Is There Any Difference Between Motivation and Inspiration?

When it comes to talking about productivity and achieving big things, two words continually pop up: motivation and productivity. Are they the same thing? How do they interact? Are they necessary? How can I encourage more of both in my life? That is a selection of the questions we are shooting to answer today. Before you ask again, yes, there is absolutely a difference between motivation and inspiration! Read on for more.

What is Motivation?

We’ve all experienced motivation and we all know the joys of settling into the zone of hard work and feeling completely absorbed by a task. For me, I define feeling motivated as the point at which it is easier mentally to keep working hard than it is to stop. Its an extremely rewarding element of hard work, helping to reinforce your convictions while helping you to keep going.

The trouble with motivation is that you only tend to feel it if you’ve already started working, which isn’t exactly when you need it.

We all look at people who achieve huge things and think “if only I was so driven and motivated” but the reality is that generally speaking, the hard work comes first, followed by the motivation. Motivation is basically just forward momentum, combined with determination and grit. It’s a sense of rightness, focus and absorption, helping you continue to get your work done, and it absolutely fades in and out depending on difficulties, challenges and results. In short, it cannot be counted upon, but it can be hugely useful and fun.

What is Inspiration?

Inspiration has much more artsy connotations. It is not just about work, but about creativity and good ideas. Its about those flashes of impetus and thoughts that come out of nowhere, driving us to achieve bigger and more impressive things.

Inspiration, like motivation, is dependent on competence. You’re never going to be inspired to do something you don’t have the basic prerequisite skills for. In this sense, you need to have laid that groundwork of skill-building, working and learning. These lend us the foundation that allows real inspiration and motivation, giving us a jumping off point to achieve huge things. Without this behind us, your inspiration is unlikely to happen and even less likely to result in anything worthwhile.

What’s the Difference?

Fundamentally, there are differences between motivation and inspiration, but at the end of the day, these are semantics. If you’re into painting, you’re more likely to talk about being inspired, whereas if you’re into exercise, you might say motivated. Or driven. These are all the same thing really. They are forward momentum, produced through us feeling absorbed and propelled by our own hard work and engagement.

It doesn’t pay to think about the way these are defined, and it certainly doesn’t pay to sit about waiting for them to happen. Fundamentally, the best thing to focus on is always going to be your goals and ideas, as well as how you can structure your own hard work. Then get started. Let motivation and inspiration take care of themselves while you focus on what really matters, the work itself.

Fostering Motivation and Inspiration

The ultimate trick for fostering real motivation and inspiration? Building the underlying competence and body of work. Nothing will make you feel more inspired and motivated than challenging yourself to undertake some new skill, initially humbling yourself and then watching your skills develop.

Beyond that, it’s all about mitigating your potential shortfalls and negative behaviours, as well as providing the essential self-care that everyone needs to thrive. By focusing on these things, you can make sure that you’re going to be able to keep working and plugging away far more effectively than if you simply neglected yourself. By making sure you’re giving yourself all the support you need, you know you’re not going to trip yourself up and run into unforeseen difficulties mentally speaking.

Motivation and Inspiration are Nothing Without Work

The recurrent theme here is probably becoming apparent now. Motivation and inspiration don’t have any value at all without hard, consistent work. It doesn’t matter how inspired you are to learn a language or lift weights if you only do it that one time. Anything worth doing, any skill worth learning, requires consistency. Without this consistency, you’re not going to see the real results you’re after.

Consistently doing the right thing when it comes to work will result in you feeling more motivated and inspired. Results and challenges bested are the best when it comes to supercharging you and getting you even more inspired, driven and motivated.

Too many of us fantasise about being motivated, inspired and driven. We want to be just like those loud confident public speakers, all full of energy and ideas, ready to attack the next challenge. The reality is that most people’s idea of these things is entirely performative.

True motivation and inspiration is subtle hard work, people filling all their spare time with the same thing. It’s not obvious, it’s not in your face, it’s just the way they live.

This doesn’t exactly live up to the social media depiction of motivation, however. The continual, in your face, performative acts of dedication and hard work might seem like the definition of motivation, but the reality is that this kind of approach is limited and exhausting, and consistency is too essential for that to be an acceptable cost. The fact is, consistently doing a good bit of work is always going to be far more impactful than doing loads but rarely. Work smart, not hard and always pace yourself.

Accepting the Ephemeral Nature of Motivation and Inspiration

Motivation comes and goes. Even though your work might be going great, you might be doing fantastic things, achieving new heights, that doesn’t guarantee that amazing feeling of motivation. It comes and goes, ebbs and flows, and that is exactly why you cannot let yourself be dependent on it in any form.

The only way to view motivation and inspiration is as an occasional bonus and nothing more. Yes, it can drive some of your biggest achievements and breakthroughs, but the reality is that it can disappear in the blink of an eye and then you’re left with nothing.

That’s exactly why we all need to utilise routine, discipline, self-awareness and other approaches to make sure we’re always going to be able to get the necessary things done. Enjoy motivation and inspiration, sure, but never count upon them. You need to be able to sit down and work when you’re not feeling it, otherwise you’ll never push through those feelings of unproductiveness, finding yourself stuck in that unmotivated state for far longer than you would have done otherwise.

Just Get On With It

I know, I know, far easier said than done. The reality is, whether you want to be motivated or inspired, you need to just get on with it. If you want to write a novel, start a business or just progress in your career, the only answer is to start right now, today. There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that goes along the lines of “best time to plant an apple tree is thirty years ago, second best time is today”.

That’s always going to be true of anything. The sooner you start doing what it takes, the sooner you’ll start reaping the rewards. And more than the rewards of the work itself, you’ll start enjoying the journey, feeling the inspiration and motivation that you might have initially found impossible to imagine. That’s a great feeling, one worth working towards.

Tips and Tricks

Despite the “just do it” mentality above, there are a bunch of different things you can do to make it easier. Here’s a couple tips and tricks to help you along the way. Knowing yourself is vital when it comes to avoiding the pitfalls that usually stop us from achieving our best results. If you know you tend to get sleepy in the afternoon, work in the morning. If you know you tend to drink too much, put some hard limits in place. Etc, etc. Knowing your own shortcomings allows you to overcome them.

Building a routine is also essential when it comes to managing yourself. Without a routine to stick to, you might avoid doing what you need to do, especially in the form of positive procrastination. Cleaning, exercising, doing chores, all instead of doing the boring, difficult thing you should be doing. Stick to the routine and be no-nonsense about it.

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Lastly, pay attention to yourself, and if you need a break, take one. If you need a whole week, take it. But only if you need it. Breaks and rest time can prove vital when it comes to fostering that all-important consistency to achieve huge things. You’re not going to get much done if you’re always working yourself to the point of exhaustion.