23 Best Inspirational Short Stories with a Motivating Moral



Stories are one of the most powerful ways to guide, teach, and inspire people. Storytelling is effective because it helps to establish connections among people, as well as between people and the ideas that unite humanity.

Inspirational stories move past creating a sense of connection, and allow the listener to identify with the story wherever they are in their own life, which makes them more receptive to learning. Some of the best stories contain several different meanings or lessons so they’re effective in communicating complex ideas in ways that are easy to understand.

Finally, storytelling has characteristics that benefits the three main types of learning: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Visual learners benefit from the mental pictures that stories evoke. Auditory learners are able to focus on the words and voice of the storyteller. And kinesthetic learners can retain the emotional connections that they feel were created in the story.

No matter what type of learner you are, you can benefit from an inspirational story that comes with a moral. In this article, I will share 23 short inspirational stories that can teach you valuable lessons.

(Side note: Another positive way to improve your life is to read and learn something new every day. A great tool to do this is to join over 1 million others and start your day with the latest FREE, informative news from this website.)

What You Will Learn

  • 23 Best Inspirational Short Stories with a Motivating Moral
    • 1. Three Feet From Gold
    • 2. Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand
    • 3. The Elephant Rope
    • 4. A Wise Man’s Jokes
    • 5. It’s Never Too Late
    • 6. The Boulder and the Gold
    • 7. Dirty Money
    • 8. The Ultimate Test
    • 9. What a Waste
    • 10. Breathing With No Air
    • 11. Sweet Dreams
    • 12. Teamwork
    • 13. Frogs for Dinner
    • 14. Will You Marry Me?
    • 15. Wait…What?
    • 16. Toothpaste Recant
    • 17. Just Be
    • 18. The Weight of the World
    • 19. Cherish Your Struggles
    • 20. Seeking Happiness
    • 21. There Was Once a Boy…
    • 22. A Pound is a Pound
    • 23. Jumping Frogs
  • Final Thoughts on Inspirational Stories

23 Best Inspirational Short Stories with a Motivating Moral

1. Three Feet From Gold

The Story:

During the gold rush, a man who had been mining in Colorado for several months quit his job, as he hadn’t struck gold yet and the work was becoming tiresome.  He sold his equipment to another man who resumed mining where it had been left off. The new miner was advised by his engineer that there was gold only three feet away from where the first miner stopped digging.

The engineer was right, which means the first miner was a mere three feet away from striking gold before he quit.

The Moral:

When things start to get hard, try to persevere through the adversity. Many people give up on following their dreams because the work becomes too difficult, tedious, or tiresome–but often, you’re closer to the finish line than you may think, and if you push just a little harder, you will succeed.

2. Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand

The Story:

A philosophy professor once stood up before his class with a large empty mayonnaise jar. He filled the jar to the top with large rocks and asked his students if the jar was full.

His students all agreed the jar was full.

He then added small pebbles to the jar, and gave the jar a bit of a shake so the pebbles could disperse themselves among the larger rocks. Then he asked again, “Is the jar full now?”

The students agreed that the jar was still full.

The professor then poured sand into the jar to fill up all the remaining empty space.

The students then agreed again that the jar was full.

The Metaphor:

In this story, the jar represents your life and the rocks, pebbles, and sand are the things that fill up your life. The rocks represent the most important projects and things you have going on, such as spending time with your family and maintaining proper health. This means that if the pebbles and the sand were lost, the jar would still be full and your life would still have meaning.

The pebbles represent the things in your life that matter, but that you could live without. The pebbles are certainly things that give your life meaning (such as your job, house, hobbies, and friendships), but they are not critical for you to have a meaningful life. These things often come and go, and are not permanent or essential to your overall well-being.

Finally, the sand represents the remaining filler things in your life, and material possessions. This could be small things such as watching television, browsing through your favorite social media site, or running errands. These things don’t mean much to your life as a whole, and are likely only done to waste time or get small tasks accomplished.

