Two big words. Two big meanings. Two big impacts. These words have the power to change the world, change a person and transform a generation. Yet many people don’t fully understand the difference, and ultimately their true meaning. Considering their importance and their giant impact, I saw it fitting to clear the air - for both your benefit and mine.
“I’m looking for motivation”
“I’m looking for inspiration”
They sort of sound like the same thing right? However the difference is massive and by understanding the definition of the words, we can paint a clearer picture of what we’re trying looking for. It all comes down to our WHY. This is the thing that stands behind and enforces every big or important decision we make in our lives. It’s the thing that gets us up in the morning of off to work even if the sun is shining and you’d much rather be doing something else. Our WHY is our push but it’s also our pull. It’s our push from what we no longer want to feel or have in our lives, yet simultaneously it’s our pull towards something greater. Our WHY is inspiration and motivation laced together, so no wonder it manages to have such an impact.
However, being able to un-pack WHY we do things enables us to have a deeper look into the methods behind the madness. It enables us to truly understand why we’re making these decisions and teaches us more about ourselves - which is one of the biggest skills required for success that no one else can teach you about.
Understanding The Difference:
Dr. Wayne Dyer, a well known ‘self-improvement’ guru stated, “It is very hard to enroll people in anything. And there is a very big difference between the words motivate and inspire. Motivation means we have an idea and we are going to carry through on that idea. We work hard at it, and we are disciplined. A highly motivated person takes an idea, goes out there, and won’t let anybody interfere with them. Inspiration is exactly the opposite. If motivation is when you get hold of an idea and carry it through to its conclusion, inspiration the reverse. An idea gets hold of you and carries you where you are intended to go… The word inspired comes from being in spirit, accessing a force out there. Patanjali said when you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds. Your mind transcends limitations. Your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, wonderful world. Patanjali also said dormant forces, faculties, and talents – things you thought were inaccessible and unavailable to you – come alive when you are inspired. You discover yourself to be a far greater person than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”
The word ‘motivation’ is derived from the Latin term ‘motivus’ which means ‘moving’. Its English definition is simply that, the ‘desire or willingness to do something; enthusiasm’ or ‘a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way’. Synonyms include motivating force, enthusiasm, drive, ambition, initiative, determination, incentive. In other terms, motivation is what moves us towards accomplishing a goal of doing any other action. It’s the driving force which pushes us forward.
The core of motivation is centred around our ‘motive’. This motive can be found in anything from wanting to do it for our own personal benefit, to wanting to do it for the benefit of others.
From a psychological perspective, there are several theories which portray motivation in a range of manners. The most popular of which is the ‘incentive theory’. This theory defines the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic being the thing that attracts us to new challenges, spark a need to gain new knowledge and encourage the exploration and understanding of our potential. It’s this intrinsic motivation which pushes humanity to develop and evolve our civilisations and scientific advancements. Oppositely, extrinsic motivation is everything but. “It’s the type of motivation that we do for a certain outcome.” It’s the motivation we get to go to work to earn money when we’d much rather do something else! The difference between these two states is simply the motivation behind it and the source of this. Our motives are located in the world outside ourselves rather than the inner mind.
When we look at the definition of ‘inspiration’, we get the result: ‘the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative’. Synonyms include creativity, innovation, ingenuity, imagination, individuality. However, ‘inspiration’ can hold different meanings relative to the context. We can gain inspiration artistically, biblically, creatively, physically, visually, psychologically, the list continues. The key focal point here is that inspiration is derived from an internal source and requires a connection to our inner personality and self.
“When you are connected in that way, (driven by an idea that’s got hold of you) everyone around you is inspired.”
At the end of the day, here are the key differences between motivation and inspiration:
1. The Source:
In simple terms, motivation is what pulls us towards a result, inspiration is what pushes us there. Motivation comes from an external source while inspiration is internally simulated. Motivational sources may be intrinsic (challenges, a quest for new knowledge etc.) or extrinsic (financial gain, social status or a reward).
“Motivation is of the ego and inspiration is of the soul.”
2. How to Gain It:
How we find motivation will be different to how we track down new inspiration. This is something that we need to understand closely as it enables us to obtain both motivation and inspiration easily - as both a truly necessary for success.
3. Psychological & Scientific Understanding:
While there is significant research into motivation, scientific-based research into inspiration is still lacking. This means that we are able to gain a deeper understanding of the theories related to the different manners of motivation, without much to compare against.
Motivation & Inspiration in our Daily Life:
In the context of leadership, motivation is highly important. It’s what causes voters to vote for their chosen politician, or stand in support for a good cause. "People feel motivated by the joy of winning [or achieving a goal] versus the fear of losing.” People want to be a part of positive and significant milestones. “When an idea gets a hold of you, a push (motivation) becomes a pull (inspiration). Nothing is more inspirational than being around one who is pulled by an idea.” However, it’s with this lethal duo of push and pull that we are able to be successful.
