Are motivation and inspiration the same?

What do Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson have in common?

It is the fact that they are all inspirational leaders.

They inspire people with their values and work ethic. Can we say they are motivational leaders as well? Well, maybe yes. But does that mean that motivation and inspiration are the same thing? Not really.

Difference between Motivation & Inspiration

Motivation and inspiration are often used interchangeably. We talk about motivational speakers and think they inspire us for many things. We think that motivational books and inspirational books are all the same.

The differences between motivation and inspiration are so subtle that people rarely notice these.

Motivation is a call to action; persuading someone to take regular action to reach a definite goal. Inspiration is all about creating a favorable mindset for a person to realize their true potential.

Now let’s take a look at the differences between the two one by one:

  1. Motivation is specific whereas inspiration is generic

Motivation involves stimulating someone to act in a definite way to fulfill a particular goal. It is action-oriented and specific.

For example, if you go to the gym regularly, your fitness coach would motivate you to stick to a workout regimen every day and not give up. Inspiration, on the contrary, involves influencing someone emotionally and mentally to realize their innate potential and transform their life for good.

So an inspirational figure might inspire you to bring changes to multiple aspects of your life.

They might inspire you to wake up early, pay more attention to your physical fitness, spend more time reading and learning, and perform better in your work. So inspiration works more at a generic level.

2. Motivation is deliberate whereas inspiration is spontaneous and effortless

If a student consistently performs poorly in the examination, the teacher will consciously apply strategies to motivate them to study more.

The same teacher has inspired some other students to focus on their studies. Was that deliberate? No, it wasn’t. Her personality and teaching methods inspired the student to pay more attention to academics. This example sums up the difference between motivation and inspiration.

Motivation is conscious whereas inspiration is not.

People who inspire you are probably doing their own thing. The pull of their personality and charisma hits some chord within you, and you get inspired. But they don’t have a conscious motive.

3. Motivation is external whereas inspiration is internal

      Motivation is external. It comes from an outside force; that force could be a person or incentives such as recognition, approval, perks, etc. Inspiration, on the contrary, is internal.

It comes from a deep urge inside you. External circumstances may provide the stimuli, but it is essentially your calling.  You get inspired by someone’s words or actions because they have stirred something inside you.

4. Motivation works by logic whereas inspiration works by emotion

This is a major difference between motivation and inspiration.

Motivation often involves rationally persuading someone to take a particular action. Your team leader motivates you to undertake more responsibility because that can lead to promotion.

You feel motivated to go for a jog every day because that would keep you fit. Inspiration, on the other hand, appeals to one’s emotions. You feel inspired to do something because it touches upon the deepest of your passions and desires.

A famous singer inspires you to learn music because the sheer conviction of their performance bowls you over. It becomes an emotionally-intense experience and touches upon your innate desire to accomplish something artistic and beautiful.

5. Motivation is short-term whereas inspiration is long-term

Motivation is often short-term.

It’s tied to a goal. You motivate yourself to go for a walk every evening. Someone motivates you to start taking your writing more seriously and work on it. But motivation cannot last for a long time.

It is an external force; the human mind has to constantly think of new tactics and strategies to seduce itself into taking consistent action. Inspiration, on the contrary, is more long-term.

Once you are inspired, there is no looking back. It is a kind of life force that drives you towards your goals, ambitions, and passions.

6. Motivation is imposed whereas inspiration comes from the soul.

  Motivation can be self-imposed.

It can also come from friends, colleagues, mentors, or family. The primary driving force of motivation is action. Its main aim is to get you going. Motivated people pursue goals with focus and determination. But motivation doesn’t often involve soul-searching.

That is where inspiration enters the picture. Inspiration comes from the deepest recesses of your soul. There is no imposition. You are getting inspired to do something because it connects with your being. It gives you happiness and fulfillment.

7. Motivation is a driving force whereas inspiration is a pulling force

Motivation drives you towards achieving something. It propels you towards your goals and ambitions. Inspiration pulls you into new areas of experience.

It involves a certain degree of serendipity. An incident can inspire you so much that it changes the course of your life. That is not the case with motivation. Motivation generally reinforces things you are already doing.

Inspiration leads to motivation

Motivation and inspiration can go together despite the differences. You get the optimal benefit by combining these.

Inspiration often leads to motivation. You get inspired to do something. That is the first step. The next step is motivation. Inspiration gives you the desire to do something. Motivation gives you the courage, determination, and willpower to pursue your calling.

The greatest of world leaders and visionaries are always inspired, and they are always motivated. Inspiration is like food for the soul; you need it to nourish your being and figure out your future path. Motivation is like the working mechanisms of your body; you need it to be able to achieve your dreams and ambitions.

