How To Turn Discouragement Into Motivation

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“The only real failure is the failure to try, and the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment.”

― Deborah Moggach

You’ve lost your job. You’re down on your luck. Your car broke down or you missed your flight. You didn’t make the team. 

“I’m not good enough,” you think. “Life’s not fair. I wish this were easier, I wish I had what the successful people have.” 

We’ve all been there, and it’s no fun. But staying there isn’t going to get you where you want to be. Discouragement is inevitable in life, it sucks, and you wish that you didn’t have to endure its lasting torment. 

But what if like Po from Kung Fu Panda, you could get up and throw life’s cannonballs right back at it?

What if you could take all that negative energy heading toward you and convert it into momentum to fuel your success?

To learn how to do this, you need to understand a few types of discouragement:

  • Failure, like when you lose your job or get cut from a team.
  • Jealousy, which is thinking “I wish I had what that person does.”
  • Lack of Results, or when you’re putting in the work but what you want isn’t happening.

No matter which of these you’re experiencing right now you can turn it against itself and use that to fan the flame of motivation inside of you.


“You never fail until you stop trying.”

― Albert Einstein

Failure doesn’t exist. I don’t know why anyone on the path to success would ever use this word to describe themselves. How many times does the hero of a story actually give up? It doesn’t happen, because heroes don’t do that. 

The only way to truly fail is to quit. 

It doesn’t matter if you didn’t get the job or got cut from the basketball team, the only way to lose is to give up. 

Steve Young’s Failures Led Him to Success

Before Steve Young was making it big time in the NFL, he was an eighth string quarterback as a freshman at Brigham Young University. That was a discouraging step back from his successful high school football career.

Steve almost quit, too, but luckily his dad, who aptly has the nickname “grit,” wouldn’t let him. 

“Coaches don’t know my name.” Steve told his dad, who responded by saying “You can quit… but you can’t come home because I’m not going to live with a quitter.”

Instead of playing small and giving up, Steve decided he’d focus on what he could control — how much he practiced. 

He arrived at practices before everyone else and was the last one to leave. He spent time alone throwing footballs for extra practice. 

“My arm hurt. But I wanted to be a quarterback.” 

— Steve Young

Before long, Steve’s hard work, commitment to excellence, and focus on what he could control led him to become the starting quarterback at BYU. Not long afterward he got his spot as the quarterback for the 49ers.

Be like Steve Young. Don’t worry about what you can’t control, work hard on yourself, practice better than everybody else, and you can win. 

Even if you’ve “failed.”


“She’s so pretty, I wish I was that pretty.”

“If only I was as important as him.”

“I wish I could have connections like she does, maybe then I’d be as successful as she is.”

All of these have at least one thing in common — they’re all lies. Limiting beliefs like this that you tell yourself have no grounding in reality. Do you want to know the truth about these beliefs?

You’re just as pretty as her, important as him, and you already have all the connections you could need to succeed.

You are talented, beautiful, and strong enough to do anything and everything you could ever want to. 

Whatever it is that you think you don’t have that you wish you did, let go of it. 

To turn jealousy into motivation, ask yourself two simple questions:

  1. Why not me?
  2. How did they get there and how can I follow them?

How to Beat Jealousy

Shannon Ashley has one of the most inspiring online writing success stories of anyone I know. Before finding she was a poor single mother struggling to make ends meet. 

Rather than staying down, she decided to get to work. Her success began at zero like it does for everybody. 

But before long, and by staying consistent, she was at a few hundred followers and making a few hundred dollars a month. 

Slowly but surely, she grew. Eventually, she got to over $1,000 a month and thousands of subscribers. Now, she makes six-figures and tens of thousands of people follow her journey. 

The secret to her success is in her hard work, but that wouldn’t happen without her attitude, which she’s had from the beginning:

“When I see other writers doing well here, I think, ‘Why not me too?’ And then I try to figure out what I can do well.”

— Shannon Ashley

If you’re discouraged because someone else has something you think you need for success, stop and think. Why can’t you have the same thing? What do you need to do to get there?

Lack of Results

“I won’t quit! I can figure this out!” 

— Angela Duckworth, Grit

Sometimes you follow the people who are making it and a few months in you still aren’t where you want to be. This can be especially discouraging and dangerous because you start thinking “I’m doing everything right, why is this still going wrong?” 

Maybe you’re not losing weight like you wanted. Or your pageviews and earnings aren’t going up. Maybe that business of yours isn’t taking off like you thought it would when you put in all the work.

The big problem with asking “why” is that it points you in the wrong direction. It’s impossible to move forward when you’re still staring the discouragement in the face and wondering how it happened.

Using Grit to Move Forward When Results Don’t Come

When Angela Duckworth was a freshman in college she was doing everything right in her neurobiology class. You’d think someone like her would get the results she wanted, but the class was kicking her butt.

After scoring poorly on quizzes and midterms, Duckworth found herself in front of a teaching assistant who was telling her to drop the course. If she got anything but an A on the final, she’d fail the class.

Instead of following his advice, she turned this discouragement into motivation. Duckworth explains what happened next:

“For the rest of the semester, I not only tried harder, I tried things I hadn’t done before. I went to every teaching assistant’s office hours. I asked for extra work. I praticed doing the most difficult problems under time pressure — mimicking the conditions under which in needed to produce a flawless performance. By the time the final exam came around, I felt like I could have written it myself.

I aced the final.”

The key is that she tried things she hadn’t done before. If you’re putting in the work you’ve been told to do and not seeing the results you hoped for, you must do things you’ve not tried yet.

Nobody succeeds with an attitude of “I’ve done all of these things, I should be seeing results! Why am I not getting what I want for all my hard work?”

Instead, winners follow Duckworth’s example and simply say to themselves: “that didn’t work, let me try something different!”

Wrapping Up

Discouragement sucks, but you can turn it into motivation and use that energy to push you toward success and not away from it. 

If you’re “failing,” you must focus on what you can control and do it.

When you get jealous of others, adopt a “why not me?” mindset.

And every time you’re working hard and not getting what you hoped, simply ask yourself what you can do differently. 

When things go wrong, never ask “why is this happening to me?”

Adopt an attitude of “how can I learn from this experience and change my ways to get to where I want to be?” and you’ll be able to turn discouragement into motivation every time.