85 Songs About Survival and Perseverance in the Face of Challenge
Survivors Fight Back
The Battle of Your Life
You probably don't think of yourself as a soldier, someone who could be called on to wage a very personal war at any moment. And you might not think of yourself as a prizefighter who will punch below the belt if that's what it requires. (It very well could.)
But at some point, each of us will be called to face the battle of our lives. Maybe more than once. Life's not fair that way.
The battle of your life may take many forms, including:
- substance abuse, gambling, and other addictions
- physical disease and disabilities
- mental illness
- legal problems, including criminal and civil suits
- poverty, hunger and
- divorce and relationship break-ups.
Will you be ready when it's your turn to fight?
For some of us, the battle to survive will be brief yet intense. Hopefully, we'll live to lick our wounds and recount our victories. Others of us will do years of protracted battle against a combat-hardened enemy, as we pray for an elusive victory.
If you are going through such difficulty now, here are songs to help motivate and encourage you through your struggle. Make a playlist, my fellow soldier, my fellow boxing buddy. Rise up to your challenge. You're a survivor.
What's been the biggest battle of your life so far?
May the Victory Be Yours
1. "I'm On Top Of the World" by Imagine Dragons
Appreciate the breathtaking view from the top of the world, and don't bother looking down. Tell your loved ones what they mean to you while they are here. And when you're feeling like quitting? This vibrant 2012 song will encourage you to "Get up now. Get up now."
2. "Gonna Fly Now (Theme Song From Rocky)" by Bill Conti
Admit it: when you've seen a struggling runner, haven't you wanted to shout out those famous lyrics to cheer them on?
"Gonna fly now, flying high now," and "Feelin' strong now, won't be long now."
Okay, maybe that's just me.
Bill Conti (1977) celebrates the power of the comeback in this song from the movie, "Rocky." An underdog cycles through self-doubt, submits himself to grueling self-discipline and endurance, and ultimately experiences sweet victory because of his fighting spirit. It'll make you feel like you can't lose!
3. "Warrior" by Demi Lavato
In this 2013 ballad about surviving relationship abuse, Demi Lavato stands her ground against the dark forces that brought her shame, confusion and fear. However, instead of being broken and bruised, she now wears her wounds like battle scars:
Now I'm a warrior
Now I got thicker skin
I'm a warrior
I'm stronger than I've ever been
And my armor, is made of steel, you can't get in.
I'm a warrior
And you can never hurt me again ... .
4. "Unstoppable" by Rascal Flatts
Country music group Rascal Flatts (2009) provides a reminder that regardless of the mistakes that you've made and the challenges that you face, love is an unstoppable, positive force.
5. "Stronger" by Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson (2011) belts out a powerful survivor's anthem in this song about an abandoned lover who refuses to wallow in self-pity. She instead takes a determined and high-spirited approach, proclaiming that "What doesn't kill you make you stronger" and "What doesn't kill you makes a fighter — footsteps even lighter." Attagirl!
6. "Fighter" by Christina Aguilera
In this uptempo 2003 hit, Christina Aguilera has faced a jealous, malicious person in her life. But after all she's endured, it didn't make her bitter. The experience made her better.
The struggle has made her stronger, faster, wiser, and it's made her work harder. And that's the ultimate triumph.
7. "Win" by Brian McKnight
When the odds are against you, dig down deep and rely on your hidden reserves of strength and resilience. Soul artist Brian McKnight (2002) is committed to never quitting, not giving up on himself, and refusing to losing hope or faith. McKnight is tied with Snoop Dogg for the most Grammy nominations without ever going home with the prize.
Been Knocked Down? Come Back Swinging
8. "Hall of Fame" by The Script, featuring Will.i.am
With help from Will.i.am, Irish rock band The Script (2012) encourages anyone struggling with challenge to never give up on their dreams. They motivate the listener to
- beat the clock
- move mountains
- talk to God
- don't wait for luck
- be a master and
- live the life of a champion.
Do you believe in yourself this much?
9. "If You're Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)" by Rodney Atkins
When you feel like you're going through hell, this 2006 country song suggests that you hide your fear and keep up the pace. He reasons that you might get out (of Hell) before the devil even knows you're there. Luckily, there are everyday angels ready to help pull you back up onto your feet.
