Why Inspiration Isn’t Enough to Get You Moving

Ambition is not for the weak. Ambition and most importantly following-through, require a certain level of tenacity, fearlessness, and motivation. What makes some stay the course and others give up before they’ve even started? This is where inspiration and motivation come into play. While anyone can be inspired, not everyone will be motivated. Let me explain. 

We all at some point have heard someone overcome insurmountable odds; we’ve all heard a feel good story that makes us feel all warm and googly inside, so when someone succeeds despite the many challenges and obstacles that present themselves, that is inspiring. For example, I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild a few years ago. In her memoir, Sheryl shares her experience during her 1,100 mile hike through the Mojave Desert. In it, she documents in great detail how the journey nearly killed her; she writes about her encounters with bears, rattlesnakes, a mountain lion cat, ice, record snow and predatory men. She recounts how she lost six toenails, suffered countless bruises and scabs, improvised bootees made of socks wrapped in duct tape, woke up one time covered in frogs and met strangers who were extraordinarily kind to her. It is a heart wrenching story of determination, survival, and triumph. 

When I read her story I was incredibly inspired by it, but none of it motivates me to want to hike across the Mojave dessert. Motivation requires that we take that inspiration and put it to work. Motivation compels us to act, to do, give, expend, push past limits, and push the envelope. In his article The Difference Between Motivation & Inspiration, Ron Prasad explains why motivation and inspiration aren’t one and the same.

Motivation stems from having a “motive” or reason for doing something. Whether in business or in your personal life when there’s a reason for doing what you’re doing, you are more likely to follow through. Motivation means that even when it gets hard, even when we don’t feel like it, even when we doubt ourselves we push forward because we know that our motive is stronger than any obstacle or struggle we may encounter on the journey.

In his article, Prasad uses exercise as an example. He writes,

If you are to go and exercise, you have to motivate yourself by reminding yourself of the motive for doing exercise. It could be weight loss, fitness, getting fresh air etc. Whether you use the word “motive” or you use the word “reason”, motivation needs to come from that source. Without having a reason or a motive, motivation will be hard to come by.

Now, inspiration differs from motivation in that inspiration is something you feel on the inside. It speaks to the spiritual part of you. The word inspiration which stems from the Latin word inspirare, means inspirit or divine guidance. In short, inspiration is internal and motivation is external. Inspiration can be viewed as a driving force, while motivation is a pulling force. Understanding what drives you or inspires you can help to motivate you. If what inspires you is something that is also important to you then the importance that is attached to that inspiration will become the motivation to get you moving. 

For example, a few years ago I was working with the 4th grade class in an elementary school in the Bronx. I facilitated a poetry workshop where they learned about the craft of poetry and their final class project was to write a poem that would be included in an anthology at the end of the year. During the time I was working with them, I also discovered the school was raising money to fund a new computer lab. Because giving back to my community is important to me I was inspired and motivated to help the school fundraiser. Through my efforts I was able to raise $2,500 towards the computer fund.

As a professional life management coach and strategist committed to working with women who are at a crossroads in their life, inspiration and motivation are terms I make sure they understand. It is not enough to be inspired. Until they are able to identify a motive or reason for wanting to change they will struggle with making that change. The same is true for others. It is that motive or motivation that will force us to take action. While inspiration makes you create, dream, and innovate, motivation empowers you to execute. Regardless what your goals are, it’s important to remember that when inspiration is aligned with motivation, success eventually follows.

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