16 Best Motivation Books to Read in 2021

Home » Books » Motivation BooksUpdated: November 23, 2021

You found our list of top motivation books.

Motivation books are guides for inciting action and getting things done. These works cover topics like removing mental roadblocks, practicing productive habits, celebrating wins, and motivating teams. The purpose of these books is to help folks feel excited about their work and use their time wisely.

These guides are a subset of employee engagement books and are similar to coaching books and books on habits. These books contain advice on how to motivate employees.

This list includes:

  • team motivation books
  • self motivation books
  • business motivation books
  • books on improving motivation
  • motivation books for entrepreneurs
  • motivation books for managers

Here we go!

List of motivation books

Here is a list about books on motivation to improve self-discipline, boost productivity, and get things done.

1. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink

Drive

Drive is one of the best selling motivation books of all time. Daniel Pink performs a deep dive into the elements that propel human behavior. Part One dispels myths about motivation and outlines the drivers that actually spur action. Part Two identifies three main components of authentic motivation– autonomy, mastery, and purpose– and suggests ways to cultivate these factors. Part Three consists of a motivation master toolkit with resources like guides for setting compensation and resource recommendations. Drive provides the ultimate blueprint for inspiration and achievement by identifying what elements spur action.

Notable Quote: “When the reward is the activity itself–deepening learning, delighting customers, doing one’s best–there are no shortcuts.”

Read Drive.

2. Finish What You Start: The Art of Following Through, Taking Action, Executing, & Self-Discipline (Live a Disciplined Life) by Peter Hollins

Finish what you start book cover

Finish What You Start is one of the more inspiring motivation books for entrepreneurs. The tone of text stresses self-discipline and skillful execution, both of which are highly-valued traits in the world of founders and high-level executives. The book coaches readers on how to block out distractions, beat procrastination, and complete endeavors. Peter Hollins frames motivation not as a random occurrence, but rather as a byproduct of behaviors such as acting instead of overthinking, forming a manifesto, and demanding following-through from yourself. Finish What You Start shows ambitious individuals how to structure work in ways that maintain momentum, and consistently see tasks to completion.

Notable Quote: “We have already failed the moment we decided not to try.”

Read Finish What You Start, and check out more books for entrepreneurs.

3. Master Your Motivation: A Practical Guide to Unstick Yourself, Build Momentum and Sustain Long-Term Motivation by Thibaut Meurisse

master your motivation book cover

Master Your Motivation is a self-help guide for taking back control of your willpower and output. The book shows readers how to overcome blocks and regain passion for work. Early chapters provide a step-by-step guide to assessing the situation and getting to the root cause of the funk. The guide goes on to show how to regain traction and sustain a sense of momentum. The final section lays out 25 strategies to regain motivation. Master Your Motivation provides a handy toolkit for professionals looking to tackle temporary setbacks and get back on the path to reaching their true potential.

Notable Quote: “Remember, you build momentum through action, seldom through thinking.”

Read Master Your Motivation.

4. Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and into Your Life by Gary John Bishop

unf*ck yourself book cover

Unfu*k Yourself is the ultimate antidote to overthinking and self-doubt. The chapter titles double as mantras, for instance, “I embrace uncertainty,” and “I got this.”  The text identifies common roadblocks to motivation and harmful mindsets, and prescribes ways to get around these hurdles. This guide helps readers develop the mental discipline necessary to climb out of or avoid falling into ruts, and inspires achievers to take risks and take action, even when not sure of the outcomes. The book calls out limiting beliefs and self-sabotaging behaviors, and helps readers find more realistic and productive alternatives. Unfu*k Yourself is one of the popular motivational books, for good reason. This guide helps readers give themselves a break, escape their hangups, and build confidence through experience.

Notable Quote: “You change your life by doing, not by thinking about doing.”

Read Unfu*k Yourself.

5. The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage by Mel Robbins

The 5 Second Rule book cover

The 5 Second Rule revolves around a simple motivational system: when having trouble starting a task, count backwards from five and begin. This approach prevents overthinking and generates momentum. The book contains examples of different ways people have used this method to push themselves and improve their lives. The pages give insights into the nature of motivation and urges readers to be more decisive and productive. The 5 Second Rule presents an easy system for becoming more active and proactive by hacking your willpower and acting before you have time to talk yourself out of it.

Notable Quote: “Hesitation is the kiss of death. You might hesitate for a just nanosecond, but that’s all it takes. That one small hesitation triggers a mental system that’s designed to stop you. And it happens in less than—you guessed it—five seconds.”

Read The 5 Second Rule.

