"There are three things that I need each day," he said as he came to the stage after kissing his wife, Camila Alves, and hugging his costar and fellow Oscar winner, Jared Leto. "One of them is something to look up to, another is something to look forward to and another is someone to chase."
McConaughey continued with a heartfelt speech about his faith, family and his motivation to "just keep living."
"I want to thank God because that is who I look up to. He has graced my life with opportunities that I know were not of my hand or any other human hand. He's shown me that it's a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates," he said.
"To my wife, Camila, and my kids Levi, Vida and Mr. Stone: the courage and significance you give me every day when I go out the door is unparalleled," he continued. "You are the four people in my life I want to make the most proud of me."
And then he thanked himself – in a way.
"To my hero, that's who I chased. When I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come up to me and say, 'Who's your hero? I said, 'I've got to think about that. Give me a couple of weeks.' … I said, 'I thought about it ... It's me in 10 years,' " he said. "So I turned 25, 10 years later – that same person comes up to me and says, 'So are you your hero?' and I'm like, 'Not even close, because my hero is me at 35.' "
Continued McConaughey: "Every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero is always 10 years away. I'm never gonna be my hero. I'm not gonna attain that. I know I'm not and that's just fine with me, because it keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing."
"So whatever those things are," he said, "whatever is it we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to, and whoever it is we're chasing, to that I say, 'All right, all right, all right.' To that I say, 'Just keep living.' "
A first-time nominee, McConaughey famously lost 47 pounds to transform himself into Ron Woodroof, a real-life Texan who was diagnosed with AIDS and who smuggled – and eventually sold – illegal medication in at attempt to treat his illness.
McConaughey was up against tight competition for the trophy: The other nominees included Christian Bale in American Hustle, Bruce Dern in Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave.
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