The Moral:

The metaphor here is that if you start with putting sand into the jar, you will not have room for rocks or pebbles. This holds true with the things you let into your life. If you spend all of your time on the small and insignificant things, you will run out of room for the things that are actually important.

In order to have a more effective and efficient life, pay attention to the “rocks,” because they are critical to your long-term well-being.

3. The Elephant Rope

The Story:

When walking through an elephant camp, a man noticed that the elephants were only secured with a small rope that was tied around one ankle. He wondered why the elephants didn’t break free from the rope, as the elephants were certainly strong enough to do so.

He asked a trainer why the elephants didn’t try to break free, and the trainer responded by saying that they use the same size rope for baby elephants all the way up to adulthood. Because they’re too small when they’re babies to break free from the rope, they grow up being conditioned that the rope is stronger than they are. As adults, they think the rope can still hold them, so they don’t try to fight it.

The Moral:

The elephants in this case are experiencing learned helplessness. This phenomenon occurs when someone has been conditioned to anticipate discomfort in some way without having a way to avoid it or make it stop. After enough conditioning, the person will stop any attempts to avoid the pain, even if they see an opportunity to escape.

If you go through life thinking that you can’t do something just because you have failed at doing it in the past, you’re living with a fixed mindset. You have to let go of your limiting beliefs in order to make the breakthroughs that are required for your ultimate success. Don’t let other people tell you that you can’t do something, and don’t hold onto an assumption that you can’t grow and learn from past failures.

4. A Wise Man’s Jokes

The Story:

A wise man once faced a group of people who were complaining about the same issues over and over again. One day, instead of listening to the complaints, he told them a joke and everyone cracked up laughing.

Then, the man repeated the joke. A few people smiled.

Finally, the man repeated the joke a third time–but no one reacted.

The man smiled and said, “You won’t laugh at the same joke more than once. So what are you getting from continuing to complain about the same problem?”

The Moral:

You’re not going to get anywhere if you keep complaining about the same problem but do nothing to fix it. Don’t waste your time complaining, expecting other people to continue to react to your complaints. Instead, take action to make a change.

5. It’s Never Too Late

The Story:

In the 1940s, there was a man who, at the age of 65, was living off of $99 social security checks in a small house, driving a beat-up car.

He decided it was time to make a change, so he thought about what he had to offer that other people may benefit from. His mind went to his fried chicken recipe, which his friends and family loved.

He left his home state of Kentucky and traveled throughout the country, trying to sell his recipe to restaurants. He even offered the recipe for free, asking for only a small chunk of the money that was earned.

However, most of the restaurants declined his offer. In fact, 1,009 restaurants said no.

But even after all of the rejections, he persisted. He believed in himself and his chicken recipe.

The Moral:

There are a few lessons that you can take away from this story. First, it’s never too late in life to find success. In a society that often celebrates young, successful people, it’s easy to start to think you’re never going to be successful after a certain age. However, Colonel Sanders is an example that proves that argument wrong.

This story also demonstrates the power of persistence. You have to have confidence in yourself and believe in your work for other people to believe it also. Disregard anyone who tells you “no” and simply move on.

6. The Boulder and the Gold

The Story:

There once was a king who decided to do a little experiment. He had a giant boulder put right in the middle of the street. He then hid near the boulder to see who, if anyone, would try to move it out of the way.

First, some wealthy merchants walked by. They walked around the boulder, complaining that the king hasn’t been maintaining the roads very well.

Next, a peasant walked by, heading home with his arms full of food for his family. When he noticed the boulder, he put his groceries down and attempted to move it out of everyone’s way. It took him a while to move it, but he eventually succeeded.

If you’re able to push through moments that are challenging, you may end up being much better off than you were before you started trying.

After the peasant gathered up his groceries to carry on home, he noticed a bag lying in the middle of the road, just where the boulder once was. He opened the bag to find that it was stuffed full of gold coins, along with a letter from the king saying that the bag’s gold was a reward for the peasant to keep because he had taken the time and energy to move the boulder out of the road for the convenience of others who would be travelling the road in the future.