6. The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz

The magic of thinking big book cover

The Magic of Thinking Big is a handbook for belief and self-assurance. The author urges readers to set their sights high and strive for large goals. This guide shows readers that being open to the possibility of achieving great things is a prerequisite for excellence. Striving for brilliance can push people beyond their limits. Even failures in these areas tend to exceed normal expectations. Not to mention, dreaming gives folks the fuel to work towards the end result. Beyond the feel-good sentiments, the book provides practical methods for setting and achieving big goals. The Magic of Thinking Big explores how to conquer the fear of failure, channel the power of positive thinking, frame defeats as temporary setbacks, and use goals for growth. The book shares the recipe for long-term motivation.

Notable Quote: “Believe it can be done. When you believe something can be done, really believe, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to solution.”

Read The Magic of Thinking Big.

7. The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth About Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

The one thing book cover

The ONE Thing is a masterclass in setting priorities and channeling energy. The main point of the book is that the greatest productivity is the result of focusing on one aim at a time. The book shows readers how to cut back on multitasking, streamline efforts, and achieve results by working on a single goal. The authors show that committing attention and energy to one pursuit at a time not only saves time and helps folks finish more tasks, but also decreases stress and gives strivers a stronger sense of purpose. The ONE Thing is a crash course in doing more by doing less, and highlights the link between motivation and single-minded dedication.

Notable Quote: “Success demands singleness of purpose. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects. It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world.”

Read The ONE Thing.

8. The Motivation Code: Discover the Hidden Forces That Drive Your Best Work by Todd Henry, Rod Penner, et al

the motivation code book cover

The Motivation Code is one of the best motivation books for work. This guide rejects the notion that the key to unlocking motivation is any one idea, or that the necessary requirements are universal. Instead, the book suggests that motivation is the result of a combination of elements that varies from person to person. The bulk of the text identifies and explores the most common motivators, such as learning, optimizing, and achieving. Each chapter explores the nuances of these themes, and contains anecdotes that illustrate these principles in action. The book as a whole helps readers to discover their own motivation code, as well as how to use motivation codes to guide group work and lead teams.

Notable Quote: “Each individual has a unique blend of motivations that drive behavior and a sense of engagement. We call this your Motivation Code….Motivation Code is the unique, constant, unchanging behavioral drive that orients a person to achieve a distinct pattern of results.”

Read The Motivation Code.

9. The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win by Jeff Haden

the motivation myth book cover

The Motivation Myth is one of the best books on improving motivation. Jeff Haden challenges the idea that successful people are born more driven and that inspiration is a random, uncontrollable force, and instead asserts that motivation is the result of simple, repeatable processes. The chapters present formulas for building momentum, completing tasks, and reaching goals, mainly by forming habits and taking action regularly. The book is basic, and is more suited for individuals looking for encouragement and guidance on structuring goals than for professionals looking for new insights. Nonetheless, The Motivation Myth is a helpful resource for replacing discouraging misconceptions about motivation with clear actionable advice.

Notable Quote: “One of the best quotes I’ve ever heard says that if you want to increase the level of success, you need to increase the level of failure. There’s a difference between quitting and failing. I’m okay with failing a thousand times. As long as you just keep going and don’t quit, you haven’t really failed. Embrace that mind-set and you will never fail. You just won’t have succeeded—yet.”

Read The Motivation Myth.

10. Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation by Edward L. Deci and Richard Flaste

why we do what we do book cover

Why We Do What We Do is one of the most insightful self motivation books. The book urges readers to reflect on the reasons they behave irresponsibly and self-destructively, and overcome these obstacles by tackling the root causes. The text also identifies the conditions that compel individuals to thrive, such as an understanding of the importance of a task and personal autonomy. Later chapters also look at the way social situations and interpersonal connectedness impact inner missions. Why We Do What We Do is a helpful guide for mastering internal and external motivation, and shows how to position yourself and your teams for success.

Notable Quote: “An alternative approach begins not with blame and control, but with asking why people are behaving irresponsibly in the first place….This approach takes the individuals’ perspective, focuses on the motivation underlying their irresponsibility, and explicates the social forces that influence that motivation. It then addresses the factors that lead people to behave more responsibly.”

Read Why We Do What We Do.

11. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Mindset book cover

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is an exploration of the mental aspects of motivations. With this bestselling book, Carol S Dweck popularized the idea of the “growth mindset.” Dweck asserts there are two ways of thinking: a fixed mindset, which assumes that skills are set and situations are unchangeable, and a growth mindset, which champions the possibility of improvement and growth. The book explores and explains these concepts in depth, and provides plenty of stories and case studies that echo the authors ideas. The book shows that the willingness and incentive to change are linked to the belief that change is possible, and shows how growth mindsets are conducive to maintaining motivation.

