Script focuses on never giving up on your dreams. First released in 2012 and featuring will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, Hall of Fame is the perfect song to encourage you to make an impact on the world in your own unique way.
The perfectly balanced vocals and catchy rhythm have made this a popular choice in media and sport campaigns, but its also the perfect song for the that moment when you want to give up and do something else. Don’t give up!
“Standing in the hall of fame / And the world’s gonna know your name / Cause you burn with the brightest flame”
If this doesn’t get you pumped up and ready to face negativity head on, then I just don’t know what will. Not Afraid was the first single released from the 2010 album Recovery, representing Eminem’s change in direction away from his past experiences of drug abuse, feuds and violence.
Eminem is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, which isn’t surprising given his amazing ability to take his own negative experiences and use them to write anthems like this. You couldn’t ask for a more power-packed, passionate song to inspire your next move.
“I’m not afraid (I’m not afraid) / To take a stand (to take a stand) / Everybody (everybody) / Come take my hand (come take my hand) We’ll walk this road together, through the storm / Whatever weather, cold or warm / Just letting you know that, you’re not alone”
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You’ve probably heard this song before, but like me, you might have thought the title was different. “Don’t Worry” or “Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright” are the two most common wrong names for Three Little Birds. Nonetheless, it’s one of Bob Marley’s most famous and popular songs, and it has been covered by many artists since it was first released as a single in 1980.
It’s the musical equivalent of having someone make you a warm cup of hot chocolate (with cream and marshmallows) in the middle of a crisis. Just don’t worry. Things will work out fine.
“Don’t worry about a thing / ‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright”
The beat might sound a bit mellow and chilled out on this one, but don’t be fooled. Nas’ The World is Yours is a song all about winning in life, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest hip-hop songs ever recorded. Released in 1994, both the song’s title and its video pay homage to the cult movie Scarface.
“Right now, hey / It’s your tomorrow / Right now, / C’mon, it’s everything”
Taken from the moving soundtrack for the movie Selma, this 2014 hit is a duet by rapper Common and singer John Legend. Common stars in the movie, which portrays the 1995 Selma to Montgomery marches, as Civil Rights Movement leader James Bevel. The song won the Oscar for Best Original Song, and it’s not surprising why: the lyrics give you you an ethereal feeling of hope and triumph as you listen.
“One day when the glory comes / It will be ours, it will be ours / Oh one day when the war is won / We will be sure, we will be sure”
Another one you might not have heard of, Superstar was released in 2007 by rapper Lupe Fiasco and features folk-rock singer-songwriter Matthew Santos. It’s a haunting and melancholy tune in which the rapper describes his life in the spotlight and the insecurities such a life has caused. On the flip side, Santos’ gospel-inflected chorus offers the kind of hope and encouragement we all need in order to remember that it’s just a bad day, not a bad life.
“If you are what you say you are / A super star / Then have no fear the camera’s here and the microphone and they wanna know”
Let’s throwback to the 90’s, when the tops were cropped and the trousers were flared (and hard to walk in in the rain). British R&B/soul singer Des’ree provided us with the perfect tune to sing along to on a journey to somewhere you don’t really want to go.
You Gotta Be is all about finding self confidence – Des’ree herself said it is all “about having the inner strength to figure out who you are.” If this is the reason you’re looking for an inspirational tune, you’ve just found the perfect song for your playlist.
“You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold / You gotta be wiser, you gotta be hard / You gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger”
Let’s stick with 90s anthems but slow down the tempo a little bit to something more easy-listening. Released in 1998, High is the most successful single from British musical duo Lighthouse Family. The song’s effortlessly graceful lyrics, coupled with the soothing voice of lead singer Tunde Baiyewu, will leave you feeling Lifted (get it?!)
“When you’re close to tears remember / Someday it’ll all be over / One day we’re gonna get so high / Though it’s darker than December / What’s ahead is a different colour /One day we’re gonna get so high”
Put on this tune from American rock band One Republic and get ready to yell the lyrics at the top of your voice while feeling that absolutely anything is possible. Released in 2010, Marchin On became the FIFA World Cup song that year. With its upbeat energy and punchy lyrics, it’s the perfect motivational song to encourage you to march on no matter what you’re facing.
“There’s so many wars we fought / There’s so many things we’re not / But with what we have / I promise you that / We’re marching on”
Pressing On is a song by Christian rock band Relient K, written by their lead singer Matt Thiessen in 2001. Thanks to its punk rock vibe and motivating lyrics, the song featured in a couple of episodes of Power Rangers and on 2000s MTV classic Pimp My Ride. With its focus on moving forwards and leaving your worries behind you, this is the perfect motivating song for when you’re working out what a change of direction might mean for you.
“I think we’re going somewhere / We’re on to something good here / Adversity, we get around it / Searched for joy, in you I found it”
If you’re trying to psych yourself into take a big, bold step and take a risk that could potentially turn your life around for the better, this is probably one of the best songs to sing at the top of your lungs. It’s My Life was released in 2000 and quickly became a huge hit for the band, as well as an anthem for people around the world.
Bon Jovi has said: “I thought I was writing very self-indulgently about my own life and where I was in it. I didn’t realize that the phrase ‘It’s My Life’ would be taken as being about everyone – by teenagers, by older guys, mechanics, whatever.” This is the perfect song to listen to when you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and making some big decisions alone. It is your life, after all!
“It’s my life / It’s now or never / I ain’t gonna live forever / I just want to live while I’m alive”
According to country music star Martina McBride, the song Anyway was inspired by many things – a poem by Mother Teresa, real life, and the fact that we all face adversity in one way or another. Written by McBride and The Warren Brothers, it was released in November 2006 and became “Single of the Year” in 2007. Anyway is a song all about hope, love, perseverance and, mostly, faith.
“You can chase a dream / That seems so out of reach / And you know it might not never come your way
Dream it anyway”
This song from two of the world’s finest female singers was written and performed for the 1998 musical animated feature, The Prince of Egypt. When You Believe is a big ballad with meaningful and inspirational lyrics that describe the ability each person has within them to achieve miracles – when they reach out to God and believe.
With stunning vocals from both Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, this is a song that will leave you with the drive and determination you need to believe in yourself.
“There can be miracles / When you believe / Though hope is frail / Its hard to kill”
Another entry for both hip-hop band The Roots and smooth singer John Legend, The Fire is a song that you could listen to ten times in a row, and still find a new nugget of genius in the lyrics each time. The lyrics are all about keeping your eyes on the prize and meeting every challenge you face.
Whether you’re preparing to run a race, go three rounds in the ring, or ace an interview, The Fire is pretty much guaranteed to pump you up and leave you ready to go.
“There’s something in your heart / And it’s in your eyes / It’s the fire inside you / Let it burn
You don’t say good luck / You say don’t give up
It’s the fire inside you / Let it burn”
We hope this list of 35 inspirational songs and lyrics has given you some of the motivation you need to do great things and believe in yourself!