Inspiration and motivation: two words often used interchangeably with each other. But actually, they are two very different things.
Take the following quote by Dr. Wayne Dwyer, American philosopher, author and motivational speaker:
“Motivation is when you get hold of an idea and carry it through to its conclusion. Inspiration is when an idea gets hold of you and carries you where you are intended to go”.
These two simple sentences start to unravel the differences between the two.
The pull versus the push
Another way to think of each one is as either a pulling or a pushing force. For example, you’ve got a deadline to meet (be it a presentation, a university assignment, or anything else that you’re not really that keen to be getting on with). To make yourself go ahead and meet that deadline you need motivation.
It’s motivation that will pull you towards completing the task. Note the word, ‘motivation’. What’s key is that to have it, you first need a motive – a reason. In the above example it might be the satisfaction of a job well done, or gaining a degree. It could even be the fear of failure… Whatever it is, if you don’t have a reason, you won’t find motivation.
Inspiration, on the other hand, is a pushing force. Or you may prefer to think of it as a driving force. Unlike motivation, which requires effort, inspiration is effortless. It’s when someone or something touches you on the inside, propelling your forwards, making you feel exited, purposeful, and productive. It ignites passion within.
So motivation is bad and inspiration is good, right?
Ummm, no. It’s not as cut and dried as that. We can all benefit from both inspiration AND motivation. Both can help us drive forward. However, by understanding the difference between the two, we can make both have a positive influence on our lives.
The thing is, you can take steps to increase motivation. It’s all about looking for that motive (reason) to undertake a particular task. The more reasons you have, the stronger your motivation will be. And we all know about motivational speeches… They fire us up, get us psyched, and, in the short term, get us powering towards our goal.
Inspiration, on the other hand, is something that touches you on the inside – sometimes in the most unexpected situations. Now, while we can’t force this to happen, we can take steps to allow ourselves to become more receptive to inspiring ideas.
The following are ways to help do that:
- Free writing: Sit somewhere quiet with a piece of paper. Whatever thoughts come into your mind write down on the paper. (Forget punctuation, grammar etc. just let your thoughts flow). Follow and write down what you think as closely as possible. Although this might be a little difficult to start off with, after a while you’ll likely be amazed at how your thoughts begin to flow.
- Question everything – ask why: Exactly as a child would, start to ask yourself why you’re doing things? “Why am I doing this presentation? Because I was asked to… Why was I asked to? Because I was the best person to present it… Why am I the best person to present it?” And so on. When you eventually get to the end of the questioning with no more answers, you may well be in a place that is completely different to the one that you expected.
- Mind mapping: This is a great way to find a different perspective on any part of your life. Take a piece of paper and write a task or problem in the center. You then add different features or goals to that initial task – indeed each of these are likely to lead to further connections. The great thing about a mind map is that you get to see the whole thing in one go, and therefore are far more likely to see missing links or new connections.
Now, none of the above is guaranteed to make you feel inspired. But what they will do is put your in a position where inspiration is more likely to touch you.
The subtle differences between Motivation and Inspiration
- Motivation is short term. Inspiration is something that touches you for the long game.
- Motivation asks ‘”how?” or “what?” Inspiration asks “who?” or “why”?
- Motivation depends on how you’re feeling. Inspiration is always there, no matter what your mood.
- Motivation is about control. You control your feelings and control your actions. When you lose this control, you lose motivation. There’s no need to control inspiration, because it taps into your instincts that allow you to strive towards your goal.
They come from two totally different places
When you’re motivated you’re psyched up. You know, that chant before starting Tough Mudder… Those shouts from your personal trainer… The thought of the applause when you deliver that perfect key note speaker speech… Raaaah! – Beat on your chest, walk over hot coals… You get the picture.
Inspiration, on the other hand, is a total contrast. Inspiration fills you with a steady passion – one that doesn’t go away. It’s effortless; it’s simply something that you have to do. The feeling comes from within the very heart of you – like a calling. It’s not just a ‘good idea’; it’s a burning desire that comes from the very core of what makes you who you are.
There’s a great YouTube video by Patrick Bet David, online mentor for entrepreneurs, that describes the difference between Inspiration and Motivation. He talks about the big difference between the two being the ‘”lifespan of the emotion.” In other words, motivation has a shorter lifespan than inspiration. And that’s because inspiration comes from within and motivation from external sources.
In a nutshell – motivation is all about one’s ego, whereas inspiration is about the soul…