The Moral:

The peasant in this story was taught by the king that every obstacle you face offers an opportunity to improve. If you’re able to push through moments that are challenging, you may end up being much better off than you were before you started trying.

This story also offers a lesson of personal responsibility. If you see a job ahead of you, don’t leave it for the next person to do. Rather, step up and get the job done to help the people who come after you.

7. Dirty Money

The Story:

A well-respected speaker began a seminar by showing an audience of 150 people a crisp $20 bill. He asked, “Who wants this $20 bill?”

All 150 people nodded.

He said, “I am going to give this money to someone, but first….” Then he proceeded to crumple the bill up.

He asked the crowd again if anyone wanted it.

All 150 hands went up in the air.

The speaker then dropped the money on the floor and stomped all over it.

He then raised it in the air to show the crowd. The money was filthy.

“Does anyone want it now?”

Every hand went up.

The speaker proceeded to tell the crowd that no matter what he did to ruin the money, people still wanted it because its value remained the same. It was still worth $20.

The Moral:

Life often beats us up to the point where we feel inadequate. We deal with bad circumstances and make bad choices that we have to deal with later. However, no matter what you go through, your value will remain the same. You have something special to offer that no one can take away from you.

8. The Ultimate Test

The Story:

One night, four college students stayed up late partying, even though they knew they had a test the next day. The next morning, they came up with a plan to get out of having to take their test.

Each student rolled around in dirt and then went to the teacher’s office.

They told the teacher that they had gotten a flat tire the night before, and they spent the entire night pushing their car back to campus.

The teacher listened, and to the students’ delight, he offered a retest three days later.

On the day of the test, the students went to their teacher’s office. The teacher put all four of the students in separate rooms to take the test. The students were okay with that because they had been given a chance to study.

You always need to take responsibility for your actions aside from making wise decisions.

Aside from making wise decisions, you always need to take responsibility for your actions. This means not blaming other people for your mistakes, not complaining about the reality of the present moment, and not giving in to other people’s pressure.

9. What a Waste

The Story:

A mother camel and her baby were lying down, soaking up the sun. The baby camel asked his mom, “Why do we have these big bumps on our back?”

The mom stopped to think and then said, “We live in the desert where there is not much water available. Our humps store water to help us survive on long journeys. “

The baby camel then stopped to think and said, “Well, why do we have long legs with rounded feet?”

His mother replied, “They are meant to help us walk through sand.”

The baby asked a third question, “Why are my eyelashes so long?”

The mother replied, “Your long eyelashes offer you protection from sand when it blows in the wind.”

Finally, the baby said, “If we have all of these natural abilities given to us to walk through the desert, what’s the use for camels in the Zoo?”

The Moral:

The skills and abilities that you possess won’t be useful if you’re not in the right environment.

You’ve probably heard of a professional who ditched his or her career to follow their dreams–or the person who remains unfulfilled in their job, but doesn’t try to make a change.

If you’re stuck in a career that isn’t the right fit, you have to do some self-reflection to realize where your strengths lie that are going to waste. Turn to people that you know the best as well as professionals in any given market so you can start thinking about what may be better for you. Think big and remain open to new ideas.

10. Breathing With No Air

The Story:

A boy once asked a wise old man what the secret to success is. After listening to the boy’s question, the wise man told the boy to meet him at the river in the morning and he would be given the answer there.

In the morning, the wise man and the boy began walking toward the river. They continued on into the river, past the point of the water covering their nose and mouth.  At this time, the wise man ducked the boy into the water.

As he struggled to get out, the wise man continued to push him further down. The boy felt a fish slip by his leg and squirmed to get up even harder. The man eventually pulled the boy’s head up so he could get air. The boy gasped as he inhaled a deep breath of air.

The wise man said, ‘What were you fighting for when you were under water?” The boy replied, “Air!” The man said, “There you have the secret to success. When you want to gain success as much as you wanted air when you were under water, you will obtain it. That’s the only secret.”

The Moral:

Success starts with the desire to achieve something. If your motivation is weak, your results will follow suit. Think about what you desire the most in life and work towards getting it. Don’t allow your environment or other people to influence the things that you truly want. Just because the fish swimming by is comfortable with being under water doesn’t mean that you are.

