What Does Keep Your Eyes On The Prize Mean?

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize Meaning

Definition: To remain steadfastly focused on one’s goal.

Origin of Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

This expression likely became popularized by a song of the same name during the Civil Rights Movement in America. Many African Americans, and others involved in the movement, used this song as a way to motivate and unite those in the fight for equal rights.

This song is based on another song named Gospel Plow, which likely originated in the early-1900s. Both songs can be classified as either American folk music or African American spirituals. It is common in both of these genres for lyrics and tunes to be traded between multiple different songs. For that reason, it is hard to know exactly if the song Keep Your Eyes on the Prize was the first one to use the expression.

Regardless, the song has many biblical references. It may have taken the idea for the lyrics about keeping one’s eyes on the prize from verses in the Bible.

The origins of this idiom might make one assume that this expression has the connotation of a prize of equal rights. However, nowadays, people can use this for any type of goal or prize.

Examples of Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

keep your eye on the prize

This example shows two women discussing a goal to become healthier.

Bella: I am so sick of eating all these healthy foods and exercising all the time. I just want to go home and watch TV on my couch.

Hannah: Don’t give up now! Think of how glad you’ll be when you reach your goal.

Bella: I know you’re right, and I’m trying to keep my eyes on the prize, but it’s hard.

eye on the prize meaningThe following example shows two college students talking about their plans for after they graduate.

Hanh: You seem so focused all the time. I don’t understand how you can devote so much time to studying.

Zhongyi: Well, it’s simple really. I want to become a doctor. It’s always been my dream. In order to have the best chance of accomplishing it, I have to keep my eyes on the prize. If I let myself get distracted with other things like parties or frivolous friendships, I might lose track of my goal.

More Examples

The excerpt is from an article about the goals of a good workout.

  • But there’s a reason people often miss their goals — a common example being New Year’s resolutions like, “I’m going to be healthy,” which quickly fall to the wayside. To truly be successful, your workout goals must be centered around distinct objectives that keep your eyes on the prize. –Houston Chronicle

The second example is about a soccer team that aims to win a tournament.

  • “But I feel pretty good. If the girls are really gung-ho and want to play, and excited about the playoffs and want to do well, and they play their best game, we can go pretty far.” The key, she said, is to refocus, and keep their eyes on the prize for three more weeks. –Houston Chronicle


The phrase keep your eyes on the prize means concentrate on achieving your desired result.