Motivation vs Inspiration

Contributed July 20, 2021, by Cheryl Viola, Executive Director, MBA

Motivation and inspiration are they the same? When we talk leadership often these two terms are interchanged and treated as the same thing when in reality, they are different. Motivation and inspiration do work hand in hand. Let’s explore the meanings.

Inspiration is ignited within. Inspiration is where dreams and ideas come from.  We can listen to a keynote speaker who inspires us to achieve more than we are. Inspiration pulls you towards something greater, it stirs your heart and mind or spirit.

When I was younger, I loved reading autobiographies. As a high school student, I read a book about a woman who was an amputee. Sadly, I don’t recall her name or the name of the book but her story and optimism inspired me that if she could face that kind of challenge in life then I too could conquer my little mountains in life. Inspiration is fueled by idealism, values, and others. Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it”.

Motivation on the other hand is the external force that causes us to take action. Motivation pushes you to accomplish a task, or work through a difficult event, even when you would rather be doing anything else. We are motivated by a result.

Exercise is a great example of motivation. If you have a goal to get in better shape, motivation is what gets you up to move and push past the excuses. Motivation pulls you toward doing the exercise. To be motivated you have to have a goal you are reaching toward.

Motivation is a mind thing; it is what gets you moving to accomplish a task or a goal. It could be you are motivated to work towards a pay raise or promotion.  Inspiration is a heart thing that reaches your values and beliefs.

Motivation starts to come from within when you understand how your contributions make a difference.

Motivation and inspiration complement one another. They work hand-in-hand.

Inspiration starts with gratitude. When I think of the happiest most humble people, they are grateful. When you are inspired you have the energy to be motivated and to continue moving until you reach your goal.

Eleanor Roosevelt said: “A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” Each person is successful in life. Your successes are not the same as mine and that is okay. Some people dream of being CEO of a Fortune 100 company and other people’s idea of success is to have a work-life balance that allows them the opportunity to spend time with family or take a vacation. Success isn’t measured by wealth. Remember, inspiration touches that heart and our core values and beliefs. Inspiration makes us want to always strive to be the best version of ourselves.