11. Sweet Dreams

The Story:

A young boy and girl were enjoying a pleasant afternoon playing outside in their neighborhood together. The boy showed the girl his collection of beautiful, unique marbles. In turn, the girl showed the boy the handful of candy that she had just gotten for her birthday.

You have to be a participating factor in your relationship if you want it to be built on trust.

The boy proposed that the two of them switch–he would give her all of his marbles if she handed over all of her candy. The girl agreed, as she found the marbles to be beautiful as well.

The boy handed over all of his marbles, but kept one–the most exquisite one of them all–in his pocket. The girl kept her promise and gave the boy all of her candy.

That night, the girl was happy with the exchange and peacefully went to sleep.

The boy, however, couldn’t sleep, as he was up wondering if the girl had secretly kept some of her candy, just like he did with the marble.

The Moral:

If you don’t give 100% in your relationships, you will always assume your partner isn’t giving 100% either. If you want your relationships to be built on trust, you have to be a participating factor in that.

Honesty grows your character. By being honest in relationships, you’re holding your partner accountable to do the same. It allows both you and your partner to continuously think about your choices and how you can help (or hurt) your partner and your relationship.

12. Teamwork

The Story:

There was once a man who lived with his three sons. His sons were hard workers, but they constantly fought with each other. Even though the man continuously tried to help his sons make peace with each other, he was never successful. In fact, their fighting got to a point where their neighbors would make fun of them.

Eventually, the father became ill. He begged his sons to learn how to work together because of his impending death, but they didn’t listen. The father then decided to teach his sons a practical lesson to help his sons forget their differences and become a united team.

The father called his sons and said, “I’ll give you each an equal collection of sticks to break in half. Whoever breaks the sticks the fastest will be rewarded.”

After agreeing to the task, the father gave each of his sons 10 sticks and instructed them to break each stick in half. This task took the sons mere minutes to complete, but once they were finished, they started to fight about who finished first.

The father said, “Dear sons, the task isn’t finished. Now I’ll give each of you 10 more sticks, however, you must break the sticks in half as a bundle rather than snapping each one separately.”

His sons agreed and attempted to do what he had asked. They each tried their best, but none could break the bundle in half. They told their father that they had failed.

In response, their father said, “See, it was easy to break the sticks in half individually, but you couldn’t break all 10 of them at the same time. Similarly, if the three of you stay united as a team, nobody will be able to harm you. However, if you fight all the time, anyone will be able to defeat you. Please come together as a united team.”

This lesson helped the man’s sons understand the power of being a team and promised their father that, moving forward, they would work together as a team, no matter what the situation was.

The Moral:

Strong teams are naturally aligned to work harder, support each other, and be cooperative with working toward a mutual goal.

Being an effective member of a team helps contribute to the overall moral and motivation of the team. Strong teams are naturally aligned to work harder, support each other, and be cooperative with working toward a mutual goal. Individuals each have diverse talents, strengths, and weaknesses to contribute to teamwork, so staying focused on the task at hand rather than allowing personal disputes to get in the way will help you achieve your desired results.

13. Frogs for Dinner

The Story:

A lady was once heating up a pot of water on a gas stove with the intent of cooking pasta for her family for dinner. A frog fell into the pot while it was sitting on the stove. While it wasn’t his intention to be stuck in a pot of water, he didn’t try to escape. He was comfortable enough as he was.

The lady soon turned on the flame to begin boiling the water. As the water’s temperature began to rise, the frog was able to adjust his body temperature accordingly, so he remained in the pot without trying to do anything to change the situation.

However, as the water approached its boiling point, the frog’s body temperature could no longer keep up. He finally tried to jump out of the pot, but with water temperature continuing to increase, he didn’t have it in him to make the leap.

It was too late for the frog to save himself.

The Moral:

Things don’t always go as planned in life, and they certainly don’t always go the way we want them to. But, no matter how bad a situation is, it’s critical to be proactive and face the problem head-on.

