15 – Motivational and Inspiring Short Stories

15 – Motivational and Inspiring Short Stories


Feeling in need of inspiration?

1 How to Hunt a Monkey (Inspirational Short Story about Letting Go)


A man asked his child, Do you know how hunters of old used to trap monkeys?

Rather than chasing them up a tree or shooting arrows from below, they’d put a heavy glass jar with a narrow neck on the floor, which had the monkeys’ favorite food inside.

They’d then step back and hide, waiting for the unsuspecting animal to approach.

When it did, the monkey would reach inside, clench a fist around the food, and try to pull it out. However, the narrow neck of the jar would stop the poor monkey from getting its hand out!

It’d pull and pull, but to no avail. There was simply no way to get its hand out of the jar without releasing the food.

Rather than letting go, though, the monkey would persevere, refusing to drop its dinner.

The hunters would then approach and catch it to enjoy a meal of their own.

Don’t be like that monkey, warned the man, In life, to fight another day and grow as person, you must know when to quit, when to move on, and when to let go of whatever’s holding you back.

Moral of the story:

Sometimes you have to let go and give up what you have now in order to receive something better in the future. Don’t let stubbornness be your downfall!


2. The Value of Money (Inspiring Short Story about SelfWorth)



At the start of a new school year, the teacher presents her students with a $100 bill. She asks them if they want the money, and every hand in the room goes up. Then, she crumples up the bill and asks the same question. Surprisingly, the hands still stay up. To make her point, she drops the bill on the floor, stomps on it, grinds it into the ground, and picks it up again. Yet, the hands remain raised.

The teacher uses this example to teach the students a valuable lesson. She explains that no matter what happens to something, its value remains the same. In the same way, no matter what challenges or hardships we face, our worth never diminishes.

The moral of the story is that life is filled with difficulties that are often beyond our control. However, these hardships should never affect how we see ourselves. We should always remember that we have something unique and special to contribute to the world.

Next, we will delve into an inspiring story about two competing wolves.


3. The Two Wolves (Inspiring Short Stories about Life)



An old Cherokee chief sat down to teach his grandson about life.

“There’s a fight going on inside me,” he told the young boy, “a fight between two wolves.”

“One wolf is evil. It’s full of malice, anger, greed, selfpity, and false pride. The other is good. It’s full of peace, love, joy, kindness, and humility.”

“This same fight is going on inside you and everyone else on the face of the earth.”

The grandson was quiet, pondering this revelation for a moment before asking, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?”

The old man smiled and replied, “The one you feed.”

Moral of the story:

Good and evil exist within each of us. It’s our responsibility to own that reality and do whatever we can to nurture the good.



4. The Story of the Grateful Starfishes (Inspiring Story about Attitude)


One morning, an elderly man was walking along the beach when he noticed a young boy picking something off the sand and throwing it into the sea.

As he got closer, the man realized the child was throwing stranded starfishes that had washed up on the shore back into the breaking waves.

Approaching the boy, the man asked what he was doing.

“The starfish will die if they’re still on the shore when the sun rises,” he replied.

Perplexed, the old man said, “But that’s pointless! There are countless miles of beach and thousands of starfish. It doesn’t matter how many you return to the water, you can’t make a difference.”

Unfazed, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and tossed it into the sea.

“It matters to this one,” he said.

Moral of the story:

No matter the odds of success or the scale of the challenge, your actions can make a difference. It’s better to light a candle than curse the dark.

Every little counts. Doing something to make a positive change is always better than nothing!



5. The Elephant and the Rope (Best Inspirational Short Stories about Life)


One day a man walked past a camp of elephants.

Looking closer, he was surprised to see that these mighty animals weren’t held in cages or kept in chains.

The only thing stopping them from escaping?

A thin rope tied from one of their legs to a simple pole in the ground.

Confused as to why they didn’t use their strength to break the rope, he asked the trainer why they weren’t attempting to run away.

To this the trainer replied,

“When they are very young and much smaller, we use the same system. But, at that age, the rope is strong enough to stop them from escaping. They grow up like this, believing they can never break the rope, so even as adults they stay put.”

In other words, these powerful, magnificent and intelligent elephants didn’t believe they could free themselves, so they never tried.

Moral of the story:

Our personal beliefs are powerful beyond measure and often dictate our outcomes. They can work for or against us.

Identify your limiting beliefs so you can push against them.

These confidence affirmations should help!


