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  • The important thing about human beings is not what they do, but why they do it.

  • We must not inquire too curiously into motives. ... they are apt to become feeble in the utterance: the aroma is mixed with the grosser air. We must keep the germinating grain away from the light.

  • A whole industry has grown up to promote positive thinking, and the product of this industry, available at a wide range of prices, is called 'motivation.'

  • ... motivation is highest when the probability of success is 50 percent: We don't get involved if the task is too easy or too hard.

  • There is no such thing as an exact synonym and no such thing as an unmixed motive.

  • Nothing makes life dreary but lack of motive.

  • Strength diminishes when it seems we are spending it in vain.

  • Too great a preoccupation with motives (especially one's own motives) is liable to lead to too little concern for consequences.

  • Motivation begins with the job interview. If you hire the wrong person, you will never be able to motivate him or her, no matter how hard you try.

  • The motives even of our best actions will not always bear examination; we deceive ourselves first, and our vanity is too much interested in the deception to make us wish to detect it.

  • ... we make a great fuss about national conscience, but it consists mainly in insisting upon everyone ascribing our national policy to highly moral motives, rather than in examining what our motives really are.

    • Joan Robinson,
    • "What Are the Rules of the Game?" Economic Philosophy ()
  • ... people become motivated when you guide them to the source of their own power and when you make heroes out of employees who personify what you want to see in the organization.

  • As a child I was early turned from the path of righteousness by the unfortunate remark once let drop in my presence by my mother that virtue is its own reward. Hitherto I had supposed that if I were being good it was for some decent and intelligible purpose.

  • Everybody has a theme. You talk to somebody awhile, and you realize they have one particular thing that rules them. The best you can do is a variation on the theme, but that's about it.