Unlike the frog, who waited until the last minute to try to do anything about the problem he was clearly facing, it’s important to project the future outcomes of the obstacles that hinder you and mediate them before they get past the point of no return. You have to avoid wasting time and take appropriate action before problems get out of hand or become too much to handle.

14. Will You Marry Me?

The Story:

Centuries ago, in a small Italian town, there was a business owner who was in a great amount of debt. His banker, who was an old, unattractive man, strongly desired the business owner’s younger beautiful daughter.

The banker decided to offer the businessman a deal to forgive the debt that he owed the bank completely. However, there was a bit of a catch.

In order for the businessman to become debt-free, he was to have his daughter marry the banker.

The businessman didn’t want to concede to this agreement, but he had no other choice, as his debt was so extreme.

The banker said he would put two small stones into a bag–one of which was white, and the other black.

The daughter would then need to reach into the bag and blindly choose a stone. If she chose the black stone, the businessman’s debt would be cleared and the daughter would have to marry the banker. However, if she chose the white stone, the debt would be cleared and the daughter would not have to marry him.

While standing in the stone-filled path in the businessman’s yard, the banker reached down and chose two small stones, not realizing that the businessman’s daughter was watching him. She noticed that he picked up two black stones and put them in the bag.

When it came time for the daughter to pick a stone out of the bag, she felt she had three choices:

  1. Refuse to do it.
  2. Take out both stones and expose the banker’s cheating.
  3. Pick a stone, knowing it would be black, and sacrifice herself to get her father out of debt.

She picked a stone from the bag, and immediately ‘accidentally’ dropped it into the abundance of stones where they were all standing.

She said to the banker, “I’m sorry, I’m so clumsy! Oh well. Just look in the bag to see what color stone is in there now so you will know what color stone I picked.”

Of course, the remaining stone was black. Because the banker didn’t want his deceit to be exposed, he played along, acting as if the stone that the businessman’s daughter dropped had to have been white. He cleared the businessman’s debt and the daughter remained free from having to spend the rest of her life with the banker.

The Moral:

While you may have to think outside of the box sometimes, it’s always possible to conquer a difficult situation. You don’t have to always give in to the options you’re presented with. Challenge the status quo. Think creatively. Engage in productive nonconformity when possible. Don’t be afraid to question the things that are expected to be true. In order to overcome challenges, you have to think in ways that you’ve never thought before.

15. Wait…What?

The Story:

A carpenter who was nearing retirement told his boss that he was ready to end his career and spend his time with his wife and family. He would miss his work, but he felt it was time to spend his time with the people who were important to him.

His boss was saddened by this news, as this carpenter had been a good, reliable employee for many years. He asked the carpenter if he could do him a favor and build just one more house.

The carpenter reluctantly conceded, even though his passion for building had faded.

While he was building this last house, his normal work ethic faded and his efforts were mediocre, at best. He used inexpensive and inferior materials and cut corners wherever he could. It was a poor way to finish such a dedicated career that he once had.

When the carpenter was finished, his boss came to look at the house. He gave the key to the carpenter and said, “This house is my gift to you for all of the hard work you have done for me over the years.”

The carpenter was astonished.

What a generous gift this was to receive from his boss, but if he had known he was building a house for himself, he would have made his usual efforts to create a high-quality home.

The Moral:

The same idea applies to how you build your life. Every day that you wake up offers an opportunity for you to put your best foot forward, yet we often do mediocre work, saving the more important things for “another” day. Then one day, we find ourselves shocked that our lives aren’t what we had hoped they would be. The “house” we built to live in has a lot of flaws due to a lack of effort.

However, you can’t go back and rebuild it in a day or two. As people say, “Life is a do-it-yourself project.” Your attitude and choices help build the life you will live tomorrow. Build carefully.

16. Toothpaste Recant

The Story:

One night in July at an all-girls summer camp, the campers were gathered around in a circle for their nighttime devotions. The counselor asked if any of the girls wanted to share something that had happened that day that impacted them. One camper raised her hand and said a girl from another camp cabin had said something that hurt her feelings and she was really upset about it.