10. "It's My Life" by Bon Jovi
Life is too short not to live it authentically, with gusto, in a way that fulfills you.
If you share Frank Sinatra's motto, "I did it my way," then let this live-out-loud Bon Jovi song from 2000 become your personal anthem.
11. "I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash
Johnny Nash (1972) describes the moment of clarity when his pain and bad feelings dissipate, and are replaced by a more hopeful future. It's like the dark clouds fade to blue, and sunshine and rainbows pop forth.
Are you winning the battle of your life?
12. "Roar" by Katy Perry
Katy Perry is no shrinking violet. In this 2013 Grammy-nominated hit, she celebrates her transformation from a spineless pushover to a gutsy broad who is ready to tackle any challenge.
If you find that you need motivation, her can-do spirit is contagious.
13. "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor
At the request of Sylvester Stallone, the rock group Survivor wrote this title song for the movie, "Rocky III."
The 1982 song is about what it takes to continue to stay competitive when others want to replace you. "Eye of the Tiger" became one of the best-selling singles of all time.
14. "Jesus Take the Wheel" by Carrie Underwood
In this 2005 Grammy-nominated country song, the narrator is a young mother traveling home one night on an icy road. Her infant is strapped in the back seat.
The young mother had faced a difficult year and wasn't paying attention to her driving when the car begins to spin out of control. Seeing their lives flash before her eyes, she hands the wheel over to a higher power.
15. "Firework" by Katy Perry
If you've ever felt lost and unvalued, this 2010 song will encourage you to change your thinking. Katy Perry urges you to ignite the light — the brilliant colors inside that represent your originality — and let it burn. "It's always been inside of you," she assures.
16. "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" by Fleetwood Mac
For anyone of a certain age, this song is forever associated with President Bill Clinton because he famously used it at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, as well as a number of subsequent official events. And of course, the Clintons are the ultimate political survivors. Even detractors have to give them that.
This optimistic 1977 song has the following famous refrain that is reassuring to anyone going through a rough patch:
Don't stop, thinking about tomorrow
Don't stop, it'll soon be here
It'll be, better than before
Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone.
17. "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor
In this 1978 song, a narrator describes the surprising impact of a devastating relationship breakup when her former lover returns unexpectedly. Instead of welcoming him back, however, she turns the tables and tells him to get lost; she had grown stronger and more resilient without him.
This classic song is a go-to for a reason. Anyone trying to recover from a divorce or toxic romantic relationship should consult it for daily pick-me-up!
18. "A Little Bit Stronger" by Sara Evans
In this searching country ballad from 2011, the protagonist shares that the only way to deal with a difficult setback is to keep on going. Facing the aftermath of a broken relationship, she decides to go take it one day at a time. She feigns a smile and returns to her routine, finding that even on her weakest days, she becomes a little bit stronger.
19. "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" by McFadden & Whitehead
If you're facing an obstacle, then this classic 1979 R&B tune will encourage you to get moving. They charge forward toward their goal, knowing that nothing can hold them back. Nothing will stand in their way or keep them from victory. That's the spirit!
20. "(I Keep On) Rising Up" by Mike Doughty
There was a time when Mike Doughty was so addicted to alcohol and heroin that his own drug dealer cut him off.1 Between substance abuse and depraved sexual encounters, the Indie rock star phenom endured years of chaos and self-loathing before he finally hit bottom.
Clean for over a decade now, he wrote this 2009 Indie/alternative rock song about his recovery.
21. "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence + The Machine
Imagine being hit by a freight train of happiness. This rousing rock 2010 song by Florence + The Machine is no fluffy rainbows and ponies tune. It strongly proclaims that there's nowhere you can run or hide because the worst is behind you.
22. "I'm Alright" by Kenny Loggins
This classic 1980 song was used in the classic comedy "Caddyshack." Its refrain is ever-appropriate for a variety of life challenges in which others seek to interject their often well-intentioned advice about the troubles you face:
Nobody worry 'bout me
Why you got to gimme a fight?
Can't you just let it be?