6. The Fisherman and the Businessman (My Favourite Motivational Story)


Once upon a time there was a businessman who was sitting on the beach in a small Italian village.

As he sat, taking a brief break from the stress of his daily schedule, he saw a fisherman rowing a small boat back into the harbour. In the boat were a few large fish.

Impressed, the businessman asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”

“Oh, not so long,” the fisherman replied.

The businessman was confused, “Why don’t you fish for longer to catch even more?”

“More? This is enough to feed my entire family and even offer some to my neighbours,” the fisherman said.

“So what do you do for the rest of your day?” the businessman enquired.

“Well, I’ve usually have caught my fish by late morning, at which point I go home, kiss my wife, and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap and read. In the evening, I go to the village to have a drink with my friends, play guitar, sing, and dance into the night!”

Putting his entrepreneurial hat on, the businessman offered a suggestion.

“I have a PhD in business! I can help you become much more successful. From now on, you should spend longer at sea and catch as many fish as possible. When you’ve saved enough money, buy a bigger boat to catch even more fish. From there, you’ll soon be able to buy more boats, set up your own company, build a production plant to can the fish and control distribution, and move to the city to control your other branches.”

To this, the fisherman asks, “And after that?”

The businessman laughs, “After that, you’ll be able to live like a king, take your company public, float your shares and be rich!”

“And after that?” Asks the fisherman once more.

“After that, you can retire, move to a house by the sea, wake up early in the morning to go fishing, then return home to play with your kids, kiss your wife, take a nap in the afternoon and join your friends in the village to drink, play guitar and dance into the night!”

Puzzled, the fisherman replies, “But isn’t that what I’m doing already?”

Moral of the story:

Be content with what you have. Do you really need to keep pushing for more? Stress is often a choice. There’s joy and peace in simplicity.


7. The Baker and the Butter (A short story about motivation and fairness)


It’s important to be grateful for what you have and not constantly seek more. Stress is often a choice, and simplicity can bring joy and peace.

If you’re looking for a motivating story with a lesson on karma, this one about a baker and some butter might just do the trick!

Once upon a time, in a small English village, there lived a baker and a farmer who had a friendly arrangement. Each day, the farmer would sell a pound of butter to the baker.

One morning, the baker decided to weigh the butter to ensure he received the correct amount. Much to his surprise, he discovered that the farmer had given him less butter than he had paid for. Outraged by the unfairness, he took the farmer to court.

During the hearing, the judge asked the farmer if he used any measure to weigh the butter. The farmer, a humble man, replied, Your honor, I am just a simple farmer and do not own a proper measure. I use an old fashioned scale.

Curious, the judge asked how the farmer determined the weight of the butter. The farmer explained, Your honor, long before the baker started buying butter from my farm, I’ve been buying a pound loaf of bread from him. Every day, when he brings me the bread, I place it on my scale and give him the same weight in butter. If anyone is to be blamed, it’s the baker himself.

The moral of the story is that karma has a way of coming back around. It’s important to treat others with kindness and fairness, as you will eventually reap the rewards.


8. The Story of the Fig Tree (From “The Bell Jar”, by Sylvia Plath)


I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.

One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose.

I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Moral of the story:

Decide! Take action.

There’s no right or wrong answer when you’re choosing between two positive routes or outcomes. Wait too long and the decision will be made for you.

Searching for inspirational stories with a moral about happiness? Check out this next one…

9. The Pursuit of Happiness (Stories for Inspiration and Happiness)


There was once a group of 100 people attending a seminar on personal development.

In the middle of their talk, the speaker stops and decides to run an impromptu group activity. He hands out a balloon to each attendee and tells them to write their name on it.

The balloons are then collected and placed in an adjacent room.

The speaker then instructs the 100 attendees to enter that room and, within 5 short minutes, find the balloon with their name on it.

Pandemonium breaks loose as they charge in, pushing and colliding with each other as they desperately search for their name.

The 5 minutes pass and nobody succeeds.

The speaker then tells each person to pick up any random balloon and give it the person whose name is written on it. Within a few minutes everyone has their balloon back.

He then said, “What just happened with those balloons is exactly what happens in our search for happiness. We frantically look for it all around us, not knowing where it is.”

“Yet our happiness lies in the happiness of others. By giving them their happiness, you get yours.”

Moral of the story:

Happiness and fulfilment rarely come from selfish pursuits, but almost always come from doing good deeds for others. By helping others we help ourselves.