Notable Quote: “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

Read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

12. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Start With Why cover

Start with Why is one of the bestselling business motivation books of all time. Inspired by Sinek’s massively popular TED talk, this book is a manifesto for meaningful work. Sinek insists that the surest way to get others to believe in and act on a cause is to focus on the “why” behind the mission. The book lays out a practical framework for crafting messages that move and resonate with the audience and act as a rallying call. Sinek shows that by effectively expressing your mission, you can pass the passion onto others and build a following. Start with Why is an inspiring read for anyone, and is especially useful for organizations looking to expand their influence.

Notable Quote: “Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them.”

Read Start with Why, and check out more employee engagement books.

13. The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer

the progress principle book cover

The Progress Principle is an exploration of the ways managers can motivate employees through everyday interactions. The book explains how to create meaningful inner work lives for employees and spark intrinsic motivation. The authors surveyed thousands of journal responses from workers to pinpoint factors that drive or inhibit performance. One of the main findings is that employees are most motivated when progress is obvious. In other words, celebrating wins gives staff a sense of accomplishment that inspires further momentum. The Progress Principle stresses the importance of acknowledging developments, and gives leaders strategies to make staff feel successful and supported.

Notable Quote: “If management generally overrides people’s decisions, they quickly lose motivation to make any decision, which severely inhibits progress.”

Read The Progress Principle.

14. Friday Forward: Inspiration & Motivation to End Your Week Stronger Than It Started by Robert Glazer

friday forward book cover

Friday Forward is a collection of stories about growth and achievement intended to boost confidence and inspire action. The “Friday Forward” concept began as an email of uplifting anecdotes Robert Glazer sent colleagues each week. Not only did those co-workers respond positively and express that these emails made an impact, but Glazer also realized that composing these messages helped him set an intention, adopt a positive attitude, and be more productive. The book is split into four sections: spiritual, intellectual, physical, and emotional capability. Far from merely being a collection of feel-good fluff, the stories in this collection center around growth and development and are meant to enlighten and inspire audiences. Friday Forward is change-fuel in book form.

Notable Quote: “The evidence is pretty clear that growth comes from being pushed into the area of discomfort where we challenge our assumptions and our self-imposed limitations. Despite this, our world is increasingly constructed to prevent that push.”

Read Friday Forward.

15. The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon

the energy bus book cover

The Energy Bus is one of the top team motivation books. Jon Gordon preaches a philosophy of positivity, and shows how cultivating an atmosphere of optimism can drive teams to reach their full potential. The book shows readers how to combat negativity, both internally and externally, and how to reframe unfortunate occurrences in more objective and optimistic ways. The text relies on an ongoing story about a miserable man who learns to be more open to opportunities as an example of these principles in practice. The book shows that attitude plays a major role in motivation, and gives practical tips to shifting perspective to a more positive and productive mindset.

Notable Quote: “Every crisis offers an opportunity to grow stronger and wiser; to reach deep within and discover a better you that will create a better outcome.”

Read The Energy Bus, and check out more team building books.

16. Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Accelerate Performance by Adrian Gostick

The carrot principle book cover

Carrot Principle is one of the best motivation books for managers. This story shows how employee recognition can motivate staff and drive work performance. The book draws conclusions from an extensive management study conducted on over 200,000 participants, and relies on case studies from companies like DHL, Disney, and KPMG to back the main point that engagement and acknowledgment are powerful motivators. Adrian Gostick gives leaders advice on how to implement recognition cultures and boost job satisfaction, and includes useful tools like a list of recognition ideas. Carrot Principle is a step-by-step guide to workplace motivation that leaders can use to ignite employee passion and optimize organizations.

Notable Quote: “The simple but transformative act of a leader expressing appreciation to a person in a meaningful and memorable way is the missing accelerator that can do so much and yet is used so sparingly.”

Read Carrot Principle.

Final Thoughts

Finding and maintaining motivation is one of the biggest challenges to human behavior. Many professionals struggle to have consistent motivation at work, and managers struggle to motivate staff. Part of the reason behind these struggles is because  many folks have misconceptions about motivation.

Books about motivation show catalysts for action, and give frameworks for disciplining yourself or inspiring others when motivation does not happen naturally. These guides help readers find purpose and meaning in tasks so that work happens more consistently and seamlessly, and so that individuals and groups can achieve greater success.

Next, check out these lists of motivational work quotes and inspiring quotes about success, and this collection of books on time management.

FAQ: Motivation books

Here are answers to common questions about motivation books.

What are motivation books?

Motivation books are guides to finding inspiration, building momentum, and becoming more productive. These works cover topics such as structuring workloads, overcoming mental blocks, igniting or reigniting passion, as well motivating employees, peers, and teams.

What are some good motivation books for work?

Some good motivation books for work include Drive by Daniel Pink, Start with Why by Simon Sinek, and The Motivation Code by Todd Henry, Rod Penner, et al.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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