On Top Of the World
23. "Break My Stride" by Mathew Wilder
In this catchy new wave/raggae hit from 1983, the narrator describes a dream sequence. His girlfriend has a rocky past but is emboldened, repeating the following to him as her mantra:
Ain't nothin' gonna break my stride
Nobody's gonna slow me down, oh-no
I got to keep on moving
Ain't nothin' gonna break my stride
I'm running and I won't touch ground.
Oh-no, I got to keep on moving.
24. "Hero" by Mariah Carey
Who do you look to as a hero? In a truly inspirational song, Mariah Carey (1993) reminds anyone facing difficulties that a hero is often as close as the reflection in the mirror.
It's often true that struggle and suffering show us what we're truly made of.
Unleash the Superhero Within
Superpowers It Would Be Helpful To Have
Lucky Hero Who Has It
Harry Potter, Iron Man
Superman, Wonder Woman
Toxin and Disease Resistance
Batman & Robin
Captain America, Spider-Woman
Captain Marvel, Spiderman
25. "I Made It Through the Rain" by Barry Manilow
In this 1980 classic, Barry Manilow describes a survivor who has faced down hardship and triumphed. Being substantially different from the crowd, the narrator retained his dignity and self-respect amidst turmoil. In doing so, he won the admiration of those who also "got rained on too."
26. "You Gotta Be" by Des'ree
In this inspiring 1994 song, the narrator provides a challenge to be your best self, no matter the challenge. Stand up and be counted:
You gotta be
You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm
You gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, love will save the day.
27. "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips
If you find yourself mired in a troubled relationship, Wilson Phillips (1990) gives the always-wise advice that if you don't like something, then change it. You are in charge of your own life, and don't ever let others tell you differently.
28. "Pocketful of Sunshine" by Natasha Bedingfield
In this zippy 2008 song, the narrator declares that no one will control her or bring her down. She is filled with an endless supply of internal joy, light, and butterflies which apparently don't come from a bottle of Prozac.
29. "I'm Gonna Win" by Foreigner
This song appeared on Foreigner's "4" album in 1981. Although it wasn't a hit for the rock band, the sound and lyrics have the intensity that begged me to put it on this list.
If you're an underdog who is determined to emerge victorious from the fight of your life, listen and repeat:
I'm gonna win
I'm gonna win
I tell you, see when it comes down to the crunch
I've gotta beat life to the punch
I'm gonna win
Somehow I know I'm gonna win.
30. "Roll With It" by Steve Winwood
When life is overwhelming and the only thing you can find is more trouble, this 1988 song recommends that sometimes all you can do is just roll with it. Tuck your head down and keep charging on. Eventually you'll get to a brighter place in your life.
31. "Keep Holding On" by Avril Lavigne
Are you fighting the good fight alongside a loved one? This 2006 power ballad describes shared struggle through difficult circumstances.
32. "Fight Another Day" by Addison Road
Addison Road is a contemporary Christian rock band that urges you in this 2010 song to live each day like it is your last and pray for strength to overcome the obstacles in your path.
33. "Just Stand Up!" by Artists Stand Up To Cancer
In 2008, a supergroup of rock, R&B, country. and pop stars joined forces to raise money for cancer under the name "Artists Stand Up To Cancer." Some of them (e.g., Melissa Etheridge, Sheryl Crow) had personally battled cancer. This song encourages people who are ill to keep striving, to light up the darkness and be their own miracle.
34. "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" by Benatar
The gutsy, taunting lyrics of this 1980 rock song by Pat Benatar is appropriate for just about any challenge. The narrator in the song challenges an opponent (a lover in her case) to
Hit me with your best shot
Why don't you hit me with your best shot?
Hit me with your best shot
When Life Throws A Left Hook, Punch Back Hard
35. "I'm Still Standing" by Elton John
Elton John celebrates what it means to be a true survivor in this 1983 song. Instead of being shattered by a broken romance, he has managed to pick up the broken pieces and come back even stronger than before. I saw Elton in concert in 2014 and even in his late 60s, he's still got it.
36. "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty
This 1989 song by Tom Petty became a frequent go-to right after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It reiterates a narrator's resolve to stand his ground. "You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won't back down."
37. "Never Surrender" by Corey Heart
Empowerment is what Corey Heart is describing with this 1985 hit song. When you have nothing else left, you at least retain your ability to fight.
