It may seem like a subtle distinction, but the worlds of motivation and inspiration are millions of miles apart.
A lot of people use the words “motivated” and “inspired” interchangeably. But I’ve found something different to be the case.
When I try to motivate myself, nine times out of ten I’m pushing myself to do something I don’t really care about.
Motivation is about psyching yourself up. Chest-pounding. Fire-walking. Heavy-metal riffs. You get the point.
Inspiration comes from a completely different place. The word inspiration means to be in spirit. When you’re tuned into your spirit, you are naturally drawn to do whatever feels best. You may do things that aren’t outwardly productive. Or you may write a book in 30 days. Either way, it’s all good because fulfillment is the end result.
Motivation, on the other hand, usually has a lot to do with fake growth. You think you should be doing something (without thinking about why) and it often leads in the direction of something that doesn’t really matter. It’s what you’re “supposed” to be doing. It’s just a good idea, not a passionate, burning desire that emanates from the core of your being.
So, motivation is about things that you think you should do or that you’re supposed to do. Inspiration is about being called to act because you’re in direct alignment with the magnetic, luminous marrow of potential that is you.
When you’re inspired you know because…
- Life feels effortless.
- You have to hold yourself back from starting right now.
- Your passion burns steady, it doesn’t flatline.
- It occupies magnitudes of mental space, there’s no vacancy.
- You feel called to do this; the feeling comes from your core.
- You feel it in your bones.
How we define inspiration and motivation
I asked a few people on Twitter what their thoughts were, and here were some of my favorite responses:
“Motivation is required when you’re not aligned with your highest values.” — Tony
“Motivation is not always positive.” —Haidn Foster
“Motivation is external, inspiration is internal” —Simon Lawry
“Motivation is inner drive to fulfill goal. Inspiration is having a glimpse of who you really are.” — Bambooforest
“Motivation is the push. Inspiration is the pull.” (I love this response!) —Natalie DeBruin
It’s interesting to me how everyone sees inspiration and motivation differently. But how do we actually stay inspired?
Continual inspiration is about continual realignment
You might be thinking… “How do I get inspired?” Well, you can’t. Inspiration isn’t something you get, it comes from within, it comes from your core.
So being inspired isn’t about doing something external to bring something in. That’s motivation, remember?
Being inspired is about a constant process of realignment. Whenever you’re feeling like you have to push, it’s time to realign. Whenever you’re feeling like you’re not enjoying life, it’s time to realign. Whenever you feel like you’re trying to fulfill a quota or expectation, it’s time to realign.
Realignment isn’t anything complicated. It’s very simple, actually. All it involves is drawing inward and exploring what you really want. Your home cosmography, as Thoreau put it.
So, what do you really want? Not what should you want, not what you think might be a good idea for you to want. What lights you up? Once you’ve got a grasp on that, stay with it for a little while. Bathe in it, savor it. Taste it on your tongue. Feel it tingling down your spine.
It feels good, doesn’t it?
If it doesn’t feel good, you’re still not there. Keep going.
Once you’ve come to that state of anticipation, you’re inspired. You’re In Spirit. And you’d rather have that than trying to motivate yourself, right?