“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” — Nelson Mandela
Motivational short stories have the power to inspire us, shift our perspectives, and help us overcome challenges to become the best version of ourselves.
These stories can stay with us for a lifetime, providing valuable insights and lessons.
I first heard the story of the Flea and the Jar and the story of The Elephant and the Rope from Tony Robbins.
Later, I heard the story of The Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand from Stephen Covey.
I remember sometime later a mentor told me the story of The Starfish. And another mentor told me the story of The Two Wolves.
It was a while before a mentor told me about The Fisherman and it made me rethink the game of life.
I’ve collected these motivational short stories as reminders of how we can overcome our challenges and sometimes the greatest obstacle we face, is ourself.
So let’s explore the world of motivational short stories and discover the endless possibilities for personal growth and transformation.
Motivational Short Stories on This Page
Here is an index of the motivational short stories on this page:
- Elephant and the Rope
- Empty Your Cup
- Flea in the Jar
- Happiness is Within You
- Life is a Race
- Life is Like a Cup of Coffee
- Potato, Egg, or Coffee Bean
- Puppies for Sales
- Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand
- Sharpen Your Axe
- The Fisherman
- The Butterfly Story
- The Group of Frogs
- The Two Wolves Story
- The Retiring Carpenter Story
- The Saint and the Scorpion
- The Starfish
- The Tale of the Pencil
- The Two Shoe Salesman
- The Two Wolves
Elephant and the Rope Motivational Short Story
The elephant and the rope story is a metaphorical tale about how limiting beliefs and conditioning can hold us back from reaching our full potential.
In the story, a man comes across an elephant that is tied to a small rope.
Despite the fact that the elephant could easily break free from the rope, it does not even try to do so.
The man is curious and asks the trainer nearby why the elephant doesn’t attempt to break free.
The trainer explains that when the elephant was young, it was tied to the same rope and was not strong enough to break free.
As a result, the elephant became conditioned to believe that it was not capable of breaking the rope, even though it could do so easily as an adult.
The story is often used as a metaphor for how our own beliefs and conditioning can hold us back from achieving our full potential. Just like the elephant, we can become so conditioned to our own limitations that we may not even try to break free from them.
The lesson of the elephant and the rope is to recognize the limiting beliefs and conditioning that hold us back and to challenge them in order to achieve our full potential.
Empty Your Cup Motivational Short Story
The Zen Story of the Empty Cup is a parable that emphasizes the importance of having an open mind and being receptive to new ideas and experiences.
In the story, a scholar seeks out a Zen master to learn from him. The scholar proudly shows the Zen master all that he knows, but the master pours tea into the scholar’s cup until it overflows, demonstrating that the scholar’s mind is already full and cannot accept anything more.
The Zen master then tells the scholar that if he wants to learn, he must first empty his cup – that is, let go of his preconceptions and be open to new ideas and experiences.
The story is often used as a metaphor for personal growth and the importance of having an open mind. It emphasizes that we must let go of our preconceptions and be receptive to new ideas if we want to learn and grow.
The lesson of the story is to approach life with an open mind and a willingness to learn, rather than assuming that we already know everything.
Flea in the Jar Motivational Short Story
The story of the flea in the jar is a metaphorical tale about the limitations that we place on ourselves and how these limitations can become ingrained in our thinking over time.
In the story, a group of fleas are placed in a jar with a lid on it. The fleas initially try to jump out of the jar, but they keep hitting their heads on the lid.
Eventually, the fleas stop jumping as high and learn to live within the confines of the jar.
One day, the lid is removed from the jar, and the fleas are free to jump as high as they want.
However, even though they are no longer confined by the lid, the fleas continue to jump only as high as the lid used to be, as this has become the limit that they have imposed on themselves.
The story is often used as a metaphor for how our own beliefs and limiting thoughts can hold us back from achieving our full potential. Just like the fleas, we can become so used to living within certain limitations that we may not even realize we are capable of breaking free from them.
The lesson of the flea in the jar is to recognize the limitations we place on ourselves and to challenge them in order to reach our full potential.