Think before you speak, and make sure your words are going to good use before you let them out.

The camp counselor went to the bathroom to grab a tube of toothpaste. She took the tube and squeezed it just a bit so some toothpaste came out. She then tried to put the toothpaste back in the tube, but it just created a mess. Then she squeezed the tube even more, pushing more toothpaste out and creating even more of a mess, but none of it would go back into the tube.

The counselor then told the campers, “this toothpaste represents the words you speak. Once you say something that you want to take back, it’s impossible and it only creates a mess. Think before you speak, and make sure your words are going to good use before you let them out.”

The Moral:

Speaking is a fundamental social skill required for living a successful life. However, many are careless with their words, but they hold so much power. They can have a direct impact on the outcome of a situation, creating a helpful or hurtful reaction in our world. The problem is, once words come out of your mouth, no amount of “I’m sorrys” will make them go back in: blurting something out and then attempting to take it back is like shutting the gate after the horse has taken off.

Thinking before you speak allows you the time to consider the potential impact of your words. Be careful when choosing where and when you let your words out. You can easily hurt other people, and once you do, you can’t take it back.

Words define who we are by revealing our attitudes and character, giving people an indication of our intellect or ignorance.  Stop for a minute before you speak and question yourself about why you’re saying what you are. Are you trying to relay information? Relate to someone else? Make sure you’re able to take responsibility for whatever you’re about to say.

17. Just Be

The Story:

One evening, after spending several days with his new wife, a man leaned over and whispered into her ear, “I love you.”

She smiled – and the man smiled back – and she said, “When I’m eighty years old and I’m thinking back on my entire life, I know I will remember this moment.”

A few minutes later, she drifted off to sleep. The man was left with the silence of the room and the soft sound of his wife’s breathing. He stayed awake, thinking about everything they had done together, from their first date to their first vacation together and ultimately to their big wedding. These were just some of the life choices that the couple had made together that had led to this very moment of silence in the presence of each other.

At one point, the man then realized that it didn’t matter what they had done or where they had gone. Nor did it matter where they were going.

The only thing that mattered was the serenity of that very moment.

Just being together. Breathing together. And resting together.

The Moral:

We can’t let the clock, calendar, or pressure from external sources take over our lives and allow us to forget the fact that every moment of our lives is a gift and a miracle – no matter how small or seemingly insignificant it is. Being mindful in the special moments that you spend in the presence of the ones that you love are the moments that truly give your life meaning.

18. The Weight of the World

The Story:

Once, a psychology professor walked around his classroom full of students holding a glass of water with his arm straightened out to the side. He asked his students, “How heavy is this glass of water?”

The students started to shout out guesses–ranging anywhere from 4 ounces to one pound.

The professor replied, “The absolute weight of this glass isn’t what matters while I’m holding it. Rather, it’s the amount of time that I hold onto it that makes an impact.

Don’t carry your worries around with you everywhere you go, as they will do nothing but bring you down.

If I hold it for, say, two minutes, it doesn’t feel like much of a burden. If I hold it for an hour, its weight may become more apparent as my muscles begin to tire. If I hold it for an entire day–or week–my muscles will cramp and I’ll likely feel numb or paralyzed with pain, making me feel miserable and unable to think about anything aside from the pain that I’m in.

In all of these cases, the actual weight of the glass will remain the same, but the longer I clench onto it, the heavier it feels to me and the more burdensome it is to hold.

The class understood and shook their heads in agreement.

The professor continued to say, “This glass of water represents the worries and stresses that you carry around with you every day.  If you think about them for a few minutes and then put them aside, it’s not a heavy burden to bear. If you think about them a little longer, you will start to feel the impacts of the stress. If you carry your worries with you all day, you will become incapacitated, prohibiting you from doing anything else until you let them go.”

Put down your worries and stressors. Don’t give them your entire attention while your life is passing you by.

The Moral:

Let go of things that are out of your control. Don’t carry your worries around with you everywhere you go, as they will do nothing but bring you down. Put your “glass down” each night and move on from anything that is unnecessarily stressing you out. Don’t carry this extra weight into the next day.

