11 Refreshingly Motivational Quotes From Fictional Characters

Ash Jurberg


Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Serenity Now!

It is one of my favorite lines of all time, from my favorite TV show — Seinfeld. Although it was used to provide laughs to the viewing audience from a frustrated Frank Costanza, this is such a great saying that I have learned to embrace.

Serenity Now!

When things are going wrong, and I am incredibly frustrated, I take a step back and repeat this phrase to myself. It’s a reminder to pause and take a deep breath. While it didn’t work for Frank, it has worked for me.

And it got me thinking, what other quotes from TV, movies or books, initially uttered by fictional characters can we learn from? While the character behind them may not be real, there was a writer who came up with these words of advice.

Some of these are very well known, others less so. To add a bit of fun, I’ll let you guess who uttered each phrase and provide the answers at the end.

1. “Buongiorno, princapessa!”

This line is from my favorite film. It is a sombre subject, but the main character tries to find joy in what are very tragic circumstances. He puts on a brave front for his wife and son with this beautiful greeting, which means good morning princess in English. It brings a smile to their faces and a temporary pause to their negative situation.

In adverse situations, I try to think of this character and with a broad smile on my face, say “Buongiorno, Principessa!” It has become a little game that my family now plays to bring each other up. A very quick reminder that things could be worse and to smile.

The two-word summary.

Smile more.

2. “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

I am sure you have all heard this quote made famous by Robin Williams. (Oops, I gave the answer away.) This phrase is often used as inspiration — for schools, sports teams — in fact, anyone who needs a pep talk.

The thinking here is that we all live one life; there is no point in waiting for something to happen. When there is an opportunity, you need to grab it. Take the bull by the horns and go for it.

You don’t want to look back on your life and think — I wish I had done that. There is nothing worse than saying, “if only.”

The two-word summary.

Take chances.

3. “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

In life, we have two options — be proactive or throw our hands in the air and give up. When obstacles are put in our way, we can either quit or keep marching towards our goals. In COVID times, many businesses were faced with lost business. They could have said, oh well, and given up or tried to pivot their business somehow. We saw gyms turn to online classes; alcohol companies begin to manufacture hand sanitizer, and so on.

From my perspective, I lost my business of nearly ten years. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I turned to writing and have focused on this new avenue for creation.

Whether we like it or not, we will always face challenges. This quote reminds us to keep moving forward.

The two-word summary.

Do it.

4. “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

This reminds me of the old line — there is always light at the end of the tunnel. In every situation, there can be one positive to be found. This is about finding the one glimmer of hope, the solitary candle burning to show us the way.

In any situation, try and find the one positive —because there will always be at least one.

The two-word summary.

Be positive.

5. “Stupid is as stupid does.”

There are a few ways to interpret this. For me, it is to never judge a book by its cover. That we must always look beyond the appearance of a person to what lies within them.

A story I remember was when I was a young marketing employee at a big global travel company. A meeting was set for the CEO with a group of potential business partners. The CEO had just been on a long run and came to the meeting sweating and in his running gear.

The prospective partners were put off by his disheveled appearance and left the meeting. They had dismissed the CEO — who at the time was the wealthiest person in the state, as someone who wasn’t serious. And the end result was that they missed a big opportunity.

I am always reminded of this and relate it to this quote. Judge people by their actions, not by their appearance.

The two-word summary.

Look within.

6. “If you don’t like how the table is set, turn over the table.”

Often we find ourselves in situations we don’t like or aren’t suited to. The answer here is simple — if you are unhappy with something, change it. If you are unhappy with a job or with a relationship — change it.

If you don’t like the way something is working out — then look for different options. I also like to think that this reinforces the “thinking outside the box” maxim. Try and flip the situation and do something unique. There will be a solution; you just need to find it.

The two-word summary.

Be creative.

7. “Suit up.”

This can be used figuratively and literally. Always come ready and prepared. You never know when you might be called off the bench. In any aspect of life, show up.

That opportunity you have always wanted might occur today, and you need to be suited up and ready to take it. Use that boy scout motto and always be prepared.

The two-word summary.

Be prepared.

8. “There are no men like me. Only me”

On first hearing this, it can sound quite arrogant. Certainly, the character who said it at the time was cocky. But on further reflection, I believe it tells us that we are all unique and should be our own person.

There is no need to copy anyone else. Sure there may be some traits that you’d like to emulate, but each one of is our own individual and should forge our own path. Copying another person is an admission that you aren’t good enough in your own right. No one should ever think like that.

There has never been anyone like you before, and there will never be anyone like you again. And that should be embraced.

The two-word summary.

Love yourself.

9. “I hope, or I could not live.”

This line was written in the 19th century but has never been more relevant. Hope is what drives us all; it is what keeps us going. We all must have hope in our hearts.

The two-word summary.

Always dream.

10. “It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how.”

Many of these quotes are serious, but you have to look for the laughs in life, and this playful quote sums it up.

We all need to have fun, and it seems we often forget how to. Look at a child. They always find joy and pleasure in small things. They aren’t bogged down in negative thoughts; they use their imagination and whatever is available to them to create fun.

How often do we see a toddler revel in delight at opening a present and finding just as much joy in the wrapping or the box the present was in as the actual present? They know how to have fun because there is no voice inside their head telling them not to.

Find the wrapper within your life and have fun with it!

The two-word summary.

Laugh more.

11. “You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.”

We will all have bad luck at some stage. We miss out on a promotion, or our car breaks down on the way to a date. We are next in line when the concert tickets run out.

At this point, we can choose to complain and take anger. Blame the God of Bad Luck for cursing our lives. But what if we took the approach that the bad luck saved us from something worse. That in reality, bad luck was a piece of good luck that was carefully camouflaged.

Maybe that date we were due to go on was with the wrong person for us. The promotion we were denied led to a new job elsewhere. The money we would have spent on concert tickets was used on something better.

Think of every bit of bad luck as good luck in disguise.

The two-word summary.

Be thankful.

The Takeaway

Motivation and inspiration can be found all around us. While watching a movie or reading a book is a great wat to relax and perhaps escape reality for a while, there are always learning opportunities.

I hope that some of these quotes inspire you as they inspired me. That they prompt you to play with the wrapper or suit up. That some positive changes can be made as a result. And once you see the answers below that, you take the time to watch or read the source material from whence they came.


  1. Guido Orefice played by Roberto Benigni in Life is Beautiful.
  2. John Keating played by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.
  3. Red Redding played by Morgan Freeman and Andy Dufresne played by Tim Robbins in Shawshank Redemption.
  4. Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter book, Prisoner of Azkaban.
  5. Forrest Gump played by Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump.
  6. Frank Underwood played by Kevin Spacey in House of Cards.
  7. Barney Stinson played by Neil Patrick Harris in How I Met Your Mother.
  8. Jamie Lannister played by in Game of Thrones.
  9. Edward Pendrick in the Island of Doctor Moreau.
  10. The Cat in the Hat in the book Cat in the Hat.
  11. Ellis Bell in the book No Country For Old Men.

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San Antonio, TX

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