Happiness is Within You Motivational Short Story
The “Happiness is Within You” story is a fable about a man who travels to a far-off land in search of happiness. He meets a wise old man who tells him that happiness is not found in distant places, but rather within oneself.
The wise man tells the traveler to seek out a certain tree in a nearby forest, which is said to hold the secret to true happiness.
The traveler searches for the tree, but when he finds it, he is disappointed to see that it looks like any other tree.
The wise man appears again and tells the traveler to cut the tree down and open it up. Inside, the traveler finds nothing but plain, unremarkable wood. Confused and frustrated, he asks the wise man what this means.
The wise man tells him that the true secret to happiness is not in external objects or circumstances, but rather in our own perception and attitude.
Happiness is not found in material things or in achieving external goals, but rather in cultivating an inner sense of peace, contentment, and gratitude.
The story is often used as a metaphor for the idea that true happiness comes from within, and that external factors can only provide temporary pleasure or satisfaction.
The lesson of the story is to focus on cultivating inner peace and contentment, rather than seeking happiness in external objects or circumstances.
Life is a Race Motivational Short Story
In this version, the story revolves around a young athletic boy who was hungry for success and measured his success only by winning.
He participated in a running competition and won two races, feeling proud and important.
He then pleaded for another race and was presented with two new challengers, an elderly frail old lady and a blind man.
As the race began, the boy noticed that the elderly lady and the blind man were struggling to run. Instead of rushing ahead, he slowed down and ran alongside them, encouraging them to keep going.
Together, they reached the finish line and the boy realized that the true victory was in helping others and enjoying the journey, rather than just winning.
The story is often used as a metaphor for the importance of slowing down, helping others, and savoring life’s moments.
It emphasizes that life is not just about winning races or achieving goals, but about enjoying the journey and being kind to others.
The lesson of the story is to appreciate the journey, help others along the way, and find joy in the process.
Life is Like a Cup of Coffee Motivational Short Story
The story goes like this:
A group of people were sitting in a coffee house, discussing life. As they talked, the conversation turned to the subject of life being like a cup of coffee.
One person said, “Life is like a cup of coffee. It all depends on how you make it.”
Another person said, “Yes, but you can’t control the water temperature, or the quality of the coffee beans.”
A third person added, “But you can control the amount of coffee and the strength of the brew.”
Then an older man, who had been listening quietly to the conversation, spoke up. He said, “Life is not like a cup of coffee, it’s the coffee cup that matters.
The cup is what holds the coffee and shapes its experience. And just like the cup, we need to focus on what’s around us, on what we have, and appreciate it.”
The group fell silent, pondering the old man’s words. The lesson of the story is that, like a cup of coffee, life is what we make of it.
We can choose to focus on what we have and appreciate it, or we can focus on what we lack and be discontent.
Ultimately, the cup that holds our life experiences is what matters, not the coffee inside.
Potato, Egg, or Coffee Bean Motivational Short Story
The story goes like this:
A young woman went to her mother and told her about the problems she was facing in life. She said she was tired of fighting and struggling and didn’t know how to keep going.
The mother took her to the kitchen and filled three pots with water. She placed each pot on a burner, turned on the heat, and put a potato in one pot, an egg in the second, and coffee beans in the third.
After a while, she turned off the burners and fished out the potato, egg, and coffee beans, and asked her daughter to observe them carefully.
The potato was soft and had become very weak. The egg, which had been fragile, now had a hardened shell inside. But the coffee beans had transformed the water into a rich and aromatic coffee. T
he mother then explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity – boiling water. However, each of them had reacted differently.
The potato went in strong, firm, and hard, but in boiling water, it became soft and weak. The egg had been fragile and had a thin outer shell, but in boiling water, it had become hard inside.
The coffee beans, on the other hand, had changed the water and created something new.
The mother explained that we all face adversity, and how we react to it depends on us. We can either become weak, hard, or transform the situation into something positive.
The young woman realized that she had a choice – to be like a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean.
Puppies for Sales Motivational Short Story
The “Puppies for Sale” story is a fable about a man who sells puppies for a living.
One day, a young boy comes to the man’s shop and asks how much the puppies cost.
The man tells the boy the price, but adds that there is one puppy that he can have for free.
