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Inspiration vs Motivation

/ Thoughts & Opinion

To provide with an incentive; move to action; impel.

1 To stimulate to action; motivate.
2 To be the cause or source of; bring about.
3 (archaic) To breathe life into.

I see the word inspiration banded about an awful lot these days. Perhaps it always has been. Who knows? Either way I notice it more now, and I feel like it’s something that everyone idolises as a concept.

The almighty spark of inspiration that sets you off on your path to success. The ignition that gets you pumped for work. The strike of lightning that turns your life around. Yadda yadda.

I think everyone seems to worship this notion that inspiration is all you need. With it you can create this awesome idea or discover something. As if it gives way to some delightful discovery or moment of realisation.

I’d wager that it’s rarely the case.

I think actually what people really need is motivation.

While people are waiting for something that they think will inspire them to do more work, they’re really just waiting for something to motivate them. Had they the motivation, they wouldn’t need so much inspiration.

Granted, inspiration can motivate to a degree, but I would say there’s a transformation.

Inspiration can give you motivation to do something, but continued motivation lets you carry on doing something when that inspiration disappears.

Motivation is really what I’d like to see more discussion about. It’s all too easy to put together an “inspiring” collection of website designs. An “inspiring” selection of logos that make you think. An “inspiring” set of info-graphics that don’t make your eyes bleed, and so on.

What isn’t easy to do is put together a collection of things that help motivate people. People who perhaps don’t require so much inspiration. People who have their own ways of gathering influences and creating content. People who just need a push to continue doing what they do.

How do those people who manage to keep working distinguish between inspiration and motivation.

How do they continue to stay motivated when the inspiration on a project dries up?

Is the constant supply of “inspiration” really just keeping our motivation topped up?

Daniella LaPorte wrote:

You run the 5k to lose weight, stay in shape, raise money for cancer. Maybe to prove something. It’s on your bucket list. You made a bet. Only ten pounds to go. Achievement is thrilling.
All fine reasons.

The runner’s high. My body simply has to run. When I run, I feel closer to life.”

This paints motivation as more physical. Inspiration (deriving from the words “in spirit“) in turn being more spiritual.

Many people would likely tell me that I perhaps have an old fashioned view. For example here:

“people are intrinsically motivated beings… Motivating others is an outside-in approach to leadership that is not sustainable over time because people don’t need motivation. They need inspiration. Inspiring people is an inside-out approach to leadership that is entirely self-sustaining, as people strive to reach their fullest potential.”

Maybe I just want to complain about something. Perhaps my motivation for this blog was to find out more. Maybe it was to help or inspire others.

The inspiration for this blog is hard to track down. I’m not sure there was any one thing. Continued mention of “inspiration” over an extended period just got me thinking about whether inspiration is all that useful on its own. I’m not sure I’ve come to any sort of meaningful conclusion here, but I’d love to read what other people think about it, so any thoughts, comments, responses etc would be much appreciated.


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Alex Cowles

About The Author: Alex Cowles

A largely cynical and often sarcastic designer and front-end developer by day. Unknown international DJ & music producer extraordinaire by night (and at weekends). You probably won't like him.