38. "When You Believe" by Whitney Houston & Mariah Carey
The voices of rock divas Whitney Houston & Mariah Carey soar to the heavens in this 1998 song as they provide a reminder that even when hope is frail, miracles can be achieved when you believe.
39. "I Believe I Can Fly" by R. Kelly
This 1996 Grammy-winning song by R&B singer R. Kelly highlights the power of positive thought. Having risen from the depths of despair, the narrator now soars sky-high because of his steadfast belief that he can do so.
40. "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus
Back before Miley Cyrus went completely off the rails — before she twerked on live television and started doing that weird thing with her tongue all the time — she had this inspirational song about overcoming life obstacles.
The 2009 song describes an uphill battle in which it's not how fast you achieve your goal; it's about what's waiting for you at the end of your journey.
Even More Songs About Surviving Difficulties and Challenges
42. Nothing Else Matters
43. Part Of Me
44. You'll Never Walk Alone
47. Fight Song
48. Keep Your Head Up
50. You're Not Alone
51. I Didn't Know My Own Strength
52. Keep Your Head Up
53. This Song Saved My Life
55. You're Only Human (Second Wind)
60. By the Grace of God
61. Through the Rain
David Guetta (featuring Sia)
64. Better Than You Left Me
65. Step By Step
66. I'm a Survivor
69. The World's Greatest
70. In Your Arms
Nico & Vinz
71. In the Clear
72. Skin (Sarabeth)
David Guetta (featuring Sia)
75. Unbreakable Smile
76. Never Give Up
77. You Haven't Seen the Last of Me
79. Rise Up
80. The Champion
Carrie Underwood (featuring Ladacris)
81. Good Fight
82. Burn So Bright
83. I Make My Own Sunshine
84. The Sun Will Rise
Trisha Yearwood (featuring Kelly Clarkson)
Dedication To The Colonel and His Feeder, Karen
Perseverence and Inspiration from a Four-Legged Friend
What does this cat have to do with surviving hardship? Everything.
Imagine braving 100-degree August heat, winter snowstorms, and even hurricane winds. For 12 years. The Colonel had it figured out. Pictured above, he was the feral cat that I fed and cared for at a grocery store parking lot for over a decade. He lived on his terms, in his own way. Streetwise, he was.
Each evening when my husband or I arrived to feed him, The Colonel greeted us at our car and led us to his feeding spot. In 2012, a retired couple named Mike and Karen noticed him and decided to feed him each morning. We continued to provide The Colonel's supper.
Sadly, dear old Colonel suffered a blood clot three days after Christmas 2014 and was euthanized peacefully at our emergency vet. Within days, I learned that Karen had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and embarked on the battle of her life. God Bless her.
Locations with Names Associated with Surviving Challenge and Overcoming Obstacles
Survival and Challenge Quotes to Inspire You
“Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.”
- Elizabeth McCourt Tabor Stephenson, American author and fallen socialite
"Perspective is everything when you are experiencing the challenges of life."
- Joni Eareckson Tada, American author and advocate for persons with disabilities
"Humor is one of the best ingredients of survival."
- Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese political prisoner and Nobel Peace Prize winner
"Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of."
- Angelina Jolie, American actress
"Luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it."
- Hunter S. Thompson, American journalist
"The ability to delude yourself may be an important survival tool."
- Jane Wagner, American comedy writer
"Everything negative — pressure, challenges — is all an opportunity for me to rise."
- Kobe Bryant, American professional basketball player
"Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition -- such as lifting weights -- we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity."
- Stephen Covey, American author and businessman
"We were all born with a certain degree of power. The key to success is discovering this innate power and using it daily to deal with whatever challenges come our way."
- Les Brown, American motivational speaker
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
- Charles Darwin, English naturalist and evolutionary theorist
"Only by contending with challenges that seem to be beyond your strength to handle at the moment you can grow more surely toward the stars."
- Brian Tracy, American entrepreneur
"Injury taught me I need to learn how to face challenges."
- Shawn Johnson, American gymnast
"If you dream it, you can become it."
- William Arthur Ward, American writer
1Getlen, Larry. "‘The Dead Guy Wins’." New York Post. Last modified January 29, 2012. http://nypost.com/2012/01/29/the-dead-guy-wins/.
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