19. Cherish Your Struggles

The Story:

One day, a girl came upon a cocoon, and she could tell that a butterfly was trying to hatch. She waited and watched the butterfly struggle for hours to release itself from the tiny hole. All of a sudden, the butterfly stopped moving–it seemed to be stuck.

The girl then decided to help get the butterfly out. She went home to get a pair of scissors to cut open the cocoon. The butterfly was then easily able to escape, however, its body was swollen and its wings were underdeveloped.

The girl still thought she had done the butterfly a favor as she sat there waiting for its wings to grow in order to support its body. However, that wasn’t happening. The butterfly was unable to fly, and for the rest of its life, it could only move by crawling around with little wings and a large body.

Despite the girl’s good intentions, she didn’t understand that the restriction of the butterfly’s cocoon and the struggle the butterfly had to go through in order to escape served an important purpose. As butterflies emerge from tight cocoons, it forces fluid from their body into their wings to prepare them to be able to fly.

The Moral:

The struggles that you face in life help you grow and get stronger. There is often a reason behind the requirement of doing hard work and being persistent. When enduring difficult times, you will develop the necessary strength that you’ll need in the future.

Without having any struggles, you won’t grow–which means it’s very important to take on personal challenges for yourself rather than relying on other people to always help you.

20. Seeking Happiness

The Story:

There were 200 people attending a seminar on mental and physical health. At one point, the speaker told the group they were going to do an activity. He gave each attendee one balloon and told them to write their name on it. Then, the balloons were collected and moved into a very small room.

Our happiness actually lies in helping other people and working together as a community.

The participants were then asked to go into the other room and were given 2 minutes to find their balloon.

It was chaos. People were searching frantically for their balloon, pushing each other and running into one another while they grabbed a balloon, looked at it, and inevitably tossed it to the side.

At the end of the 2 minutes, no one had found the balloon that had their name on it.

Then, the speaker asked the participants to go back in the room and pick up one balloon at random, look at the name, and return it to its owner. Within minutes, everyone had been reunited with their original balloon.

The speaker then told the group, “This is what it’s like when people are frantically searching for their own happiness in life. People push others aside to get the things that they want that they believe will bring them happiness. However, our happiness actually lies in helping other people and working together as a community.”

The Moral:

You will get your happiness if you help other people find theirs. The Dalai Lama says, “If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Helping others makes us happy because it gives us a sense of purpose. In fact, a study from the London School of Economics found that the more you help other people, the happier you will be. The researchers compared the variance in happiness levels of people who don’t help others on a regular basis to the happiness of weekly volunteers. They found that the participants had the same variance in happiness as those who make $75,000 – $100,000 annually vs $20,000.

Helping others brings us happiness for three reasons:

  • Diversion: When you worry less about your own needs–in this case, finding your own balloon–the stress of that hunt decreases. Taking your focus away from the fact that you can’t find your own balloon lets you divert your attention away from your own problem. The feeling of compassion replaces the feeling of need.
  • Perspective: Having concern for other people helps us remember that we are all facing similar problems in life–no matter what the individual severity of the issue is. Sometimes when we are focused on our own issues, they get put into perspective when we encounter the true suffering of others (for example, bereavement or a severe disability). It’s easy to then realize the excess amount of attention we’ve been giving our own problems. Having compassion helps us put our problems into perspective.
  • Connection: Connecting with others by helping them  can bring happiness into your life. Humans are social beings that need to have positive connections with other people in order to be happy. Connecting with other people enriches our lives and gives us a sense of fulfillment.

21. There Was Once a Boy…

The Story:

There was once a boy who was growing up in a very wealthy family. One day, his father decided to take him on a trip to show him how others lived who were less fortunate. His father’s goal was to help his son appreciate everything that he has been given in life.

The boy and his father pulled up to a farm where a very poor family lived. They spent several days on the farm, helping the family work for their food and take care of their land.

When they left the farm, his dad asked his son if he enjoyed their trip and if he had learned anything during the time they spent with this other family.