The boy is excited and asks to see the free puppy.
The man brings out the puppy, who is missing a leg and has a limp.
The boy asks why the puppy is different from the others, and the man explains that the puppy was born with a deformity and will never be able to run and play like the others.
The boy looks at the puppy for a moment and then turns to the man and says, “That’s the puppy I want.”
The man is surprised and asks the boy if he understands that the puppy will never be able to run and play like the others.
The boy responds, “I know he can’t run and play like other puppies, but I can love him and take care of him just like any other puppy.”
The story is often used as a metaphor for the value of compassion and acceptance.
It emphasizes that we should not judge others based on their physical appearance or abilities, but rather on their intrinsic worth and capacity for love.
The lesson of the story is to cultivate compassion and acceptance, and to value others for who they are, not just what they can do.
Rocks, Pebbles, Sand Motivational Short Story
The rocks, pebbles, and sand story is a metaphorical tale about the importance of prioritization and time management.
In the story, a teacher holds up a jar and fills it with rocks until they reach the top.
The teacher then asks the students if the jar is full, and they respond yes. However, the teacher then pours pebbles into the jar, which fill the spaces between the rocks.
The teacher again asks the students if the jar is full, and they respond yes. Finally, the teacher pours sand into the jar, which fills the remaining spaces between the rocks and pebbles.
The story is often used as a metaphor for how we prioritize and manage our time.
The rocks represent the most important tasks or goals in our lives, while the pebbles and sand represent the less important tasks or distractions.
If we fill our time with pebbles and sand first, there may not be enough time left for the rocks.
However, if we prioritize the rocks and then fill in the gaps with the pebbles and sand, we can accomplish our most important tasks or goals first and still have time for other tasks.
The lesson of the rocks, pebbles, and sand story is to prioritize our time and focus on the most important tasks or goals first in order to achieve success and fulfillment in our lives.
Self-Appraisal Motivational Short Story
The Self-Appraisal story is a parable that emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and self-reflection in personal and professional growth.
The story goes that a young man was seeking guidance from a wise elder on how to improve himself.
The elder gave him a task to complete, asking him to spend a week observing himself and writing down everything that he did that he felt was good, bad, or indifferent.
The young man completed the task and returned to the elder, presenting him with a long list of both positive and negative behaviors he had observed in himself.
The elder then gave him another task, asking him to spend the next week observing others and writing down everything that he saw that was good, bad, or indifferent.
When the young man returned with this second list, the elder compared the two lists and pointed out that the things that bothered him most in others were the same things he had observed in himself.
The elder used this realization as a starting point for the young man to work on himself and become more self-aware.
The story highlights the importance of taking the time for self-reflection and self-appraisal in order to identify areas for personal growth and development.
By understanding and addressing our own flaws, we can become more effective and successful individuals.
Sharpen Your Axe Motivational Short Story
The “Sharpen Your Axe” story is a fable about a man who is tasked with chopping down a tree.
The man sets to work using a dull axe, and despite his best efforts, he makes very little progress.
A wise old man comes by and asks the man why he is struggling. The man explains that he is trying to chop down the tree, but his axe is too dull.
The wise old man suggests that the man take a break and sharpen his axe.
The man is hesitant to take a break, feeling that he doesn’t have time to waste.
But the wise old man insists, explaining that sharpening the axe will actually make the task easier and more efficient.
The man finally takes a break and sharpens his axe.
When he returns to the task of chopping down the tree, he finds that it is much easier and faster with a sharp axe, and he is able to complete the task in no time.
The story is often used as a metaphor for the importance of taking breaks and investing time and effort into self-care, skill-building, and preparation.
It emphasizes that taking time to sharpen our tools and skills can actually save us time and effort in the long run, and make us more effective and efficient in our tasks.
The lesson of the story is to prioritize self-care and skill-building, and to not be afraid to take breaks or invest time and effort into preparation.
The Butterfly Motivational Short Story
“The Butterfly” is a motivational short story about the process of transformation and growth. Sometimes this story is referred to as “You are Made to Fly.”
In the story, a man finds a cocoon with a small opening and notices a butterfly struggling to emerge.