Next up: an inspiring short story about an indecisive ass!

10. Buridan’s Ass (Motivational Short Story about Decision Making)


A hungry ass finds himself between two equally large and delicious looking bales of hay.

He looks from one to the other and back again, unsure which to choose.

This goes on for a long while until, unable to make a decision, the poor old donkey dies of starvation.

Moral of the story:

Once again, take action! Don’t linger too long on the precipice of a big (or small) decision when the outcomes are positive.

Save yourself a headache, take a leap of faith, commit, and enjoy whatever rewards that come your way, refusing to look back at what could have been.


11. The Clever General (A True Motivation Story!)

Thousands of years ago there was a famous Chinese general with a reputation for being an astute and cunning leader.

One day, at the end of a long campaign, this general decided to stop in a stronghold with a small battalion of soldiers, sending his main fighting force ahead to rest elsewhere.

Meanwhile, one of his enemies catches wind of this and decides to march his army of hundreds of thousands of soldiers on the general’s allbut defenceless position.

In the middle of the night, the general’s awoken by one of his men, who breaks the news:

The enemy’s close. They’ll be there before daybreak and the tiny band of soldiers in the stronghold will be no match for their numbers.

Hearing this, the general stops and pauses.

Understanding his predicament, he instructs his men to stand down, open the gates, take down the banners from the walls, and hide.

The general then removes his armour, dons a cloak, and sits on the battlements playing a mandolin as he looks out at the approaching army.

The enemy leader soon arrives. He recognizes the general immediately.

And orders his forces to halt.

He stops to think. He knows this general better than anyone, including his reputation for wily deeds and setting deadly traps. He waits some more.

The presence of this infamous general, sitting there with such nonchalance, makes him question himself. Was the information he received false? Is the general luring him into a trap?

Or is it a double bluff?

Is this a ploy to make him question himself and the general is, in fact, as defenceless as he seems?

He waits some more…And then he orders his forces to retreat.

Moral of the story:

First, your reputation is crucial and can deliver all sorts of positive outcomes.

Second, there’s often a cleverer, more strategic way to achieve your goals. Never assume it takes sweat, blood and tears. Look for a method of attaining the same results with less effort.

The plotline of many motivational short stories involves slaying a proverbial dragon!

12. The Dragon and the Treasure

In many ancient myths and stories the hero has to go on a long and perilous journey to complete their mission. A classic example?

The sleepless dragon that guards its treasure, breathing fire on anyone who so dares to steal it.

To get the gold, the knight in shining armour must, through guile or force, first defeat this beast.

Moral of the story:

Success lies on the other side of effort, which makes suffering part of the process.

Rather than avoid discomfort then, the ambitious must pursue it at all costs. Only by butting heads and pushing through such suffering will they ever attain the proverbial gold.

Feeling lazy? The next tale on this list of short stories for motivation should help!

13. The Queen’s Boulder (Short Stories about Motivation and Effort)

In ancient times there was a queen who ordered her soldiers to manoeuvre a boulder into the middle of the main road to and from town.

The queen then hid, watching to see who would stop to do the right thing and move it out of the way again.

Wealthy merchants and courtiers passed the boulder, barely giving it a second thought. A few of them blamed their queen for not keeping the roads clear. Yet none stopped to do anything.

One day, a peasant walked along with a sack of vegetables to sell at market.

He stopped, laid these down, and then pushed, tugged, huffed, and heaved the stone away.

Upon picking up his vegetables, the peasant saw a large purse full of gold and a handwritten note from the queen herself where the boulder had been.

The gold was a reward for whoever removed it from the road.

Moral of the story:

Laziness will never get you anywhere in life. Success almost always takes humility and hard work. Read these quotes about laziness for more insights on this topic!

Short stories about life don’t get much better than this one about a pear tree.


15. The Story of the Lumberjacks (Stories about Inspiration and Productivity)
Two lumberjacks of equal skill, experience, and stature worked side by side, chopping down trees together every single day.

One lumberjack worked nonstop, without taking a break, whereas the other took an hourlong lunch break every afternoon.

At the end of each working day, both lumberjacks inevitably chopped the same number of trees.

The lumberjack who worked all day long was puzzled and frustrated. He asked the other lumberjack how he managed to chop just as much as him while still taking a break.

The other lumberjack responded:

“It’s simple. I spend that hour at home sharpening my axe.”

Moral of the story:

Breaks are vital to productivity. Work smart not hard!

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