I believe that the key to success lies in being able to identify both a push (motivation) and a pull (inspiration) for each of our goals or ideas. So then when either our motivation or our inspiration is compromised, one can outweigh the other to keep our momentum.
“Be inspired by your intentions and motivated by your outcomes and achievements.”
As humans, it’s very easy to rely on their will to motivate themselves. It’s the motivation that forces us to keep up with others, be competitive, and compare ourselves to those around us. Whether we like to admit it or not, letting motivation sit in the driver’s seat often fails to get us the results we want leaving us exhausted, overwhelmed or tackless. In this situation, it’s easy to lose your passion and begin to question why you started things in the first place. It’s basically a written invitation for self-doubt to enter the picture. Instead, when inspiration is present we’re able to have peace of mind that our intentions are clear and our destination is defined.
How to Find Motivation:
1. Identify Rewards:
This includes the salary you get paid or the Netflix episode you designated to yourself once you complete your study. If you find you are lacking the motivation to complete a task simply identify and distinguish the reward you will get once the task is completed.
2. Fear & Regret:
While we commonly identify fear as something which holds us back from situations, it can also be a very impactful source of motivation. We can often ask ourselves the question, ‘will I regret not doing this?’ or ‘will I regret not taking up this opportunity?’. Fear of mediocrity is a good example of this, or perhaps the regret of not taking up opportunities that challenge us or arrive unexpectedly. We listened to a friend of ours who is also a mum tell her kids, ‘you should be experiencing fear on a daily basis’. While this shocked us at first as you’d think this would be something we would commonly try to avoid, we gradually understood the importance.
3. Revenge & Proving People Wrong:
Revenge sounds like such a negative word, however, we all know how amazing it feels to prove someone who doubted you wrong. Most importantly, to prove your own self-doubt wrong! We will meet many people in our lives who will sit around an enjoy watching us fail, but the power of beating them and their expectations of you is commonly expressed as one of the greatest feelings of success. While I’m totally one for only doing things for yourself, I still believe this is a great source of motivation.
4. Self Gain:
As a young woman raised in a privileged lifestyle, I understood from a young age that due to how I was raised I would naturally expect to continue or build upon my lifestyle in my future living out of home. Taking this into consideration, I’ve realised that the lifestyle I wish to live has become a great source of motivation for me to obtain a financially secure and stable job and allows me to provide for myself well. If you also realise that you have a reticular taste or lifestyle goal, then understanding that your financial situation needs to support this is a great source of motivation!
5. Confidence and Assurance:
We often gain our confidence by proving that we are capable of certain things. While also being able to become independent and successful, we all like the feeling of being good at something. Rather than having anything to do with how other people view us, this is all about how we personally view ourselves. We want to be that person who can pay their bills on time, who can run that marathon or live on their own. It’s these things that make us feel that we have control over our own lives and assurance that we are capable.
How to Find Inspiration:
1. Find someone who has done what you desire to do:
This may be in the form of a mentor, an elder or even a celebrity who you haven’t even met personally. Reading or listening to someone’s personal account of their own achievement can serve as a great source of inspiration to boost your creativity and productivity to continue towards your goals.
2. Creative Inspiration:
Artists, musicians, writers, and dancers are often asked about their sources of inspiration behind their work. Commonly, they come through nature, observation of our current society, music, feelings, books, meditation/prayer, and conversations with the people around us.
3. Previous Achievements & Reflections:
When reflecting upon what we have achieved in the past, often it’s the difference between the past and the present which inspires us to continue. They can serve as great reminders of what we are capable of, our potential, and what we have previously worked through and can serve as great boosts to our mental stimulation and productivity!
4. Quotes or Visual Triggers:
I’m very much a visual person. So if I have a certain goal in mind, I look towards quotes or photographs of people who have already achieved what I have desired to stimulate me into working harder or maintaining my productivity. Quotes are a great way to keep the momentum going, whether you’re writing an article or trying to get through a difficult time in your life. While visual images of fitness inspirations or travel locations you want to visit can remind you why you have set these goals in the first place.
5. Affirmations or Mantras:
This grounds you in your mental state and brings you into a point of reflection to remind you that you are on the right path and that you have strong internal perspectives as to why you are doing what you’re doing. Often, people like to write affirmations in a context as if they have already achieved them. For example, ‘I am strong. I am financially free. I have the ability to travel or work as I please. I am content and full of happiness.” They simply repeat these affirmations whenever necessary to affirm them in their perspective.
Motivation and inspiration separately are significant factors in our actions and achievements. However, through understanding the difference and being able to differentiate each for what they are enables us to more successfully identify this WHY behind our actions. Through combining a push with a pull, we have given ourselves a greater chance of success and fewer opportunities for failure. As a result, we have a greater understanding of ourselves, what makes us tick and what actually pushes (or pulls) us towards our own success. I hope, through working with both motivation and inspiration simultaneously, you are able to reap the rewards of this powerhouse duo.
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