Motivation without inspiration is mechanical. It doesn’t last long. If you exercise every day just because everyone keeps telling you to, it’s not going to be effective long-term. But if you work out regularly because you want to be fit, it will work.

Your desire for fitness comes from inspiration. You need the motivation to act upon that desire. You will make efforts to make your lifestyle healthier because you are inspired. In other words, inspiration will lead to motivation.

Combining motivation and inspiration for success and self-development

Motivation and inspiration work the best when used together. One is linked to the rational part of your brain, while the other is linked to the emotional part . The combination of the two leads to optimal results.

Let’s take a look at how motivation and inspiration can be used together.

  1. For achieving goals

Inspiration gives you the desire to achieve goals, and motivation persuades you to take the necessary action.

Achieving goals becomes effortless and organic if you are constantly inspired. You no longer feel a lack of motivation.

Businesses are known for using a combination of motivation and inspiration to increase work productivity. If the employees identify with the company’s values and principles, they feel more motivated to give their best. For some people, inspiration doesn’t come easily.

They respond better to tangible rewards and incentives. And once they are motivated, they might gradually get inspired. It’s a two-way process.

How do we combine the two for achieving goals?

Let’s understand this through an example.

Suppose one of your goals is to improve your communication skills. You should be constantly listening to great speakers; attend live events, listen to various talks and speeches on YouTube, and hang out with people who have good communication skills. All this will inspire you to fulfill your goal.

You will have the desire to be a great communicator. Now, think of all the perks and benefits of being a good communicator. You will have better job prospects, your personality will improve, you will develop awesome people skills, and you will be better at managing interpersonal relationships. This is motivation.

2. For creative endeavors

Inspiration is a must for creative endeavors. But so is motivation. Inspiration gives you the confidence to unleash your inner creativity. Motivation gives you the discipline and dedication to master a creative form.

Let’s understand this through an example.

You are attracted to visual arts and want to become an artist. You have been going to exhibitions, and meeting artists, and all this has inspired you. Now, what next? You will have to learn the technicalities of art. You will need a routine for this.

You will have to practice painting every day. You might want to take some courses as well. You need motivation to do all this.  You might get motivated by the stories of successful artists whose paintings sell for a fortune. Or you might think about the possible recognition and praise you will receive from your friends when you become an artist.

3. For innovation

Innovation works best when you apply a generous combination of motivation and inspiration.

Innovation involves creating something new. It could be a product, a system, or an idea. Inspiration is the starting point.

Your head is constantly buzzing with new ideas, you are always thinking of creating your own solutions, and you nurture a vision for something. These are the characteristics of an innovator. Sounds like familiar territory? This mindset is typical of someone who is eternally inspired.

Once you start the practical groundwork, motivation comes into the picture. Innovation doesn’t happen overnight. It is a long and arduous process that involves discipline and dedication. Your experiments may fail a hundred times, but you have to persist. This persistence can only come from motivation.

4. For learning

All highly successful people are lifelong learners.

They are constantly trying out new things. You need to be highly inspired and motivated to develop the mindset of a learner.

Inspiration will come from the stories of powerful role models around you. This must lead to self-motivation. You need a tremendous amount of discipline and willpower to stick to this kind of lifestyle. You will have to devote a lot of your free time to learning activities which won’t be fun until and unless you enjoy learning.

Motivation and inspiration don’t work without discipline

Discipline is the foundation of success. No amount of inspiration or motivation would work if you are not disciplined enough.

Lack of discipline can diminish the prospects of even the most inspired souls. You are inspired alright. You feel happy and exhilarated.

But you won’t be able to set tangible goals and achieve success without discipline. The same goes for motivation. You feel motivated to do something, but you won’t be able to sustain that activity long-term if you are not disciplined.

People have a rosy picture of success.

But it often involves years of hard work. Perfection is no mean feat that involves endless slogging.

People think creative fields like writing, music, visual arts, etc are all fun and play. You would wake up inspired one fine day and start living your dream.

But it doesn’t work like that. A singer has to spend years practicing and learning the basics before they can give a performance.

A writer has to consistently hone their craft before they can write anything of value. An artist spends years slogging before they manage to sell a single painting. All this requires a tremendous amount of self-discipline.

Inculcating self-discipline is a must if you want to use inspiration and motivation to achieve goals and be successful.

Discipline comes to your rescue in those difficult times when you feel neither motivated nor inspired.  We don’t have control over our destiny.

Things happen that throw our lives totally off gear. It is the discipline that keeps us going during such times. It ensures we don’t lose sight of our goals, no matter how terrible things seem.

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