The boy quickly replied, “It was fantastic, that family is so lucky!”

Confused, his father asked what he meant by that.

The boy said, “Well, we only have one dog, but that family has four–and they have chickens! We have four people in our home, but they have 12! They have so many people to play with! We have a pool in our yard, but they have a river running through their property that is endless. We have lanterns outside so we can see at night, but they have the wide open sky and the beautiful stars to give them wonder and light. We have a patio, but they have the entire horizon to enjoy–they have endless fields to run around in and play. We have to go to the grocery store, but they are able to grow their own food. Our high fence protects our property and our family, but they don‘t need such a limiting structure, because their friends protect them.”

True wealth and happiness aren’t measured by material belongings.

The father was speechless.

Finally, the boy added, “Thank you for showing me how rich people live, they’re so lucky.”

The Moral:

True wealth and happiness aren’t measured by material belongings. Being around the people you love, enjoying the beautiful, natural environment, and having freedom are much more valuable.

A rich life can mean different things to different people. What are your values and priorities? If you have whatever is important to you, you can consider yourself to be wealthy.

22. A Pound is a Pound

The Story:

There was once a farmer who, each week, sold a pound of butter to a baker. After several weeks of buying a pound of butter from the farmer, the baker decided to weigh the butter that he was receiving to ensure it was indeed a full pound. When the baker weighed it, he learned that the butter was under a pound, which enraged him. He felt he was being cheated and he decided to take the farmer to court.

When in court, the judge asked the farmer how he was weighing the butter. The farmer said, “Your Honor, I am poor. I do not own an exact measuring tool. However, I do have a scale.”

The judge then asked if the farmer uses the scale to measure the butter.

The farmer said, “Your Honor, I have been buying a one-pound loaf of bread from the baker since long before he began purchasing butter from me. Whenever the baker brings bread for me, I put it on the scale and then measure out the exact same weight in butter to give him in return. So, if the baker is not getting a pound of butter, he is also not giving a pound of bread like he promised.”

The Moral:

You get what you give. If you try to cheat others out of what you promise them, you will be cheated in return. The more honest you are, the easier it is to trust other people and not suspect they may be cheating you in some way. When you’re honest, not only will other people trust you, but you will also feel more confident in your trust with others. Honesty is always the best route–especially if you want others to be honest with you as well.

23. Jumping Frogs

The Story:

A group of frogs was hopping through the forest when two of them accidentally hopped into a deep pit. The other frogs stood around the pit, and, seeing how deep it was, they told the two frogs that they couldn’t help them–there was no hope.

However, fighting for their lives, the two frogs ignored the others and started to try jumping out of the pit.

The frogs at the top continued to tell the frogs in the pit to give up, as there was no way they would be able to jump out.

After trying over and over, one of the frogs listened to the others and gave up, accepting his fate and falling to his death. But the other frog continued to jump with all of his might. The crowd of frogs yelled down the pit for the frog to just stop–he wouldn’t make it.

But the frog jumped even harder and persisted until he finally got out. Upon reaching the top, the other frogs said, “We thought there was no way any frog could jump that high–couldn’t you hear us?”

The frog then signaled to the others that he was deaf, and he thought that the frogs standing around the pit were encouraging him the whole time.

The Moral:

Others’ words can greatly impact your attitude and actions. Ignore the naysayers. Only engage with those who encourage you and believe in your ability to succeed. Furthermore, think about what you say to people before speaking so you can make sure what you’re saying is supportive. Your support (or lack thereof) could make the difference between success and failure.

Final Thoughts on Inspirational Stories

Some of these inspirational stories left me astounded for a minute because of their strong impact, and I hope they had the same impact on you. They truly do make you think, and the images in your mind that they create are memorable.

Share these stories with friends who you think could benefit from the morals that they offer. I’m hoping that from now on, when you’re tempted to cut corners, restrict your thinking to social conformity, remain comfortable with mediocrity, or anything else that may be holding you back in life, you will come back to these stories for a bit of a motivational boost.

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