The 18 best motivational podcasts that could change your life
If there's anything the pandemic has almost universally ruined, it's personal motivation. After more than a year of a drastically altered work, home, and personal life, many of us are aching to do and accomplish more. But, quite frankly, the prospect of going beyond my usual routine of working from home in my pajamas, rotating between couch and bed, is too much to think about.
If you, too, are similarly flabbergasted at the idea of Doing Things, we recommend easing into it with easy-to-listen-to advice in the areas of your life where you most need motivation. From advancing your career options to providing personal home life and happiness tips, these podcasts can help you get your butt in gear and working toward your personal goals.
So pop in some headphones, kick back on your couch (for now), and find your newest life guru podcast, below.
Whether you're a fresh college graduate or just looking for a career improvement, these podcasters offer invaluable insights into big and small industries alike.
Too Smart for This
Hosted by Alexis Barber, a Gen Z Black woman navigating post-grad life, love, and career, Too Smart for This gives you a little bit of everything. Barber is a Google marketing manager and a micro influencer, and her podcast provides her unfiltered thoughts on how to succeed in both industries, revealing how Black women and women of color can be treated in each role. In between self-hosted episodes and interviews with other influencers, career-chasers, and activists, Barber also touches on diet culture, dating, and setting goals.
How I Built This with Guy Raz
As everyone knows, NPR is audio journalism royalty, and How I Built This is no different. Guy Raz weaves captivating career narratives with each of his inspiring guests. Each episode highlights stars of several industries, like Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia; Whitney Wolfe, CEO of Bumble; Jonah Peretti, CEO of Buzzfeed; Sarah Blakely, founder of Spanx; and more.
Coming from The Women's Network, which connects college women with professional contacts to help them find jobs, this podcast features interviews with women in leadership roles across plenty of impressive companies, including Meredith Gertler of HBO; Kathryn Ordower of Glossier; Suzie Reider of Waze; Farah Mohamed, formerly of the Malala Fund; and more. Each guest shares their personal experiences and career paths, aiming to inspire other women to achieve professional success.
Happiness and Mental Health Motivation
Talk about a difficult thing to take on. Our own personal mental health can feel like the most exhausting hurdle to overcome, but these podcasts hope to make that hurdle just a little smaller, easier, or even more fun.
Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris
Ten Percent Happier is both a podcast and a meditation app. While the app guides you through meditative practices led by experts like Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg, the podcast is hosted by ABC journalist Dan Harris, who interviews meditation teachers and researchers about their tips for a happier life. Harris attacks topics like social anxiety, productivity, and creativity, and he maintains that happiness is a skill. And, like any skill, it can be trained — an optimistic take for an optimistic podcast.
Therapy for Black Girls
Dr. Joy Harden Bradford is truly a joy to listen to. A licensed psychologist based in Atlanta, Georgia, she tackles all things mental health and personal development from a nuanced position, centering Black voices and voices of color while discussing topics like ADHD, gender identity, transracial adoptions, and more. The episodes range from six minutes to more than an hour long, so you can take your pick depending on how much time and energy you have to devote.
Happier with Gretchen Rubin
Hosts and sisters Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, and Elizabeth Craft, a television series producer and writer, pride themselves on giving quick, practical, and entertaining tips on how to live a happier life. The duo looks at everyday problems, like how to declutter and give better gifts, as well as embarking on more philosophical ruminations, like about parenting during the pandemic and how to have difficult conversations. Every other episode is super short, usually two to three minutes long, and dubbed "Little Happier." These minis offer a quick bit of advice, like how to reframe a situation, or a jolt of general serotonin. Personally, the shorter length makes me feel more accomplished for finishing a podcast episode.
The Happiness Lab
For the science lovers out there, Dr. Laurie Santos is boiling happiness down to its scientific roots. The podcast is based on the extremely popular psychology course she teaches at Yale, where she breaks down the latest research and talks to fellow scientists about studies into distraction, laughing, money, and plenty of other things that contribute to your happiness.
Financial Wellness Motivation
If they say money can't buy happiness, why does it feel like a large sum of money would solve all of my problems? These podcasts seek to inform and inspire you to take making money into your own hands, and, who knows ... maybe solve all your life problems!
I have to admit that Tori Dunlap's absolute ferocity for finance sometimes intimidates me. But that's what makes her podcast, and her business empowering women to take control of their finances, so alluring. Dunlap, who runs Her First $100K, a money and career platform, is passionate about decoding the complicated and often privileged world of finance for millennial women. And while the podcast is still in its infancy (with only three current episodes, but more on the way), she has seriously established her expertise over on TikTok, where she has 1.6 million followers. If you're looking for a financial education that won't shame you for not knowing where to start, this is it.
If you want to understand the world of economics (ugh), Planet Money makes it almost kinda fun. The superheroes at NPR tackle the beast of the economy by profiling the people, companies, and concepts we care about — TikTok, Hot Cheetos, Robinhood, minimum wage, Bitcoin, Google, and more. Best of all, episodes are between 18 and 25 minutes long, so my brain doesn't feel like it's going to explode by the end.
Physical Health Motivation
Most of us don't have a gym buddy or accountability partner these days, what with the whole pandemic/limiting who we see situation we've been in for the last year and change. These podcasts could take the place of your fitness coach, or at least get you to start thinking about where you want your physical health journey to go.