The man decides to help the butterfly by widening the opening, but the butterfly continues to struggle and cannot fly properly.
The man soon realizes that the struggle to emerge from the cocoon is an important part of the butterfly’s development.
The effort and resistance of the struggle are necessary for the butterfly’s wings to become strong and for it to develop the ability to fly.
The story is often used as a metaphor for personal growth and the importance of facing challenges and struggles in order to achieve our full potential.
Just like the butterfly, we may encounter obstacles and difficulties in our lives, but these challenges can help us become stronger and more resilient.
If we avoid or eliminate all struggles, we may miss out on the growth and development that comes from overcoming them.
The lesson of the butterfly story is to embrace the struggles and challenges in our lives, as they are often necessary for our growth and development.
We should trust the process of transformation, even when it is difficult or uncomfortable, as it can lead to beautiful and meaningful outcomes.
The Fisherman Motivational Short Story
The story of “The Fisherman” is a metaphorical tale about the pursuit of happiness and the importance of living a simple, fulfilling life.
In the story, a successful businessman visits a small fishing village and meets a fisherman who is returning from a day of fishing.
The businessman asks the fisherman why he doesn’t fish for longer each day and use the extra time to grow his business.
The fisherman responds that he is content with his simple life, and that he fishes only enough to provide for his family and to spend time with them.
The businessman is confused by the fisherman’s contentment and explains that if he worked harder and saved more money, he could eventually retire and spend his days relaxing on a beach just like the fisherman.
The fisherman responds by asking why he would need to work so hard and wait so long to enjoy the simple pleasures of life when he can already do so now.
The story is often used as a metaphor for the pursuit of happiness and the importance of living a simple, fulfilling life.
It suggests that we often become so focused on achieving success and accumulating wealth that we forget the simple pleasures and joys of life that can be found in spending time with loved ones, pursuing hobbies, and enjoying the present moment.
The lesson of the fisherman story is to prioritize the things that truly bring us happiness and fulfillment in life, rather than pursuing a never-ending quest for more money, possessions, or success.
It reminds us to appreciate the simple pleasures of life and to focus on the things that matter most to us.
The Group of Frogs Motivational Short Story
The “Group of Frogs” story is a metaphorical tale that highlights the importance of perseverance and support.
In the story, a group of frogs decides to climb a tall tree. As they begin their climb, the other animals around them start criticizing and mocking them, telling them that they will never make it to the top.
Despite the discouragement, some of the frogs continue to climb while others give up and fall back down.
As the climb continues, the criticism and discouragement from the other animals only get louder.
But one frog, determined to reach the top, perseveres and eventually makes it to the top of the tree.
The other animals are amazed and congratulate the frog on his achievement.
When the other frogs ask the successful frog how he managed to persevere despite the criticism and discouragement, he reveals that he is actually deaf and couldn’t hear the negative comments.
He thought the other animals were cheering him on and supporting him.
The story is often used as a metaphor for the importance of perseverance, support, and positive thinking.
It emphasizes that negative comments and criticism can be a hindrance to success, but with perseverance and a positive mindset, we can overcome obstacles and achieve our goals.
The lesson of the story is to stay focused on our goals, believe in ourselves, and surround ourselves with positive influences.
The Retiring Carpenter Story Motivational Short Story
The retiring carpenter story goes like this:
A carpenter who had been working for a company for many years announced to his boss that he was ready to retire.
The boss was sorry to see such a good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house before he left.
The carpenter agreed, but it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work anymore. He resorted to using inferior materials and taking shortcuts wherever possible.
When the carpenter finished his work, the boss came to inspect the house. He then handed the front door key to the carpenter and said, “This is your house, my gift to you.”
The carpenter was shocked and embarrassed. If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all differently.
The moral of the story is that every day we build our own lives, and we should always do our best work, even when no one is watching.
The Saint and the Scorpion Motivational Short Story
Once, a saint was walking by a riverbank when he saw a scorpion drowning in the water. The saint decided to help the scorpion and reached out to grab it.
However, as soon as the saint touched the scorpion, it stung him.
Despite the pain, the saint did not let go and instead gently pulled the scorpion out of the water.