Food Psych Podcast with Christy Harrison
Getting motivated to take on your own body is a BEAST, to say the least. And in doing so, some of us turn to diet culture, which often encourages restrictive behaviors that can quickly turn toxic. Christy Harrison, a registered dietician and author, works to gently turn you away from policing your health and food. She speaks honestly, coming from her own personal journey with disordered eating, dieting, and food journalism. Each episode is a meaty hour or more; Harrison breaks down topics like intuitive eating, anti-dieting pregnancy, and how specific communities may relate to food differently, such as how Latinx beauty standards change the Latinx health experience.
TED Talks are some of the most motivational content out there, and TED Health takes the famous speaker format and puts it in a podcast. Each episode features a different speaker taking on a range of different health topics, like nicotine addiction, panic attacks, menopause, and negative emotions. While the episodes don't necessarily give direct advice for each health condition, having the facts is a great foundation to motivate yourself to tackle your health head-on. And don't worry – the podcast episodes are usually the length of a shorter TED talk, about 10 to 30 minutes.
Dating and Relationships
The pandemic has changed dating as we know it, and we're not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. If you haven't gone on a date since last year, let these podcasts inspire you to … maybe consider it?
We Met at Acme
Dating sucks, right? But making it funny makes it a little more bearable. We Met at Acme gives helpful dating advice while sharing actually funny anecdotes, like a rundown of all the shady things men do, that remind you that you're not alone, even if you currently are. Host Lindsey Metselaar, CEO of Lindsey's Lunchbox, her social media management company, invites experts to discuss the burning questions behind sex, marriage, first dates, and more.
Seeing Other People
Hosts Ilana Dunn and Jonah Feingold, a social media manager and a writer, are dating… I think. They were dating, had a podcast together, broke up, got back together, started a new podcast, and Seeing Other People was born. The pod explores their own complicated relationship with refreshing honesty and breaks down all of the weird dating tropes that millennials face today, like double texting, dating apps, and booty calls. They also take on more serious topics like abortion, dating with chronic illness, and coming out. If this podcast's tenure depends on these two staying together, I wish them eternal happiness.
The Turn On
[From our best sex, erotica, dating, and relationship podcasts roundup:] "When you're part of a marginalized group, discussions around your sexuality tend to get politicized, often at the cost of more personal conversations around individual experiences. The Turn On is a counter to that, with hosts Erica and Kenrya leading raunchy, but still approachable, conversations around what gets them off as two Black women. Some episodes are more free-form interviews with experts on topics like kinks, toys, sex education, and sexual difficulties. But The Turn On's bread and butter is its unique structure of first reading a piece of erotic literature followed by the two talking about what they like about it. It's a podcast designed to spark the sexual curiosity of Black audiences seeking satisfaction that's uninhibited by the white male gaze." —Jess Joho.
Blegh. More than a year of exclusively working from home has ruined my normal modes of productivity. Thankfully, these podcasts not only offer helpful reminders on how to work productively, but also encourage you to consider productivity outside of just your work life.
Beyond the To-Do List
I am absolutely guilty of thinking about productivity as "How many things can I check off my to-do list today?" But Erik Fisher, a social media director with plenty on his own daily to-do list, reminds us to think about productivity holistically, and to take into account creativity, mentorship, identity, and purpose when trying to have our most productive days. Each episode features an expert guest on the productive topic at hand, from project management to getting things done while having depression, and is about an hour long.
ProdPod, a Productivity Podcast
Here's the deal. If you make me listen to a podcast where someone is telling me how to be productive for any significant amount of time, I am automatically less productive. The ProdPod has two-minute episodes, for which I am immensely grateful. With over 100 episodes to choose from on subjects ranging from managing people to overcoming burnout, you can easily line up several episodes back to back if you want a longer listening experience. But I love that this podcast gives me a quick bite to muse about, and perhaps to implement into whatever task I am currently working on.
Home and Family
If your house and your family exhaust you, it may be time to address them with some new tactics. Lucky for you, there are whole podcasts dedicated to teaching you how to manage both.
A Slob Comes Clean
If you are a habitual hoarder, nothing is less motivational than hearing a perfectly neat person tell you how to be neater. They just don't get it. Host Dana White, a blogger, motivational speaker, and author, does get it. Because she, too, is a slob, and she's made it her mission to share tips and habits that are manageable for everyone. I particularly enjoy her episodes that break down decluttering for specific situations, like moving, but her overall advice on building cleaner habits for your family is extremely useful, too.
No One Is Coming to Save Us
A podcast newbie, No One is Coming to Save Us is only a four-part series. But in its first two episodes, host and ABC News correspondent Gloria Riviera and actress Kristen Bell (a top-level relatable mom host) truly pull you in with a warm, realistic outlook on parenting. They don't sugarcoat how hard parenting can be, hence the podcast name, but they also interrogate the systems in America that make it so hard. Their fierce commentary lit a fire under my butt to fight for better parenting structures, and I don't even have a kid.
Now, remember that absolutely no one is expecting you to get motivated in every single one of these categories. But these picks made us feel something, and if you're looking to ignite a passion within yourself, odds are one of these pods will do just that.