As he did so, the scorpion stung him again and again.
A passerby saw the saint struggling with the scorpion and asked why he was helping it when it was only causing him pain.
The saint replied, “It is the nature of the scorpion to sting, and it is my nature to help. Why should I give up my nature to help just because it causes me pain?”
The story teaches us that it is important to help others, even if they may not appreciate it or even harm us in return. It is our nature to be compassionate, and we should not give up on that just because it may be difficult or uncomfortable.
The Starfish Motivational Short Story
The “Starfish Story” is a fable about a man walking along a beach that is covered in starfish that have been washed ashore. As the man walks, he notices a young girl picking up starfish one by one and throwing them back into the ocean.
The man approaches the girl and asks why she is bothering to throw the starfish back into the ocean, as there are too many for her to make a difference.
The girl responds by picking up another starfish and throwing it into the ocean, saying, “I made a difference to that one.”
The story is often used as a metaphor for the power of individual action and the importance of making a difference in the world, even if we can’t solve every problem.
It emphasizes that every small act of kindness and compassion can make a difference to someone, and that we should not be discouraged by the scale of the problems we face.
The lesson of the story is to focus on the good we can do in the world, and to take action in our own lives to make a positive difference, no matter how small.
The Tale of the Pencil Motivational Short Story
The Tale of the Pencil is a metaphorical story that emphasizes the idea that everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses that can be used to create something beautiful and meaningful.
In the story, a pencil maker tells the pencil five important lessons as it goes through life.
First, the pencil maker says that everything that happens to the pencil is part of its sharpening process.
Second, the pencil maker reminds the pencil that it can always correct its mistakes.
Third, the pencil maker tells the pencil that what’s inside it – the lead – is what’s most important.
Fourth, the pencil maker says that the pencil will be useful only if it allows itself to be held and guided by the hand that holds it.
Finally, the pencil maker reminds the pencil that eventually it will be left behind, but the marks it leaves behind will make a difference.
The story is often used as a metaphor for personal growth and the idea that everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses that can be used to create something meaningful.
It emphasizes that we should accept ourselves for who we are, learn from our mistakes, focus on what’s most important, be guided by others, and make our mark on the world in a positive way.
The Two Shoe Salesman Motivational Short Story
The Two Shoe Salesman story is a well-known parable that illustrates the power of perspective and attitude.
The story goes that two shoe salesmen were sent by a shoe company to a foreign country to assess the market for their product.
The first salesman arrived and immediately sent a message back to the company saying, “There is no potential here – nobody wears shoes.”
The second salesman arrived and sent a message back saying, “This is a fantastic opportunity – nobody wears shoes!”
The story demonstrates how two people can look at the same situation and interpret it completely differently based on their mindset and attitude.
The second salesman had a positive outlook and saw the potential in the situation, while the first salesman had a negative outlook and saw only the obstacles.
This story is often used to illustrate the power of a growth mindset and the importance of maintaining a positive attitude in order to succeed in any situation.
The Two Wolves Motivational Short Story
The Two Wolves story is a Cherokee fable about a grandfather who tells his grandson a story about two wolves that live inside each of us.
One wolf is white, representing kindness, compassion, and love, while the other is black, representing hatred, anger, and greed.
The grandfather tells his grandson that these two wolves are constantly fighting inside us, and asks the grandson which one will win.
The grandson thinks for a moment and then answers, “The one I feed.”
The story is often used as a metaphor for the power of our thoughts and the importance of cultivating positive attitudes and behaviors.
It emphasizes that we have a choice in how we think and act, and that our actions determine which wolf we are feeding.
The lesson of the story is to focus on cultivating positive thoughts and behaviors, and to feed the “white wolf” of love and compassion, rather than the “black wolf” of hatred and anger.
Onward and Upward
Motivational short stories have the power to inspire, uplift, and transform us. They remind us that no matter what challenges we face in life, we have the strength and resilience to overcome them.
By reading and reflecting on these stories, we can tap into our own inner strength and find the courage to pursue our dreams, overcome obstacles, and become the best version of ourselves.
So let us continue to seek out and share these stories, and let them guide us on our journey towards greatness.
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